May 25, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Golfers, arguably more than athletes in any other sport, are the most vulnerable to that little voice inside their head suggesting, ‘Try this’ or ‘Try that,’ in relation to their swing.
All that time walking between shots — especially after the inevitable bad one — there’s that devil appearing on the shoulder again, always with a suggestion of something to change, always with the well-intentioned name of getting better.
Soon it can become part of a vicious cycle.
Of course, every athlete wants to get better, but that same athlete might perceive his sticking to what he’s always done as doing nothing and not caring about improving. Even worse, he might take the head game a step further and perceive his teammates and coaches perceiving his standing pat as doing nothing or not caring.
Soon, he’s trying anything and everything just to show he’s trying, a move that can prove even more destructive than having done nothing.
Welcome to the world of redshirt junior golfer Seth Reeves.
“I’ve thought I had to change so much, and grind and work really hard, and really beat myself up, and change things when really what got me here is good enough,” said Reeves, who will be part of Georgia Tech’s starting five in next week’s NCAA Championships in Alpharetta. “That’s been my journey. I just need to get better at what I do.
“I haven’t really had an amazing career but I know that I have the talent and the physical capabilities to be one of the best players in the country,” he added. “The nice thing is that everybody on this team has those capabilities. For me, it’s just about being myself is okay. That’s what I’m going to try and do at Crabapple (the course hosting the NCAA’s).”
Reeves didn’t expect to be part of Georgia Tech’s postseason picture, as he didn’t appear in the ACC Tournament and only got on the Yellow Jackets’ roster for the NCAAs after coming out on top in a one-on-one qualifying match, set up by head coach Bruce Heppler, with freshman Michael Hines, who’d also had struggled through the season’s final tournaments.
“I played pretty much all year, but then in my last couple of tournaments of the spring I struggled enough to where I wasn’t in the top five,” Reeves said. “I was a little nervous but I felt like I had nothing to lose. I had already come to grips with the fact that it’s okay if I don’t make it because I already thought I wasn’t going to be here.”
But he is and now, heading into potentially the most pressure-packed tournament of a college players’ career, Reeves has the outlook of playing with house money.
“That’s exactly what my mindset is,” he said. “I wasn’t really supposed to be here but I feel like I still deserve to be here and winning that qualifier, kind of proves, at least to myself, that I deserve to be here. With golf, it’s so mental that if you try hard and push yourself sometimes it can really hurt you and that’s what happened. I’m going to focus on the National Championship, that’s it’s just some regular tournament at Crabapple, a course that’s one of my favorite courses.”
Reeves has played well at the Alpharetta course. Last Sept. 23-25 he finished tied for second at the PING-Golfweek Preview Invitational, shooting an even-par 210 over the three days, including ripping off a final-round four-under 66. The weekend was his best 54 holes of the year and the final round was one shot off his career-low round.
Heppler believes that Reeves’ success at Crabapple is no coincidence, as the course is long (7,319 yards, par 70) and plays to Reeves’ strengths, much more than the Golden Eagle Country Club (6,965 yards, par 72) in Tallahassee, Fla., the site of the NCAA Regional, where Reeves shot a +9 (225).
“One of his greatest strengths is how far he hits it and how straight he hits it,” said Heppler. “It’s a good course for him. He’s played well there and I think he believes that he can play well there. To have somebody in your program for four years do the right thing and finally get a chance, it’ll be fun for him and his family.”
It’s ironic and plays into the golfer’s conundrum that Reeves thought he HAD been doing the right things over his previous four years — he redshirted as a freshman — by trying to change just about everything.
Heppler and teammates had been trying to tell Reeves otherwise and to just focus on improving what he does best.
“The guys who walk around and think, ‘Until I get to this or do this or change this or change that, I’m not going to be any good,’ well, you never get there,” said Heppler. “We talked to him about, at some point the cake has to be baked. You have to take it out of the oven and eat it. He has a tendency to put it in the oven and take it out of the oven and put it back in the oven and keep trying to bake this cake. Eventually he just has to decide that’s who he is, if he just improves the things that he does he’ll be fine. I’m hoping that the last few weeks have been a time for him to kind of think about that.”
“You don’t necessarily have to do exactly what every other person does,” said fellow junior Bo Andrews. “People think different ways on certain things and people go about things individually in how they get it done. We talked about not trying too hard. You don’t need to overload yourself with trying too hard. Just do what you normally do. Don’t make it too big a deal on yourself.”
The message appears to have gotten through, as Reeves feels “freed up” as he gets ready to help Georgia Tech compete for a national title. Suddenly, instead of coming to grips with not playing, his thoughts are on the national championship within his and Georgia Tech’s grasp. He’s going to go after it, his way.
“I’ve kind of dug myself into a hole almost every year trying to change things physically thinking that I needed to change and I really don’t,” he said. “So a lot of it is just going back to being myself. The biggest thing for me is to go out and have fun and not take it TOO seriously because I’m going to give it 100 percent no matter what.
“I’m really going to focus on the national championship,” he added. “That’s it’s just some regular tournament at Crabapple, a course that’s one of my favorite courses. I’m very excited.”