Working with coach on mental toughness makes the difference
Sometimes it happened when she was eyeballing a treacherous putt or before she blasted her way out of a green-side bunker. As a member of the Nazareth College golf team, Michelle Van Slyke ’11 (New Hartford, N.Y.) needed to remind herself about the short memory that is required for golfing success.
“Putting the bad shots behind me and moving on,” she said. “That has always been something I’ve struggled with and continue to work on.”
That’s why one of Michelle’s proudest golfing moments came at a tournament in less-than-ideal weather. She overcame the cold and rainy elements—not to mention a six-shot deficit—to shoot a career-low round of 78 and win the tournament by three strokes.
Michelle said that Nazareth Coach Marty Coddington ‘06G helped improve her mental approach while also fueling her competitive fire. Her focus has veered away from the numbers on her scorecard and centered on clever course management.
“He’s helped me realize that sometimes making par and bogey is OK,” she said.
“She’s come a long way with that,” Coddington said. “She doesn’t let one mistake lead to another one. She’s become a more confident player who is able to focus on her game.”
Coddington also is impressed with Michelle’s competitiveness and her willingness to put in practice time.
“She’s like the basketball player who goes to the gym and shoots free throws outside of the scheduled practice time,” he said. “And she competes. She’ll pull that baseball cap down low so you can just barely see her eyes.”
Michelle began playing golf early, accompanying her grandmother, who worked at a local course. She spent hours on the putting green and later tagged along as her father played. “Now I can’t picture what my life would be like without golf,” she said.
Michelle’s plans for the future include pursuing a teaching and coaching career, as well as considering a sideline summer business as a golf instructor—perfect for a teacher’s schedule. She’ll also keep working toward the perfect round in a game that she concedes “can never be won.”