Boys Golf values mental preparation en route to a historic season

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graphic by Nina Zhong

After finishing the 2015 season with a 781 record, the PHS boys golf team had some unfinished business heading into this year’s campaign. One year later, the team has produced a 12–4 record and has had the most wins in a season since 2008—the year the Tigers brought home the Group 3 State Championship.

The players agree that the games were not won on the course, but rather in their minds.

“A lot of our game relies on a good mental state,” Joseph Phelan ’17 said.  “It has been said that the most important part of golf is the space between your ears. We knew coming into the season that we had to be mentally prepared, and this mindset worked really well for us.”

Although golf is an individual sport, the golfers found preparing together mentally as a team very effective. “We did a lot of exercises before matches,” Phelan said. “They were all about building up your confidence and totally relaxing, not worrying about a loss but really wanting to win.”

Being in a sound mental state coming into matches proved important for the team throughout the season. But in order to win, the team members had to remain focused and resilient during the heat of play. “We never panicked when we were being beaten by our opponent,” said Co-Captain Harry Zhang ’16. “We believed that the next hole was always a better hole for us. We looked towards the future and never dwelled on what we did before.”

This newly-found key to success propelled the team to a season that saw the Tigers finish fifth, behind Wall High School, Northern Burlington County Regional High School, Ocean Township High School, and Hopewell Valley Central High School in Group 3 of Central Jersey out of ten teams.

In addition to having the most wins in eight years, the team also had victories over rivals Notre Dame High School and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South for the first time since 2011 and 2008 respectively.

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graphic by Nina Zhong

“Our season started out with a bang when we beat South,” said Head Coach Sheryl Severance. “It was rainy, windy, and cold, but we pulled it out on their own course. It was our first match, and it was an indicator that we were going to have a good year. We referred back to that match throughout the whole year.”

Having achieved a historic milestone but one match into the year, the team knew it was destined for a successful season. The players faced opponents ranging from both ends of the skill spectrum, and thus had to have the mindset of always playing their best, no matter who they were against.

“In all sports, when you are playing a bad team, you tend to play down,” Severance said. “We tried to eliminate that mindset throughout the season by telling ourselves, ‘We’re playing against the course, we’re playing against ourselves.’ When we played a really good team, it was not about beating the person next to us, but rather beating our previous score on the hole.”

With the season in the history books, the team collectively knows and agrees that the mental game was the difference maker on the course. The team is losing two seniors, but has several varsity players returning next spring.

“We have a motto,” Severance said. “The most important shot in golf is the next shot.”

And that next shot for the team is less than a year away: another chance for a season that will go down in PHS golf history.

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