Player diary: Davidson's Todd Eckstein (Part 3)
The college golf season is a series of marathons within one big marathon. Tournaments span from September to early June, for those who qualify for the national championship. Such an expansive time-frame calls for players to have a long-term vision while still preparing for tournaments with a sense of urgency.
Our season consists of nine events, making each tournament that much more important. However, these nine events are spread out over the course of eight months of regular-season play, stressing the need for consistent play over an extended time. The excitement of the first tournaments is enough to sustain high intensity in practice and good mental preparation, but the winter months tend to cool that passion. Once spring comes around, the hope of an NCAA berth ignites another burst of energy for the home stretch.
I can summarize the ebb and flow of the college golf season in a single experience: the 36-hole day. In many college tournaments, teams will play two rounds in order to minimize classes missed and the amount of play that courses sacrifice to host these events. This past week, our team competed at the Firestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where we played 36 holes the first day and 18 the final day. I was particularly excited after a solid practice round and ready for a breakthrough. At first, I held together a good, but not great, first nine holes. But like all 36 hole days, and college golf seasons, the psychological challenges started to emerge. Lack of focus on seemingly routine shots cost me a few strokes, as did my subsequent frustration at said lack of focus.
Even with those struggles, a new round was around the corner. I rallied mentally, collecting the confidence to put together a much needed even-par second round. My swing didn’t change, my putting wasn’t amazing, but I approached shots with a new energy. Though my round was not flawless, my numerous small victories created momentum. The following day, our team put together a 4-under par round and at 19-over 883 for the tournament, tied for eighth. I shot a career-low 68 to finish the tournament, and that led me to a tie for 13th at 2-over 218.
Tournament days with 36 holes are crucial to success in college golf. Teams who muster the physical and mental fortitude to play well for all 36 holes often play deep into May and June. Much like the season, those single days require a short-term focus with a long-term perspective. Our team has done well for about 50 holes each tournament, but learning how to salvage those other four somewhere in the middle of that 36-hole day will take us from good to great.