Think Above Par

Dealing with Pressure, Fear and Professional Golf with Yoonhee Kim

October 04, 2023 Kathy Wood Episode 140
Dealing with Pressure, Fear and Professional Golf with Yoonhee Kim
Think Above Par
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Think Above Par
Dealing with Pressure, Fear and Professional Golf with Yoonhee Kim
Oct 04, 2023 Episode 140
Kathy Wood

Yoonhee Kim is a mini tour player working toward playing on the LPGA.  In this episode, we talk about how she deals with pressure, fear, embarrassment and Tour qualifying school.

Yoonhee also shares some of her on-course mental tools and sayings that help her stay calm and present.

Regardless of your level of golf, you will find her story relatable as you learn how a tour player manages the golf brain and tournament play.

Connect with Kathy at KathyHartWood.com

Show Notes Transcript

Yoonhee Kim is a mini tour player working toward playing on the LPGA.  In this episode, we talk about how she deals with pressure, fear, embarrassment and Tour qualifying school.

Yoonhee also shares some of her on-course mental tools and sayings that help her stay calm and present.

Regardless of your level of golf, you will find her story relatable as you learn how a tour player manages the golf brain and tournament play.

Connect with Kathy at KathyHartWood.com

Oh, my God, a friend. How are you today? I have a special guest. To share with you. One of my client's unique him. Who's a professional golfer. Who's doing the mini tour circuit and trying to get her to her card. Came on one of our academy calls that I have and talk to the members and took questions. And I, what I wanted to do today was I wanted to share that discussion with you as she talks about pressure and fear and what it's like to go through tour school and diving a little bit deeper into the work that we've had done. And the progress that she has made, and she was really gracious to come on and share that with all my members. And I want to share that with you. So without further ado, here's my conversation with you and Hey Kim. So what I wanted to do today, and I shared a little bit with Uni about that we've been talking about pressure, but I think she gives this month in competition, but she gives a nice, uh, different, fresh angle for someone who's been playing golf at a different level. She's a tour player, but I'm going to let her introduce herself. And then what we're going to do is just have a conversation about, I'm just going to ask her some questions. We're just going to have some conversations about what it's like to be a tour player. I was a tour player, but it's also nice to hear from somebody who's actively a tour player. Things are a little bit different now. You need, you know, that I can go in any different direction. So if you say some things and I feel inspired to coach you through it, you know, um, you won't be offended, right? Um, so uni, why don't we start, why don't you share with everybody a little bit about you and what you're doing, where you live, what you're playing in. Um, yeah, just give a little bit experience about your background. Okay, sounds good. Hi, my name is Uni Kim. I'm from San Ramon, California, the Bay Area. I'm 25, so I've been playing professionally for like two to three years. It was a little weird there for a second with the COVID because I graduated from the University of California, Davis, during COVID, 2020. So it's kind of like, Two and a half, three years, I say. currently I'm playing on the Women's All Pro Tour, um, which is about to end. And next year will be the Annika Women's All Pro Tour, which is very exciting. Um, because Annika Sorenstam and her foundation has partnered now with the WAPT. Oh, I didn't know that. That's cool. I didn't tell you that. No, I didn't know that. So it's going to be, it's going to have a new name. It'll be the Anika Woman's All Pro. It'll be long, but. Yeah. Oh, I gotcha. Yeah. So now what's the, what's the acronym for that? The AW. AWAT? Okay. Um, oh, that is good. That might be the more than consistent funding or maybe better funding for the tour. I think it'll be really, really good, um, from what I've heard and from what we, Annika had sent in a little video editor to her championship and basically just said that she, really likes what the WAPT is doing and wants to help grow the game. So it's really, it's really cool. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Oh, that's good to know. Okay. And sorry, I interrupt you. You just went through tour school, so we're going to talk a little bit about that, right? Yes. I went through Q school and, um, I've had a little bit of time off in the last couple of weeks, which has been really, really. Fun. Yeah. Nice to have some time off. So we talked a little bit just, uh, about prepping for this conversation. And one of the things that you, realized was the contrast of once your season ends and you stop competing, you guys might experience this too. If you go through your golf seasons, it's all just a little micro. Cosm your world relative to her is I want you all to see the similarities in what her brain is doing, how she's thinking about things and what she's feeling on the golf course, even though she's playing it, you know, she's one of the best women golfers in the world, really but one of the things that we talked about was you don't realize how much your stress. And the pressure has been just