ASK THE EXPERT: The Mental Game

Expert: John VanDerLaan, Professional Golfer

What makes him an expert: A life-long passionate golfer, John has been training at the Golf Performance Center since high school. A few of his career highlights are as follows:

  • 2012 Connecticut State Junior Amateur Champion 
  • 2014 New England Amateur Champion
  • Four-time All-American at Florida Southern, two-time Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year, 2018 Jack Nicklaus Award winner and the 2018 Individual National Champion.
  • Korn Ferry Tour member since 2019

Thoughts on the mental game: In a recent conversation with John, I asked him what he thought were the most important aspects of the mental game that have helped him succeed in his golfing career up to this point. Without hesitation the first thing he said was, “having a belief in myself and my abilities”. This response is never surprising from an elite athlete and competitor like John. Confidence, or having a belief in oneself and abilities, is often cited as the number one psychological characteristic of expert performers. To learn more about confidence, check out my article, Confidence is King!

The second thing John talked about in our conversation was the importance of pre-tournament preparation. He said it wasn’t until he got to the Korn Ferry Tour that he truly appreciated how much time and effort the top players put into preparing for a tournament. In particular, John mentioned learning to appreciate practice rounds not just to better understand the layout of the course, but more importantly, to better understand how to strategize based on how the course played to the strengths and weaknesses of his game. This subtle shift in thinking allows him to, in theory, design a plan ahead of time to get the most out of every round. 

A third thing John mentioned he has come to appreciate is the importance of preparing his body to play and compete before he even heads to the course. Although this might seem like it relates to the mental game, preparing your body for competition leads to a more confident mindset. Knowing you are physically ready to perform gives an athlete the psychological freedom to focus on what matters the most, getting the ball in as few shots as possible.

If you could give an aspiring junior golfer one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Prepare properly for every situation you could face. That way you can go out and play confidently knowing you’re prepared for anything.”

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