A tale of two golf games
While Penn struggles with the short game, Han emerges as team’s ‘model putter’
April 14, 2011, 10:25 pm · Updated April 15, 2011, 12:00 am·
A round of golf, or each hole for that matter, is made up of two distinct parts: the long game and the short game.
According to Bobby Locke, the famous South African golfer who finished his career with four Opens to his name, the short game “is in fact a game in itself.” And it is one that the Penn women’s golf team, which won the Ivy League Championship last year, desperately wants to win.
The Quakers, currently third in the league, have been working on their chipping and putting all season. Coach Mark Anderson feels it is a major obstacle in his team’s attempt to oust Princeton and Yale and finish at number one.
Interestingly, two of Penn’s top players, sophomore Isabel Han (ranked No. 5 overall) and freshman Michelle Lee (No. 6), stand at opposite ends of this battle.
“Personally, I think [Han] has the best short game on the team,” Lee said.
The freshman, on the other hand, excels at her long game.
“I really like hitting the driver,” she explained. “I’m not very tall. I use my long irons and woods a lot.”
According to Lee, it was a practice-makes-perfect mentality and a trained mental toughness that allowed her to attain driving prowess.
“When I’m on the tee box I have confidence that the ball is going to go straight down the fairway,” she said. “I have that confidence 100 percent of the time.”
But when she reaches the green, it’s an entirely new affair. In order to succeed, Lee has to translate the certainty she has in her long game to help her sink puts.
“My coach taught me to think of myself as the best putter and to actually say to myself, ‘Michelle, you’re a good player, you’re a good short-game player,’” Lee explained. “If I’m thinking negatively, I’ll literally say, ‘Stop. Stop, Michelle.’”
If she is unable to ward off negativity, Lee explains that in the stretch between the ball and the flag, she becomes her own worst enemy.
“I’m preventing myself from doing something that I could do,” she said. “I’m being an obstacle to myself.”
But when that negativity creeps in, Lee knows she can look to Han.
“When I first started, my putting was my weakest point,” Han explained. “I always three-putted. Three-putting is the worst you can do.”
After hiring a putting coach and spending inordinate amounts of time focused on her short game, though, Han has emerged as a model chipper and putter.
“After I worked with [my coach] my putting average just dropped. It plummeted!” she said with a laugh.
Still, Han is not completely content. She knows that to be a perfect golfer, she has to get things going right off the tee.
“You can always improve, and you can always get better,” she said. “I feel like to play really good golf, I have to have a perfect swing. It’s the biggest obstacle keeping me from getting the scores that I want.”
Just over a week away from the Ivy League championships, Lee, Han and the rest of the Lady Quakers will pack up all elements of their game — short, long and everything in between — and head to Suffern, N.Y., Friday to face Princeton and Yale in the Roar-EE Invitational.