constantly building all year because your year builds and ends really with QSchool. That's really the ultimate thing. And then when that is over and done, you feel that relief when all that stress goes away. I remember packing my bag in January and unpacking it in October after QSchool. That's what I felt like. It's like, I'd never really emptied my suitcase out cause I traveled overseas a lot too. And I remember that moment in October, I was like, Oh my gosh, I just need a break. And just like this weight. off of me. What have you felt as the contrast of that? Yeah, I think, I think as soon as Q school is over for me, I like immediately felt like wrote, like, I could breathe maybe a little bit, just because it was just, it, I love playing and I love playing professionally. I love traveling. I love everything about it, but I think it was the first time I felt like. Okay, like I don't have anything coming at me and I can just like sit for a second and relax Um, because the summer's jam packed. I mean i'm barely home at my house. Um so I think just going home and just taking a second to breathe and realize like, okay, like You can relax for a second because I think every other time when i'm playing It's like even when I do come home for a week I'm working the whole time because i'm trying to like I just want to keep stay sharp. So this was like really nice to just like take a breather and it's not like I didn't practice of course I still practice and I enjoy practicing I love practicing but it was a little maybe not as intense and like not as like I got it is done because if I don't get it done like I will feel great. Does that make sense? Yeah. Yes. To me, it does for sure. So, okay. So tell me what you and I have worked together for a little while but how did you know, or what made you think that this was an area of your game that you wanted to work on? well, I think I've always known like mentally I've, I've had a little bit of ups and downs. I mean, I'm, like, sometimes I would stand over, before talking to Kathy, I would kind of stand over, like, a T shot or a putt and be like, I have no idea if this is gonna go in or if I'm gonna hit it in the fair, like, I don't know where it's gonna go. Like, especially with T shots or putts, I was like, I, I don't know where this is going. And instead of, like, figuring out how to, like, I didn't really have the tools to figure out how to get out of my way, necessarily, and I'd hit a lot of shots, like, We, uh, in college, they used to call it like anyway shots where like, I would just kind of have doubts, but I just hit it anyway. And it didn't really, it would not go very well. Cause it's like, I'm not calm, certain or confident going into a shot. So, um, I knew mentally I was really struggling there. And, um, sometimes I've had, I would have these moments of like, my heart wouldn't stop pounding and I didn't know how to deal with things like that. Or I'd feel pressure and kind of try to shove it down. Because I didn't think I realized at the time that like shoving it down or like not acknowledging it wasn't really helping me. It was becoming more... Like, if I acknowledge it, it won't help me, but if it's actually the opposite, like, once I've started acknowledging those things, like, saying things out loud, it's helped me so much more. But, I think I knew, like, I had a lot of, um, I was struggling mentally, I think, since college, and I just didn't really know how to, like, transition out of that. Yeah. Yeah. You feel like a little bit more, um, like you're at the effect of your brain versus like having control of it, right? You might watch what it's doing, but you're like, well, I don't know how the heck to get out of this and do something different. But you also probably were, had that feeling of knowing that you're getting in your own way. Like you had more talent. That's the simplest way of knowing that it's time to work on your mental game. You had more talent than you were taken out to the golf course. I imagine. Right. You like, I knew, I know how to hit these shots. I know how to score, but I'm getting in my own way. I would imagine that's what you felt, right? Definitely. Yeah. Right. what do you think was the biggest mental challenge for you? or maybe let's say emotion. What was the biggest emotion that you experienced on the golf course? Uh, Definitely. Yeah. That didn't work for you. Fear didn't really work for me at all. Yeah. Um, it's interesting because I feel like in the year I've worked with you, it's changed. Like, I think when I started with you in, I think it was like February, March, I was very much so like fear, embarrassment. I didn't want to embarrass myself. Um, I was so worried about what everyone else was thinking and then like I started out my season really well this year in the top five on my tour. Get to go straight to stage two of qualifying school, which is huge. Cause it basically guarantees you'll go to the next tour, right? Because I was playing well, it turned into like a lot of pressure. I was putting on myself, like, if I don't do this, I think it was almost like, if I don't do it, my life's over. Cause I'm going to have to go to stage one and like putting negative thoughts in my head. Um, so it kind of changed. I think it started with like, I don't want to embarrass myself. I don't want to, um, be scared. I'm so scared hitting the ball sometimes to like. a lot of pressure and I don't