It’s been almost 3 weeks since the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration crowned it’s 2016 champion, Lydia Ko, but there are still lessons to be learned if you watched the coverage of the final round. How Lexi Thompson handled the ups and downs of losing the lead showed some character traits and qualities that can be applied to your own game and attitude both on and off the golf course. By now we all know that Lydia Ko is a phenomenal player and her attitude on the course is certainly one to pay attention to and try to mimic, but the player who impressed me the most during the final round was Lexi. She started the day with a one-shot lead, which she quickly lost on the first hole after a poor first tee shot. As any professional golfer knows by now, during a major a 3-4 stroke lead can disappear in a heartbeat so staying patient throughout the day is a must for a major championship.
But it was Lexi’s composure on the last few holes that really stood out to me. I snapped this picture of her from the Golf Channel’s live coverage of Lexi standing on the 16th green. By this point, she was 6 shots back of the lead with almost zero chance of winning, but she still stood there with her head held high, no change in body language and a smile on her face. She never stopped fighting throughout the entire day, never gave up, never let it show that she was down on herself.
So much can be learned from how Lexi handled herself that day. A college coach texted me the other day about a player that struggled through a bad day, “How she holds those bad rounds together is just as important as the good ones.” I say this over and over, a college coach puts as much emphasis on how you handle yourself during bad rounds as they do your ability to shoot a certain score.
Watching a player like Lexi, on a stage as big as the ANA should be a great example that at the end of the day it is just golf, and the ability to handle yourself with composure, humility and maybe even a laugh or two will allow you to go much further with your golf game than you could ever imagine. This doesn’t mean you treat bad rounds as a joke, there is a healthy level of frustration and disappointment that is understood and can be turned into a positive, but beating yourself up over bad shots, letting the emotions get the best of you, carrying it over to the next shot and being disrespectful to others and to the game of golf is where the line can get crossed many times with young players.
So take a lesson from Lexi, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn (post round video) who also showed great composure as she handed her 2 shot lead over to Lydia with 3 bogies on the last 3 holes. All three of these players showed a level of gratitude and humility that is very hard to find among top players in any sport. Next time you find yourself giving up a lead in a tournament or suffering through a bad round, think about the grin on Lexi’s face in the picture above or the way Ariya carried herself on the last few holes and remember that it is just a game and no bad round should allow you to lose your character.