For a junior golfer that first tournament can be a real rite of passage. Tournament play gives an opportunity to test their mettle against their peers, to discover more profoundly their strengths and also those places that need improvement. Much preparatory effort is needed to gear up for this opportunity, in both physical and mental skills.
No child will stroll onto the fairway ready for their first major competition without many hours, and even years of instruction and practice . It is best to start a child in the game between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. Certainly, if a child wishes to play competitively in high school, college, or beyond, they should start learning the game by the time they turn 12. This should allow enough time to for the individual to learn the skills needed to be competitive at those levels. At the very least, they will find out if they possess the talent and the determination to become a good player.
Practice, practice, practice.
And practice some more. Repetition builds muscle memory, and fine-tunes one’s skills. There is simply nothing like persistent practice that hones the game. Make sure to incorporate good instruction and frequent competition as well. It is also beneficial to play with more skilled players whenever possible, learning what they do and imitate their skills and good habits. Ultimately, playing in competition will make you better, you will learn what works and doesn’t work “under the gun”.
After all that practice, and once the swing is honed, it’s mostly mental work. Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 career major championships, once said: “Golf is 80% mental, 10% ability, 10% luck.” Simple, direct – and true. How to take advantage of this truth?
Empty the noggin.
Teach yourself to clear your head of everything except golf while on the course. Most of us carry around a burbling mental stew of things to do, people to see, and where did I leave my keys? Juniors bear an equal weight and they must learn to shut it off. It’s possible through practice to quiet all this noise . Negative thoughts can creep in as well, and a player should do whatever he can to avoid them. There will be times this is not possible, but the goal is to not let negative thoughts continually beat you. Tournament play is the time to put these skills to the test.
Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep according to National Sleep Foundation. (Adults need 7 to 9 hours.) Without enough sleep people lose focus, they get testy, they eat poorly and fail to take care of their bodies. In preparing for one’s first tournament, a junior golfer must be aware of all these hazards and must take appropriate precautions. Get into a sleep routine, wind down in the evenings, make a dark and quiet room. All these will help.
Learn the course.
If the opportunity arises, a junior golfer may wish to become familiar with the course prior to the big day. Practice rounds will familiarize the player with what he will have to navigate under tournament conditions. Such knowledge may not guarantee success on every single stroke, but it could give you a slight advantage, especially on more challenging courses.
Most of us have feelings we don’t even know are there, and they can surface in moments of excitement or tension, sometimes undermining our efforts. Before and during the tournament begins, it may help to run an emotional checklist. Are you anxious about anything? , or are you simply here to play? Are you thinking ahead to some imagined goal, or just staying in and enjoying the moment? It’s easy to get distracted by other thoughts in our heads, when it’s best we be focused on the game only .
Finally, try not to be intimidated by other players in the event. Remember that your competition is just as nervous as you are. You’re in no better or worse a position at the start, in which case the only thing that matters is to play your best, at each moment , on every shot. Plan to play each shot to the best of your ability and when the big day comes, and don’t worry about what happens. You will play well if you avoid letting yourself be distracted from executing your shots. It’s you against the golf course.. Above all, have fun!