Head Game: Junior golfers rely on focus, confidence, attitude - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Head Game: Junior golfers rely on focus, confidence, attitude

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Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013 5:39 am | Updated: 6:43 am, Mon Sep 8, 2014.

The scores junior golfers post make most weekend hackers shake their heads.

The younger players post scores in the mid-70s and walk off the course disappointed and headed back to the range to find their game.

Meanwhile, the regular golfer would give anything to make the game look so easy.

In reality, the junior golfers, like Desert Vista incoming seniors Randy Ross and Colton Estevez, get just as frustrated and insecure about their games,

They may step up to the first tee looking the part, with all the top golf equipment and apparel like a pro, but all it takes is one errant shot to turn the cocky stride up a fairway into a hanging-head shuffle.

“Confidence is pretty much everything,” Ross said after the third round of the PING Phoenix Junior at Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course on Thursday.

“Having a bad memory in golf is important because you have to forget about a bad tournament like this because there is always another round coming up.”

Ross finished sixth and fifth at the state tournament for the Thunder the last two years and finished second at an American Junior Golf Association event in Tucson recently.

He’s an accomplished golfer and started the Phoenix Junior with a 1-under 69, but was unable to sustain that level of play to finish tied for 22nd with a 69-74-76—219, which was 14 strokes behind tournament winner Jens Verhey of Reno.

Ross, who has been contacted by some Division I programs, had to refocus quickly as his next event was Saturday and Sunday at Aguila Golf Course in Laveen for the Doral-Publix Junior qualifier.

“I have a simple brain,” he said with a laugh. “It lets me move on to the next shot, next tournament easier.”

His teammate at Desert Vista isn’t built that way.

Estevez lets a bad shot or a poor performance linger a little longer.

That’s why despite finishing 10 shots behind Ross, Estevez felt pretty good walking off his final green at Karsten.

Estevez opened with a poor round of 13-over 83 on the 6,858-yard course, but finished with a 72-74 because he corrected a flaw in his approach after the first round.

“It’s all about attitude and learning to love it out here,” he said. “The last couple of tournaments and the first day at this one I didn’t have a good attitude. I didn’t give up and I was happy about it.”

The mental side of it is something Estevez, who has had initial talks with Grand Canyon University, has focused on since the end of his sophomore year and even has a mental coach — Dr. Jason Kobler at Life Inline in Ahwatukee — to help him get through the rough times.

“The good thing is I caught myself doing it (after Tuesday’s first round) and made the right changes,” he said. “It’s all about self awareness. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I told myself if I wasn’t going to have a good attitude then why play the game? I’ve been working real hard at it.”

Estevez’s new approach in round two was backed by three straight birdies that reinforced the idea that you have to maintain a positive approach in an individual sport like golf, otherwise doubt could settle in and ruin a round.

“The last two days showed I am heading in the right direction,” Estevez said. “I’m out here working as hard as I can. We’ve been talking about accepting a bad shot. You know you are going to do it, accept it and move forward.”

It just goes to show how difficult the game is despite their envious scores.

“A few blow up holes out here (on the AJGA summer tour) and you are done,” Ross said. “Every shot has to be on point, and when it isn’t you have to forget it by the next shot.”

The Thunder will head into the fall dealing with another kind of mental hurdle as Estevez, Ross and defending individual champion Matt Liringis try to get Desert Vista over the hump.

The program has finished as state runner up four straight years and have the talent back to be among the favorites again in 2013.

“We know we basically have one more chance at it,” Ross said. “We are all out there working on our game to make sure we are ready when the time comes.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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