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Tennessee Womens Open
By Anne Marie Goslak

Those who know me well have heard me say, “It's all fun and games til the Golf Channel shows up!” It's an expression I use when talking about how one deals with nerves, in the heat of competition.

Many years ago, I found myself only one stroke off the lead, going into the final round of the Tennessee Women's Open. That morning, everything was different. When I entered the parking lot, security escorted me to a place reserved just for me. Photographers snapped pictures of my every move, from warming up on the range to me eating a banana. Although that felt a bit weird, at least I had experience with photographers.

The first six holes played like a chess match. I had the advantage, and then someone else would birdie a hole. I'd fight back, but another player made eagle. Standing on the #7 tee box, I had full command of second place, and was feeling confident. And then the Golf Channel showed up.

With them, came a massive digital leader board, four camera men, and one very loud commentator, who seemed oblivious to the fact that we could hear his every word.

“Anne Marie found herself in a very tricky bunker. I don't see how she could possibly save par from there.”

“Leslie chips in again! She is determined to hold on to this lead.”

Suddenly, I found myself more focused on what was going on around me, rather than what was going on within me.

Rather than staying focused on my pre-shot routine, which included calculating yardage, assessing wind, pin location, slope and finding the best quadrant to hit the ball, based on highest probability of par, I was thinking of my position in the tournament.

After I hit, rather than going through my post shot routine, which included a positive affirmation and then a redirection of thoughts to something non golf related, that would keep me calm and happy, I started thinking of what it would mean to me if I won.

I got tied up in the drama of the day. To make matters worse, the shots I was trying to play required a steady hand, which I no longer had in my distracted state. I should have switched to a low, bump and run shot around the green. Instead, I kept trying to play high flop shots. On a short par four, I should have bunted a 3-wood down the middle and hit a simple 8 iron to the green. Instead, I tried to cut a driver around the corner so I could have a 3/4 wedge in.

On the last nine holes, I hit six trees, an out of bounds stake and a camera man. I was blowing up like the Hindenburg. With an abysmal back nine, I finished somewhere around 15th place.

I drove all the way from Tennessee to North Carolina in silence. No radio. No cell phone. When I finally pulled into my driveway at midnight, I broke down and cried for at least an hour. I was mad, sad, frustrated and confused.

I did not know it in that moment, but what I learned from that dark time turned into an invaluable lesson that I could later share with my students.

You are going to find yourself distracted. Maybe it's because of a bad ruling. Maybe it's because you want to play well in front of your coach. Maybe it's the Golf Channel.

Whatever the reason, should you find yourself unable to stay focused on your routine, switch your game plan to something more conservative. Play the easy shots well. This will help you to keep your scores low. And one more bit of advice. Should you ever have the chance to win a tournament but you collapse on the back nine, don't kick yourself. Just learn something from it, and then pass that wisdom on.

-Anne Marie Goslak