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Column: Golf has taught me that determination and consistency are the keys to success

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Teeing off on the first hole at the 2018 SCIAC Championship in the final round.

Marissa McCardell 
Oxford Stories
mkmccard@go.olemiss.edu

Growing up, I was involved in many sports. I played everything from softball to volleyball, cheer to dance, track to soccer, but out of all those, one stood out to me. It was the one sport I couldn’t resist, the greatest game – golf.

When I was younger, many girls did not play golf. They stuck to popular sports such as volleyball and soccer. However, I wasn’t like those other girls. I enjoyed the everyday challenge golf gave me, unknowing how my game would compare to the changing conditions of the golf course or weather. The never-ending challenge lured me to this game.  

I started playing golf when I was 8 years old. I remember one day I was watching golf on TV with my dad, and I told him I wanted to learn how to play. From that moment on, I fell in love with the game.  

A few months after my first lesson at a golf course in my hometown, Fig Garden Country Club, I played in my first tournament. This tournament was part of the Junior Golf Association of Northern California called the Len Ross, and it was the biggest JGANC junior tournament in the Central Valley. So of course when my dad told me I was playing in it, my nerves went everywhere.

After that tournament, my desire to get better was substantial. After the Len Ross, I continued golf lessons with my coach every Saturday despite the rain or 105 degree weather. I continued to play in more tournaments as I became more confident with my game.  

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The 4th hole tee box at Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills, California.

However, not every tournament went as I planned. Like with any sport, you have good and bad days. But golf is different from most sports. It’s an individual game. If you perform poorly it’s not on anyone else but yourself. I think this aspect of the game has made me mentally stronger as an athlete and person.  

A majority of people don’t realize the mental strength a golfer has to have. When the average person plays golf, it is usually just for fun with friends, not keeping score. However when you are competing in a tournament, the pressure can be intense. A golfer must shake off the bad shot and go into the next shot with a clear mind. This is the hardest part. Many times when you hit a bad shot, it can challenge your self confidence. In professional cases, a bad shot can cost them winning the tournament.

 My golf coach told me one thing I will never forget. He said, “It’s not about how you start. It’s about how you finish. You hit bad shots. That’s the game of golf. But what really determines a great player is their ability to completely erase their last shot, good or bad, and walk into the next one with a clear mind.”

Playing in different tournaments allowed me to see so many beautiful places and play so many beautiful courses. The friendships I created because of the six hour rounds of tournament golf, I know will last a lifetime. 

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Lining up a putt on the 9th green at Indian Springs Golf Course in Indio, California.

I continued to play golf through middle school, high school, and two years at my former college, California Lutheran University. In both middle school and high school, I was on the varsity golf team, and in college, I made the travel team both my freshman and sophomore year.

College golf was a lot more intense and time demanding than I could ever imagine, but I loved it. In college, golf has two seasons – the fall and spring. We had practice every day with six hour practices twice a week. When we had our tournaments, we were gone from school anywhere between two to four days. Traveling, flying, staying in hotels and trying to finish homework in hotel lobbies became rigorous. However, I wouldn’t have traded that for the world. Because of the time my team spent together, we grew close. They became my best friends, which made playing on the team even more enjoyable.

I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to play collegiate golf. I finished my golf college career as being the first in the Cal Lutheran women’s golf program history to be named First Team All-SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). I also won the Centenary Invitational tournament in Louisiana and led my team to take first place. My freshman year, I was also the only freshmen to compete in all 12 tournaments. 

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Looking back, I have realized that playing golf had a huge impact on life; the good and bad. Golf has taught me so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life. I’ve learned that the only way to excel in something is to have grit and determination. I’ve learned that consistency is a key part of being successful. I’ve learned that no matter how hard you work or practice, sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it to. But you have to get right back up on your feet and continue to push forward.

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