think either of those emotions helped me very much. Right. Not at all. But it's so funny. You know, I think a lot of people here can relate. And I know that some people have said this before that they think that once they get to a certain level that they're never going to have fear, and they're never going to worry about what other people think, and they're never going to embarrass themselves. Maybe that might be for somebody who's a higher handicap, but it's really is all relative, right? It's like, we still this is what our brains do. But here's uni. One of the best female golfers in the world. And she's worried. She has fear just like you all do. And she's worried about what other people think, because this is what our human brains do. And we just, we do want to witness it. And we want to be really curious about what's going on. And then we got to learn how to pivot away from that. And we've talked a lot about pivoting out of that. So what have been some of the tools that you've used or had to use on the golf course? What do you think has been the most useful thing for you to use on the golf course to get out of some of those? Uh, emotions that are going to get in your way. I think just saying things out loud, like one of the things, uh, Kathy told me to say was, I'm safe. And it kind of sounds ridiculous. And like, when I say it out loud, I realize like, The big picture, I think, because like, I think when I say like, I'm safe, it's like, of course I'm safe. I'm on a golf course, playing golf. Like, of course I'm safe. Like I'm no one, I'm not going to die kind of thing. And then it kind of puts things into perspective. Makes me laugh maybe a little myself too. QSQL, I was going like this the whole time, like, um, breathing, just breathing, and then, um, I think something else that really helped was, um, I started, like, creating goals of, like, if I'm not certain, I'm not going to hit the shot, and, like, holding myself accountable to that, and, like, kind of counting on my hand, like, how many times did I do it, how many times was I certain, how many times was I not certain, and I think those things, Really help and I'm not going to be certain completely certain over every shot. I don't think that's a completely realistic but like At least, like, to a level of certainty where I'm not going to regret it. Because I think I almost, like, relied my mom caddies for me, and I almost relied on her sometimes to make a decision. And I just hit it. And I even if I didn't agree with it, and it would cause this, like, anger cycle. Because I'd be like, well, I didn't want to hit that, but it's it's on me for Hitting it kind of thing. So, yeah, yeah, that was about you coming up and starting to make more decisions for yourself to write versus mom and mom's great as a caddy and everything. But then when you still have that underlying doubt in there, right, you've got to, you've got to make sure that you're having your own back and being certain. And I love the part that you, um, You said that you can't be certain over every shot, but we can find things about the shot to be certain about. Like, we can be certain about that. We like the club or this is the club, or we're just going to decide. This is the club. We can be certain about how we prepare. We can be certain about how we're feeling. We can be certain that we're going to have our own back. Um, you know, we can be certain about our target and the yardage and like, there's always things to find. To create certainty because the opposite of certainty is doubt and doubt hitting a golf shot, which is what you just said. Cause the contrast of that with mom is not a good place to swing. That's where we steer it and we guide it and do all the things down there. And I love what you said. And I hope you guys all hear that is that she said that she tries to keep herself like accountable, like keeping track of that. And I encourage everybody in the group too. And I encourage actually I put it on my podcast too, is to just. Keep track of all the shots that you hit from calm, certain or confidence from a place that you prefer and then just get really curious on what's happening on the ones that you're not right. And that's basically what you started doing it because that's such a great awareness tool of just paying attention to what's going on where what you described in the beginning was like, you're at the effect of your brain, your brain kind of like I described as a puppy on a leash, right? Just went wherever the heck it wanted. And you're like, why is it going over there? And now you're bringing it back in and giving it some constraint, right? Which is setting an intention before you go play, right? Which we've talked about setting intentions. Yeah, and it's like the more I've worked with Kathy too, it's like the more you observe and you see it in other players too that you're playing with, and I think that's been a lot of learning lessons for me too, because sometimes I'll be having a really good day, but I can see the pressure or girls not being confident or certain all of a sudden just towards the end of their rounds, and I think it could be maybe they're checking like What the cut line is or just putting a lot of pressure on themselves in that way when they've been playing well the whole time And then just kind of losing it at the end and I think that's happened to everyone that's happened to me It's happened to everyone