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Putting things into perspective

Kyle Wambold | Binghamton Golf

I believe that one of the best ways to learn how to win is to lose. Golf has been a focal point of my life since I was a child. I was introduced to it by my father who has been in the golf business for about the last 30 years. I grew up hanging out at the course after school and during most of my summers. My love for the game was brought on due to the independence and creativity of the sport. The ability to play a round of golf without teammates and to discover all the unlimited ways to get the ball in the hole stuck out immediately. With golf being an independent sport, I believe you learn more about yourself physically and mentally than you would from playing most other sports. In golf there are no positions, you are not given a role to fulfill, you are the only person to praise or blame. With this in mind, when you are faced with adversity, you quickly find out what your weak points are because you have to hit every shot, no matter how difficult, until the round is over. What defines a great player is how that player handles this undeniable adversity. When I was young, I would often throw clubs, curse out loud, and pack my clubs away at the end of the round without giving it another thought. This is a key reason as to why I did not improve as quickly as I wanted to. Often times it can be very difficult to assess and to recollect about the negative experiences in your own sport, mostly because of the hatred of failure and knowing you had put in the time to become successful. Understanding this was the first of many mental barriers I had been able to break on my path to playing professional golf. 

Throughout my time playing for Binghamton University, I would become jealous of other players who performed well, not only on my team but other teams as well. I couldn’t understand why they were winning and I wasn’t. This led to me losing tournaments before they even began. I would hate the fact that they were even playing in the same field as me and I would note what they had accomplished and what I had not. It was only until I had lost enough due to my own thought processes that I finally gave in to reaching out for help. Before reaching out, I needed to fix my internal wiring and learned that I had to start acting like the athlete I wanted to be. I realized that if one day I wanted to be a professional athlete, I had to act like one from start to finish. This ideology was not just applied to when I competed but every second of my life. I asked myself, what would someone like Tiger Woods, Mariano Rivera, or Lebron James do on a given day, physically and mentally. With this consciousness, I learned how to put emotions, negative reactions, and doubt of skill to the side, and align myself with calmness, positivity, and confidence at all times. Whether I was competing or not, I understood that these qualities were instrumental in success because they are observant in all of the people I’ve listed above, as well as, all of the greatest athletes across all sports. With this knowledge, I not only reached out to teammates and coaches, but to the players that I once rooted against. This freeness of negativity put my mind in a place that was accepting of lessons of every kind. Although I didn’t have immediate success and start winning all the time, my losses came with ways in which to improve due to my open-mindedness, and I saw success much quicker. 

I was a sophomore at Binghamton University, and we were playing our home tournament with a field of over 110 players. I was trailing the leaders by one shot after the first day and in great position to win my first collegiate event. With years of failing due to negative thoughts and expletive outbursts, my goal at the time was to stay calm and play the round of golf in its entirety without changing my thought processes or demeanor. This was ultimately tested when I got to the par 4 second hole during the second and final round. I hit my first shot off the tee into the fairway and had a great angle into the green for my second shot which could lead to a birdie and one shot closer to winning. I hit my nine-iron to about 45 feet away from the hole leaving myself a very undulating putt for birdie. After reading the break of the putt and taking practice swings to get the right speed, I left my first putt 10 feet short of the hole. Typically, this is an awful putt as I usually get it just a few feet around the hole. After missing the hole THREE MORE TIMES from around 4 or 5 feet due to poor strokes and toughness of where the hole was located on a hill, I recorded a triple-bogey 7. As a reference, I have never taken 5 putts to get the ball in the hole. I normally do it in 2, so to lose 3 shots on one hole was infuriating. I was now three shots back of where I was and had some catching up to do. 

Although very disappointed, I walked off the green calmly as I reassured myself of my pre-round mental goals, then I kept my head up and walked to the 3rd hole. The round carried on and with birdies on the 6th hole and a huge eagle on the 7th hole, so I was able to get back to where I needed to be to contend. Golf is also a frustrating game as just nine holes of collegiate golf can take up to 3 hours, so waiting to get to where you want to be can feel like it takes ages. As I stayed calm and reminded myself of my mental goals, I played the back nine almost flawlessly with no bogeys and a couple of birdies in some of the coldest and windiest weather I had ever played in. This makes the game even more brutal as a great round can be spoiled in just one shot where the elements blow your ball out of bounds or cause you to make an errant swing. With my mental perseverance for the five and a half hour round and enduring one of the worst moments I’ve had on a golf course, I was able to come out victorious. I won the tournament of over 110 Division I players, by one shot, with rounds of 71 and 70. It amazes me to this day because in any other instance I would’ve packed it in after that second hole and just gone through the motions to finish out the round, but with my understanding and lessons learned from losing I was able to maintain focus and keep my mind in check. Although times can be tough and success can seem impossible, your mental state will always dictate your physical motions. Be confident, be calm, be open, and love playing your game. 

Keeping this ideology paired with an intense physical work ethic, I was able to earn a spot on the PGA TOUR-CANADA during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Fulfilling a lifelong dream and goal of mine to be employed by the PGA TOUR to play golf for a living was one of my greatest achievements and am infinitely lucky to have had the opportunity to do so. In the end, I credit my success to learning from the negatives while acknowledging the positives. Never let a negative experience or comment hold you back, use it to your advantage, and as motivation to improve.

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