May 10, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Bo Andrews was in a good mood Friday and his teammates seemed content, too, and why not? As the Georgia Tech golfers practiced at the Capital City Club Crabapple course where the NCAA tournament will be, nobody had to rush to get back to campus.
School’s out. That means more time. “Now we get to play as much golf as we want,” Andrews said.
Teammates offered no arguments, although they said that it’s possible – if enough care is not taken – for too much of a good thing to become bad.
Like ice cream, practice need be consumed in finite quantities. Many coaches and athletes in many sports believe a key to success is to play with confidence, and the best way to gain confidence is to enter competition knowing that you’re well prepared.
But a golfer can over-do it, same as a pitcher who throws too much, a runner who runs past the point or reason, or a swimmer who doesn’t taper training ahead of a big meet.
The difference in these examples is that if a problem arises out of too much practice, it will probably lead to physical fatigue. In golf, the greater risk is mental.
“You don’t have school anymore, so your preparation is different [this time of year] . . . it’s much easier to prepare for this without school,” Ollie Schniederjans said before catching himself.
“You definitely feel better going into this … well, if your preparation goes well. It’s not like you have a week to practice and you’re automatically going to get better in that week. Depending on how smart you practice, and how it goes … there are times you prepare for a week and you feel worse than you did before you started.”
Still fresh off his win in the ACC Tournament, Anders Albertson agreed.
“Sometimes you can kind of work yourself into a problem where you … spend all day there,” he said. “When you’re in school, you kind of have a set amount of time to work on everything. It’s almost like a blessing in disguise; you can’t over-think it.”
The key to avoiding over-work, or over-practice, appears to be the Jackets, coaches Bruce Heppler and Brennan Webb, private swing coaches and maybe even a parent … all monitoring in what amounts to a large self-help group.
If early in a week of extended practice, something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Yet figuring it out is rarely a one-man project. Through self-analysis, most golfers can tell when something is wrong in their set-up or swing. Figuring out what is tougher.
“You’ve got to figure out why it doesn’t feel right, or why it’s not going well and then adjust,” Schniederjans said. “You can do it all by yourself as far as knowing whether it’s off or not. If it feels good … you don’t need to change. But things get out of whack, and that’s when you need another set of eyes to know: why does this feel like this?
“It’s good to have other players and coaches who know a lot about the golf swing to check you out. A few of us work with Jeff Paton [a swing coach] at the Golf Club of Georgia, and I like to check up with him at least once a week and see if my alignment is good, and all my fundamentals are in shape.”
Several of the Jackets will play Monday in a U.S. Open local qualifier, and they leave Tuesday for Tallahassee, where they will play Thursday-Saturday in the NCAA Regional. Finish in the top five there, and Tech will be back at Crabapple for the nationals May 28-June 2.
Playing at Crabapple, where the Jackets last fall tied No. 1 Cal for the PING/Golfweek Preview title, will be different than it was in late September. The rough will not yet be up near where it was then, and if forecasts hold, the greens are likely to be softer as they have been much of the spring thanks to so much rain.
Tech’s lineup will be a bit different, too, as junior Seth Reeves will play rather than freshman Michael Hines. Reeves last week won a 54-hole playoff with Hines to take the final travel spot; the rest of the lineup with be the same as it was two weeks ago for the ACCs: Reeves will join Schniederjans, Albertson, Andrews and freshman Shun Yat Hak.
The Jackets have to do well enough in the Regional to earn their way back to Crabapple, where, by the way, Reeves tied for second in the PING/Golfweek Preview.
This weekend will be a last chance of sorts to strike the right balance in practice in order for the Jackets to carry not only their skills but their confidence into Tallahassee. Practice may make (closer to) perfect, but practice, practice, practice may make everything worse.
Practice, yes. Obsess, no.
Example: “We help each other out sometimes when we’re working on something that is pointless, that you can’t perfect,” Albertson said. “Ollie probably won’t like me saying this, but he was kind of concerned today because he hits his 3 wood kind of low and he was trying to figure out how to hit it higher.
“It was kind of driving him crazy. He hits it really well. I was just trying to point out that he didn’t need to be concerned about that; don’t try to hit it 10 feet higher. He’s got it under control now.”
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