Notebook: Song Has Own Way Of Psyching Out Competition
By David Shefter, USGA
St. Louis – Some players prefer classic rock or pop to relax or get motivated for a round of golf.
Then there’s Jennifer Song, who goes for the soothing words of noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella.
Not exactly Daughtry or Hannah Montana.
Before the 19-year-old Ann Arbor, Mich., native stretches or hits a shot on the practice range or putting green, Song likes listening to Rotella.
“My coach [at the University of Southern California] calls me Bob Rotella’s descendant because I always listen to track 17, where he summarizes like 10 things I need to remember to play great golf, ” said Song, a sophomore-to-be at the Pacific-10 Conference school in Los Angeles. “So I listen to that all the time when I get to the clubhouse. But before then, I try to shuffle around the other tracks so I’m not listening to the same one every day.”
The practice seems to be working. Song, who already owns one USGA championship this summer (U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links) is two victories away from a second. She reached the semifinals of the 109th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club with a 2-and-1 win on Friday over college rival Stephanie Kono of Honolulu, Hawaii.
With two more wins – the semifinals are Saturday and the 36-hole final is Sunday – Song would become just the second player to win the WAPL and Women’s Amateur in the same year. Pearl Sinn won both in 1988.
Song is a player who likes reinforcement, whether it be the words from father/caddie Museok or Rotella, a sports psychologist who has worked with a number of well-known touring golf professionals. She has read his books and now owns the CD.
“Number one is to play great,” said Song. “I don’t remember No. 2. But No. 10 is love your putter and your short game, and No. 9 is like be your best friend every second on the golf course. So I try to be my own best friend.”
Song, who has twice been the low amateur at a U.S. Women’s Open, including 2009 when she tied for 13th at Saucon Valley Country Club last month, gets a chance to play another UCLA Bruin in Saturday’s semifinals (Tiffany Lua). Already this week, she has eliminated a teammate (Lizette Salas) and another UCLA player (Kono).
But Song isn’t taking any match for granted, despite having the WAPL title in her portfolio.
“I think to be as humble as I can,” said Song, a quiet, but highly determined competitor. “I don’t tell myself, ‘Hey, you’re a champion of a USGA event.’ You’re just one of every other player, so just play your own game. I just try to stay focused and just be happy about what I’m doing.”
Meet Me In St. Louis
A couple of players were asked after their quarterfinal matches what they knew about St. Louis before they arrived for the Women’s Amateur and what things they learned about the Gateway City during the championship.
”My friend told me that there was an arch here,” said Jessica Korda, a 3-and-2 quarterfinal victim to Tiffany Lua. “I had no idea what that is and then I finally saw it on 11.”
The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947, is the tallest monument in the United States. Construction began in February of 1963 and was completed 2½ years later. It opened to the public on July 24, 1967.
“We went all the way to the top and saw the downtown,” said Song, who did some sightseeing prior to the championship. “And I went to Forest Park and went to the museums there.”
Stephanie Kono, a 2-and-1 loser to Song Friday, said she is a big football fan and knew the Rams played in St. Louis.
As for what the UCLA sophomore learned about St. Louis during her stay, the Honolulu, Hawaii, native said: “The people here are really nice and laid back. It almost reminds me of home. My caddie was telling me that everyone likes to barbecue and sit outside and just chill. I do that a lot at home with my friends.”
Back To School
Kono was not sure if she would stick around to watch fellow UCLA teammate Lua take on Song in Saturday’s quarterfinals. After all, she has already missed a week of summer school to play the Women’s Amateur.
“I have Econ 1 and 2,” said Kono, who is planning to major in international business.
UCLA is on the quarter system so the fall term won’t begin until a few weeks into September.
Kono, a first-team All-American, is anxious to start her sophomore campaign. Several UCLA players were here this week, including Lua, Sydnee Michaels, Brianna Do and Lee Lopez, who will redshirt this season after transferring from Long Beach State.
Of course, Kono would have loved to eliminate a Trojan (Song) in the quarterfinals. USC and UCLA are bitter cross-town rivals, but Kono said the rivalry on the golf course isn’t as fierce as it is in football or basketball.
“We’re all good friends,” said Kono, who also lost to Song in the 2008 WAPL semifinals. “It would be nice to beat the Trojans, but I don’t think of it that way. It’s not like we have this big rivalry. It’s definitely not [like football].”
Headed To The Cup
Korda, along with semifinalists Lua, Alexis Thompson and Jennifer Johnson, is headed to Aurora (Ill.) Country Club in less than two weeks to play on the U.S. team for the Junior Solheim Cup. Having spent a lot of time in the Czech Republic, the native country of her parents, and competed in big overseas events, she knows most of the European squad as well as her U.S. teammates.
The Bradenton, Fla., resident played with the Czech Republic’s Klara Spilkova in the European Team Championships. Korda also has competed in the 2006 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa and the European Young Masters.
“I think I know all the [European] girls,” said Korda, who is on the radar to play for the 2010 USA Curtis Cup squad. “I definitely have practiced my match play. That was definitely a positive thing. I think I should get a little bit of confidence from this.
“If I get picked for that (Curtis Cup), that would be awesome. We’ll see. There’s still a long way to go.”
Korda has enjoyed a successful competitive summer. Besides her quarterfinal run here, she made her second consecutive cut at a Women’s Open – shooting a final-round 69 – and reached the third round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, where she lost a 19-hole match to eventual runner-up Kimberly Kim.
Then again, her father Petr, the 1998 Australian Open tennis champion, can relate to the vagaries of playing matches.
“He knows what it is to lose, he knows what it is to win,” said Korda. “He was really trying to help me out there today. Nothing ever happened. I have had my ups and downs [this summer]. I think it’s been pretty successful.”
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.