Taking swings at golf’s stereotypes

Asia Adell (above) admires golf for the life skills it instills in her, she said. "It builds character, integrity and responsibility," she said. "Sometimes people underestimate how mental it is." -Courtesy Photo

An average work day lasts eight hours. The goal is to wake up early, grab some coffee and hope to make it through the day with the energy to stay focused.

Even as young college students, long hours like these are nothing new to the Cal Poly women’s golf team. Each tournament the team plays during the season lasts eight to nine hours, beginning anywhere from 5 to 8 a.m. and ending at sunset, requiring the utmost focus and endurance throughout.

The group of eight athletes plays year round, from the beginning of September to November, then mid-January to the end of April, with tournaments each month and five days of practice per week. The amount of time put into it depends on how good you want to get, said kinesiology sophomore Giovanna Ascolani, and the girls continue practicing even during downtime.

“You have to love (golf) because it takes up so much of your time,” Ascolani said. “There’s no point of playing a sport you don’t love that takes up half your time in school.”

In addition to the sport’s long hours, the non-funded team holds its own fundraisers, with the majority of help coming from head coach Scott Cartwright. They must raise money for tournaments, transportation and hotels, Ascolani said.

“Golf is one of the most expensive sports to play,” she said. “My coach does a lot of work; he’s an amazing, amazing coach.”

This year, the women had a mediocre but steady season, business sophomore Asia Adell said, placing fifth at the Big West Conference Championship in April. The biggest highlight of the season, though, was finishing first out of 19 teams in the PLNU Super San Diego Championship women’s golf tournament, she said.

Despite the dedication it takes to be a part of the golf team, the women’s talent and efforts lack student support. Golf is not a popular sport among college students, but the majority probably has no idea Cal Poly even has a golf team, Adell said. Its invisibility on campus may be attributed to golf’s many myths and stereotypes. Here, the women provide a golfer’s perspective on these common misconceptions.

1. Golf is boring.

False. Non-golfers tend to have one image of the sport: A bunch of old people in preppy clothing whacking a ball around for hours. The Cal Poly women’s golf team has one response this: You haven’t played the game.

“It’s actually a lot of fun,” Adell said. “Watching (golf) on TV is very different from actually playing it. People who say it’s boring don’t really have a lot of knowledge to back that up.”

In addition to winning, the social aspect and college atmosphere of the game is the most enjoyable, Adell said. The women’s golf team shares a close connection with the men’s team, partially attributed to both Cartwright as their coach.

“We work out together, we practice together,” Adell said. “It’s a unique aspect of Cal Poly (golf) that most programs don’t have.”

Golf could be considered boring, however, that’s only if you don’t have the skills or the right companionship, Ascolani said.

“I guess it would get boring if you’re not good at it because it gets very frustrating,” she said. “But you have to get better, have that group you play with everyday and get to know everyone.”

The social aspect is a big factor as to why people are drawn to golf, parks and recreation tourism administration junior Kirsten Locke said.

When Locke first began playing golf as a child, she wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until she fully immersed herself in the interactive side of the sport that she realized her passion for it, she said.

“I’ve met some pretty amazing people just on the golf course, and I’ve seen so many great connections with jobs happen,” Locke said.

2. Golf isn’t a real sport.

False. Although it isn’t a contact sport, golf is just as much a sport as baseball or football, Adell said. An average round of golf lasts approximately four-and-a-half hours, requiring consistent physical and mental stamina throughout. After nine holes, athletes are able to eat, but must do so while they continue to walk the course.

“You’ve got to harness everything into one round, and you’ve got to focus for much longer,” she said. “I don’t know any other sport where you have to focus for so long.”

As for the physical aspect of the sport, golf requires a good amount of endurance, Adell said. College players, for instance, don’t get the luxury of having a caddy drive them around during rounds.

“It requires us to carry our (golf) bags (for up to) eight hours,” she said. “The courses we play are hilly, and we’re out there in the heat, carrying 25 pound bags.”

In addition to endurance, golf requires physical coordination, Ascolani said. During the season, the team works with the athletic department’s trainer in the weight room two to three times a week. Yoga instructors also came in about once a week to help the team with balance which is the key to a good golf swing, she said.

“It’s way easier to finish a round when you’re healthy and fit,” Ascolani said.

3. Golf is 90 percent mental.

True and false. A more accurate divide of the sport’s focus is 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical, Adell said, because it does have its fair share of physical demands. However, resilience and a positive attitude are key to having a good day in golf, she said.

“Bouncing back from a bad hole — that’s what separates good players from mediocre players,” Adell said. “You have to put it behind you and move on to the next hole. That’s what most champions know how to do.”

Before hitting the ball, a player shouldn’t have technical thoughts in mind, such as assessment of distance or wind direction, Adell said. The best mental mindset to have consists of one clear thought, two at most, she said.

“Normally, I have one clear thought: be confident, trust yourself.”

Ascolani agrees this mantra is a big help to getting a good shot. This peaceful state of mind is hard to achieve, though; overthinking and nervousness can easily dispel positive thoughts and make it difficult to get back to a clear mindset, she said.

Golfers have their good and bad days, and attitude is mainly what differentiates them, she said.

“Sometimes if you’re having a bad day with friends or something, it can completely affect the way you play that day,” Ascolani said. “Sometimes it’s just a ladder effect; you hit a bad shot, then you hit another bad shot, and you start thinking about school and how you’re doing bad in school. But really, you shouldn’t be thinking that way.”

To dispel negative thoughts, Ascolani relaxes by taking two deep breaths. By focusing on your breathing, you can ease your mind from complicated or overly technical thoughts, she said.

4. You can never improve in golf.

False. Because of the tedious physical and mental preparation golf requires, many people tend to think it all comes down to luck. It could take a while to achieve your goals on the golf course, Locke said, but it’s not luck that determines your improvement — it’s your level of willingness to keep trying.

“It could take … years to get your mind the way you want on a golf course,” Locke said. “It’s not going to be the same every day. What’s worked for me is thinking about what I want to do correctly because when I just don’t think, that’s when the thoughts I don’t want come into play.”

But the better you get at the sport, the harder it is to improve, Adell said.

Last year, Adell had an average score of 78.1 and has progressed to a 76.8 average this year.

“It’s less than two strokes, but it’s huge at the level we’re competing at,” she said. “Saying that you can’t improve is absurd.”

Despite how difficult it is to improve, Locke finds this challenge to be the most alluring aspect of golf.

“I just love the game of golf because I can play this until I’m old — like old, old,” she said. The common stereotype that golf is for old people is actually an advantage she keeps in mind as a young golfer, she said.

“It’s never going to be like you’re going to master it. There’s always going to be something to work for.”


Debra Adell says:

Great article! Proud mother of Asia Adell!