but Observing it has been really good a really good way for me to learn to I think Right, because it gives you incentive, to just make sure that you're being more cognizant of what you're doing and that it's not useful, right? We can, we can see the opposite. Like, if I do this thing, I get this result and then you can watch other people that you play with and you guys could do this at you when you play with people at your courses is you can watch people who are super negative. And you're like. They're, they're eventually that's going to not work, right? Eventually they're going to implode at some point, or you can watch people implode on the golf course and then kind of go, all right, do I do that? How often do I do that? How can I not do that? What am I thinking to do that? Cause it doesn't, it doesn't work and it's not, uh, it's not useful. So what, tell me about, How do you start dealing with worrying about what other people think? Cause I know we've talked about this. I, I think it was distinctly one round, I don't know, is that okay for me to talk about? Sure, whatever you Like one round, I was playing with a girl who's on the LPGA, who's consistently been on the LPGA, and another girl who's kind of like the same level as me. And I just remember, for me, I was like, Oh my gosh, I don't want to embarrass myself in front of this LPGA player. I want to like show her like. I'm just as good as her kind of thing and I kind of let it get in my head that I was playing with this really good golfer and and I could see after the fact like well while I was so worried about what this person was thinking of me, which really she didn't even care. The other girl in my group, who's the same level, was thinking more like, I'm going to show her how good I am. And like, she was playing so good and I was not playing that great. And at the end of the day, the LPGA player didn't even care because she's just focused on herself. And I think after that, I remember talking to Kathy and realizing like, I can't let like this get in my way because I'm just as good as her on a good day, you know, and so I think after that it just kind of was like, yeah, it's okay for me to get nervous. And if I play with someone that's really good, it's okay for me to like, say out loud, like, Oh, I'm really nervous because I admire her or I want to play like I admire everything she's done in her career. And just saying those things out loud puts things like, Okay. Put like almost calm me down. So anytime anytime I started to feel uncomfortable after that I'd be like, wow, like I really admire this person and that doesn't put me down doesn't mean like I'm Bad because I'm not at the same level right now, but I think that just started to help me a lot Yeah, and it's and you realizing too at that moment hmm Right. That you're good enough and that you belong. And like a lot of times we just, we, cause we compare ourselves so much, or we don't think that we're as good as other people. There's like this little voice in our head that we're not good enough and that we don't belong and everybody's better than us kind of mentality, especially when you're playing with somebody like that. But the thing that too. Which this made me remember is that if you can remember to share this, because I, I do know the story because I think it's amazing is that you started out at some point during the season about having beliefs. So we talk about shifting beliefs and shifting beliefs and identity about you. And your ability to perform or score or lower your handicap or make cuts. Do you remember our conversation on that? And when you first started out, you had certain beliefs about making the cut or maybe making money and then where you'd finish and then how that evolved in your brain. So can you share a little bit about that? Do you remember? Yeah. So it started out, I remember like it started out with like, I just need to make the cut. Like. Feeling a lot of stress of like making the cut and then the season kept going and I was like Consistently making cuts and it kind of changed to like wait, like I want to win Like I don't want to just make the cut I want to win And then it kind of was like evolving to like I want to win So then kind of putting a different kind of pressure instead of being like I need to make the cut It was like I need to win. So my final rounds were kind of like Not as great as they could be, I think. Yeah. Yeah. Right. You're certain, like, you all of a sudden, you're, you started out with, like, I'm not sure if I can make the cut. I'm not sure if I'm a player who can make the cut. I'm not sure if I'm good enough to make the cut. That feels uncomfortable to me. And all of a sudden, you start making cuts, right? We shifted a little bit of belief in there, like, I'm a player who can make cuts. And then you started making cuts, and now you're like, well, wait a minute. Okay, that's not a problem anymore. Now I want to win. Like I need to change what I believe about myself, but it could have been one of those things where we jumped too fast. I think we we moved it back down to something that your brain was a little bit more comfortable with. Like, I think it's totally possible. I can finish in the top 20 or top 10 or something consistently. So there wasn't that extra level of. Pressure expectation because, you know, what tournament doesn't anybody want to win, but it's about shifting your ability or your