2006: Baylor shows mental mettle
By Beth Ann Baldry
For Baylor coach Sylvia Ferdon, the final round of last month’s Central District Invitational was nothing short of a battlefield of the mind. And this time, the Bears walked away victorious.
That hasn’t always been the case when Baylor holds the lead coming down the stretch. For instance, last year’s NCAA Central Regional was downright disastrous. Sharing the top spot heading into the closing round, Baylor ballooned to a 32-over-par 320 and plummeted to 13th place. The team barely could talk on the trip home. Ferdon didn’t sleep for weeks.
“They played so well in some tough wind, and then on the windless day they played so scattered,” Ferdon said. “We had three wins last season and still couldn’t walk the walk the last day.”
The 12-year coach was determined not to let it happen again.
“We worked on some stuff to get a little mentally tougher,” Ferdon said. “The swings weren’t good (in the Central District final round), but they learned how to stay tough and I’m proud of that.”
Led by Meredith Jones, Baylor posted the lowest round of the final day at River Wilderness Country Club, an 8-over 296 to finish with an 896 total and best Ohio State by nine shots.
Ferdon has attended a handful of Pia Nilsson coaching clinics over the years and passes the information along to her team. She’s also a big Bob Rotella fan, naming this season’s theme “Play to Play Great” after the well-known psychologist’s recent book.
Following the awards ceremony, seniors Jones and Josefin Svenningsson barely came up for air when talking about their newfound mental approaches. Phrases like “you can only hit one shot at a time,” “you’re going to have bad shots” and “just play our game” were thrown around in serious tones. For one pressure-packed final round, they learned to walk the talk.
“Beating Ohio State is a big deal, especially teams in our region,” said Jones, who tied for third individually with rounds of 76-72-73.
Sophomore Sian Reddick came in eighth, while Svenningsson (T-16), Allison Martin (T-20) and Anna Rehnholm (T-20) rounded out the Bears’ lineup.
For Jones and Svenningsson, nothing is more important than returning to the NCAA finals. They were a part of the 2004 squad that took Baylor to its first Big Dance and are eager to improve upon their 19th-place showing.
Since 2001, Baylor has fluctuated between three spots in the final Golfweek/ Sagarin College Rankings: Nos. 31-33. Few programs in the nation can boast of such consistency. But the Bears, who currently stand No. 26, are ready to break the cycle.
“I think we set expectations on ourselves to do more than we needed to,” said Jones of the past. “We’ve learned to just play our game.”
One shot at a time.