Feb. 13, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - Thoughts--swirling distractions about everything or anything and, of course, the shot ahead--clog the mind. This is the mental game, a crucial aspect to golf.
For sophomore Mariko Tumangan, it is not so much about overcoming these thoughts but training her mind to quite them long enough to focus.
"At the level we're competing in now, it's almost 80 percent mental," said Tumangan, an anticipated psychology major. "The stronger you are mentally, the better you're going to fare against all the other players."
This season Tumangan looks to strengthen her game with a more positive mentality. On her reading list: Your 15th Club by Dr. Bob Rotella, who discusses how golfers play their best game when they play in their subconscious mind, everything one believes in the inside that may not necessarily be shown on the outside.
In other words, fewer thoughts and more feel, and then hopefully more flow, on the tee.
For example, if one stands over a putt and believes she is a great putter, then she will more likely make that putt. If, however, the conscious mind takes over and random thoughts start wandering in, golf gets more difficult.
"Anyone who has played golf, or any other sport at a high level for that matter, knows that when you get to the top, the difference between mediocrity and winning is almost all mental," said senior Sally Watson. "[Mariko's] confidence is a great asset to the team, as she helps the rest of us really believe in our ability to achieve our goals."
As a freshman, she recorded a 74.4 stroke average and posted three top-10 finishes, tying for eighth at her first collegiate tournament at the WSU Cougar Cup, ninth at the Pacific Coast Invitational and 10th at the Peg Barnard Invitational. This time, to her, was a "rough patch."
"I felt like all this pressure was on me," said Tumangan about the transition from high school to collegiate golf. "I needed to perform very well and I started fidgeting with my mechanics."
Her swing changed to the point where she did not even recognize her swing. Tumangan did not feel in control of her game and golf at that time was not ideal.
"I was too focused on the outcome instead of the process itself," said Tumangan, a San Jose native. "If I focus on the process more and I know I'm doing what I have to do every day to improve, the outcome will follow."
All the time while she was growing up, her dad's motto was the same: Keep it simple.
Her life, however, was not so much. Tumangan juggled school, Abacus, piano, art classes, tennis, swimming and golf. Sometimes she would practice all three sports in one afternoon and then go home to do homework.
Yet there was a fine balance. Her mom stressed academics while her dad stressed sports and extracurricular activities. Although by the time she began to routinely win golf tournaments, Tumangan narrowed her dream to golf.
"Mariko is an extremely hard worker and that is her biggest strength," said Anne Walker, Stanford's Margot and Mitch Milias Director of Women's Golf. "To be great in the game of golf, you must not only put in the hours of practice, but you also have to practice the right things. Mariko definitely puts in the hours and as she continues to learn about her game, her strengths and weaknesses, I am also seeing her practice the right things too."
On her physical game, Tumangan's ball-striking continues to be a great strength and she is working a lot on improving her short game. She is also taking many steps to aggressively toughen her mental game.
For the past few months, Tumangan engaged herself in an exercise in positive attributions. Every night, the 5-4 sophomore relives and writes one positive thing that happened in her golf game that day. Tumangan closes her eyes, feels everything she felt in that moment--that happiness, that confidence, that swing--and then types it out.
The goal: to stimulate the same emotions and boost confidence.
"My attitude outside of golf is super-relaxed and carefree and it would be great if I can translate that into my golf game," said Tumangan. "If you just keep it simple, golf is simple."
- By Estela-Marie Go, Stanford Athletics
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