Mind Over Matter

March 11, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus says golf is 90 percent mental. It’s for that reason that University of Iowa head women’s golf coach Megan Menzel has the Hawkeyes continually focus on their mental toughness.

“We always talk about having a positive attitude, not only at workouts, but at practice and walking around campus every day,” said Menzel, who took over as Iowa’s head coach last August. “We’ve seen some huge strides in everybody and that’s opened up great conversations for us in how we approach a tournament from our game plan and how we’re going to execute that.”

Junior Kristi Cardwell says her coach’s up-beat attitude has assisted in the team’s growth.

“She’s very positive in herself and she brings that to us,” said Cardwell. “We always have little check points on how the mental side of our game is going and if we need help with anything, she’s always there for us.”

Menzel has seen the team grow collectively since the fall season, which has led to some early success this spring. Iowa finished tied for second at the Claud Jacobs Challenge presented by SCOR golf in the spring opener before tying for fifth at the Westbrook Spring Invitational on Feb. 26-27.

During the Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz., the Hawkeyes finished with three sub-300 rounds en route to posting the Iowa 54-hole school record of 879 (290-294-295).

Cardwell says taking down the record is big for the team as the season moves forward.

“It is a big confidence booster for this team,” she said. “But we’d like to go out and attack it even more and beat the record again.”

Menzel has seen the team change the way it is carrying itself.

“The biggest thing I have seen that has changed is the girls having a strong belief in themselves individually and then as a team,” she said. “A little bit of success can trigger that. They’re believing in themselves and in each other as a team, which is very nice to see.”

The Hawkeyes have the opportunity to further improve their mental toughness during their spring break trip to Oahu, Hawaii, for the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational on March 13-14. The team left for the island on March 10 and it returns to Iowa City on March 17.

“This is a really neat opportunity for our team,” said Menzel. “It will help us, and we’ll get a lot of training in while we’re over there. Overall, it is a mental morale booster as well to see some sunshine and green grass for an entire week.”

Cardwell knows that working on and improving the mental side of the game is a process that must be honed as much as basic golf fundamentals.

“You have to work on it yourself to improve, and if you don’t practice your mental game, then your mental game is not going to improve,” she said. “It’s a free for all… you can or you don’t have to, but it will definitely help your game if you do.”

It sounds like the message preached to the Hawkeyes is hitting its mark.