April 22, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The dot University of Iowa senior women’s golfer Kristi Cardwell marks on her Titleist ball is to identify it in competitive play. The purple circle she draws on her hand is a reminder to stay in the present.
The technique is one Cardwell picked up after utilizing the services of Mark Springett, beginning in the fall of 2011. The mental skills coach has helped Cardwell mature on the course and take her game to another level.
It was a suggestion by a rules official at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational in 2011 that introduced Cardwell to the idea of using a mental skills coach.
“We were at the Texas tournament and there was a rules official that was just watching (me play) and he told my dad that I could be a lot better if I got a mental skills coach,” said Cardwell. “My dad agreed, and the official gave him Mark’s name and told us to give him a call.”
Cardwell began using Springett’s services in November of 2011. The sessions, primarily web-based through the communication application Skype, focus on building techniques to stay in the now and building tools necessary to work through bumps in the road.
The sessions take place leading up to, during, and after every competition. Cardwell Skypes with Springett the evening after the initial practice round and the night after the 36-hole day of competition. They’ll do a reflection within a week of the tournament being complete.
“We talk about staying in the present moment, which is always being in the here and now,” said Cardwell. “There are trigger words you can use to do that. I have a purple dot or circle written on my hand every tournament I play. It’s a reminder of getting back to where I want to be and staying in that moment, instead of looking forward or looking back in the past.”
UI head coach Megan Menzel describes Cardwell as a “passionate, very emotional and one that brings everything every day,” type of player.
“That attitude is a good thing because I know she’s in it every round, but when you’re that connected to it and live and die with every shot, that can be hard,” said Menzel. “We have seen her level out, and she has been able to manage that. If she does have a bump, she has the tools to be able to move on.”
Cardwell began golfing as a 4-year-old when her grandfather gave her a first set of golf clubs, and she started playing competitively as an eighth-grader. After advancing to the Indiana state meet as a freshman, her father, Byron, knew Cardwell may have an opportunity to continue playing.
“There was a time in high school where my dad knew I was pretty good,” said Cardwell. “He said we should start looking at schools and what opportunities we have in the future.”
Cardwell finished her prep career as a two-time Indiana High School Athletic Association all-state selection, a three-time All-NCC Conference honoree and a three-time team most valuable player.
Former UI head coach Kelly Crawford was recruiting another player in Kokomo, Ind., when Cardwell’s local course professional pointed Crawford in Cardwell’s direction.
“Iowa was recruiting another girl in our town, and when they called our pro at home, he said, ‘Yeah, she’s good, but you should also look at Kristi,'” said Cardwell.
Cardwell immediately stepped into the lineup as a freshman, competing in 10 tournaments and posting a 79.29 scoring average. As a sophomore, she trimmed two strokes off her scoring average, posting a 77.07 mark over 30 rounds. Cardwell posted five top-15 finishes, including a career-best third place finish at the Hawkeye Invitational.
During her junior season, Cardwell had three top-10 finishes, including a career-best runner-up showing at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic to lead the Hawkeyes to their first team title since 2010. She tied the school record with a 54-hole total of 213 and her opening round 68 was a career-low and the second lowest score in the record books.
“We couldn’t stay after to get our trophy, but it was my best finish in college,” said Cardwell. “It was a good achievement for me because I never had anything that high before.”
Cardwell saw small improvements from her mental work during the spring of her junior season, but the work began to really pay dividends in the summer of 2012.
“It takes a lot of practice,” said Cardwell. “You have to put in almost three times the effort to see any outcome. I didn’t start seeing it until the summertime when we were done with our initial sessions and I was practicing difference techniques.”
The biggest reward for Cardwell’s hard work came when she won the Pepsi Indiana PGA Women’s Open at Hickory Stick Golf Club by a stroke. She bested a field of 100 players, including a handful of professionals.
“I played in a few tournaments before that and there weren’t any top finishes,” said Cardwell. “Once I finally won that, it was like ‘Oh, I can really do this.” I never really thought I could get to that level, but now I feel like I can do that at every tournament I go to.”
Cardwell’s summer success has carried over into her senior season. She has a career-low 75.59 scoring average over 27 rounds, including two top-10 and five top-20 finishes. After tying for 10th place at the Challenge at Onion Creek, Cardwell is looking to carry over the momentum into the final event of her collegiate career.
“(I want) to keep myself where I am,” she said. “I have been playing really steady, par golf, and my birdies will come when they want to come. The confidence from playing well the whole spring season has given me a lot of boost to move into the top of the field, if not win it.”
Menzel says there is no added pressure for Cardwell leading into the Big Ten Championships on April 26-28 in French Lick, Ind.
“There is nothing in her game that she needs to get after and fix, she just needs to get out and play a lot of holes and build that confidence,” said Menzel. “We want to make sure she goes in there and does what she has been doing.
“It’s a matter of going out and being Kristi Cardwell and playing the best golf that she can.”
Without Springett, Cardwell doesn’t know if she would be having the same success because he has helped make her a better golfer, student, and person.
“I don’t think I could be shooting what I am right now if I didn’t have him,” said Cardwell, who will graduate in May with a degree in recreation management before changing her status to a professional this summer. “I have seen it in my maturity level, and I don’t get as upset as much as I used to, and if I do, I let it go quicker.
“I am still practicing a lot of my techniques when I am out there and practicing when I am sitting at home when it’s about school. There are a lot of things you can use in life in general.”