belief in yourself to be able to finish at a certain place starts with your thought first. It starts with you believing it. And then the results come after that. And I, I loved how, and I tell the story about how you really shifted your belief and going from, I'm not sure if I can make cuts to wait, wait a minute now. I like, I can make cuts. That's not a problem to like, I want to finish at a certain level. Now I want to win. And it's just that change in that shift in your identity without, this is what I'm also going to say without your talent changing. You still, you had the talent the whole time. What do you think about that now? So now what's your belief? So you go, you take that and you go into, um, tour school and tell, so tour school, Q school, it's basically a series of tournaments. Now it's crazy. When I did it was two stages. Now I can't even keep track of it and I think it's over the top, but there's a series of. Tournaments and rounds that you have to qualify and go through it's complicated now, but let's just say you have to get on the LPGA and play on there. This is 1 of the stages that you have to go through. But tell people what the experience is like about going as relative to pressure about going out to Q school. Where does your mind go when. You have that pressure of QSchool out there. And like, realistically, this year, I was like, a lot. I could almost like see it happening. It was close, you know, like last year maybe wasn't as close, but I could actually like envision it happening. But I believed it could have happened. But I think like the way my mind has approached qualifying school each year is definitely involved. I think my first year trying, I was like, I went into it going like this year, this is going to determine my life. This tournament is going to determine my life. Like my life's over if I don't play well. And realistically was not like that at all. So I think like that was my first year. Last year was kind of like, wow. Like a lot of things just didn't go my way and like hit shots. I've never hit before and missed by a couple, but it's okay. And then this year, I think it was. With different kind of pressure of like, well, I've been playing really, really well, I should obviously play well at Q school, or this week, and this week of qualifying school, and I, and I did not play well, and like, there are a lot of things that happened, um, that I just, I don't need to get into, but I also was like, I need to be at peace with whatever decision, whatever happens, because, It's one week of my life, and it could just be my off week of the year, which it happened to be. Yeah. There was a great Instagram quote where a tour player said, you have to work in between tournaments like your life depends on it, and then you have to play like you don't care. So it's like that transition when, when her brain is sitting there telling her like, my life depends on this, my future depends on this tournament. That's like ultimately shaking your hamster cage and all the thoughts are going to come up because we put our brain into this fight or flight. Place where we think that our life is threatened, which basically she said out loud, right about her golf game. So your poor golf game, even if it wasn't an off week, was really going to struggle to show up underneath all of that pressure and all of that, fear really of your safety, going back to that safety part and, and you are not alone in this little journey with Q school, right? It's one of the biggest mental challenges for golf pros to get through those stages. Don't you think? Oh, 100%. I mean, I know a lot of girls that like, like, should's a bad word, but like, they really should be going, like, their progress over a year shows that they are good enough to go to the next level, but it's like, they just can't get out of stage one, and it's, it's hard. I mean, it's, they take 95 girls out of 328 people, and it's, I mean, if you're just not having a good week that week, like, that's just what it is. And I think it's also just accepting it, like, Kathy and I have talked about this, is like, me accepting it. I'm the most at peace I've been in my life, I think, playing golf. I'm enjoying it. I love it. And like, um, just being at peace with like, that's just what the cards I was dealt with. And that's just what happened and it doesn't make mean that doesn't take anything away from the year. I've had like, I think that's where I've had to almost have my own back is like doesn't take anything away from like what I've done this year or like how great how much my game has improved in the last 3 years. Um, so just like having my own back in that way too. It's huge, right? When you know, you're going to have your own back. And I've talked to everybody about this before, when you know, you're going to have your own back at the end of 18, it takes so much pressure off your round. But if you think at the end of the 18, that you're going to treat yourself crappy, or you're going to beat yourself or give yourself a verbal beating, or you're going to do it throughout the round, then you freak your brain out. And it's so much more challenging for you to take your best swings out there. So having your own back is really just not only a golf lesson, but it's a life lesson in anywhere that you go. So that it's, it, it. It should be something that we do off the golf course too, so that it's easy when we're on the golf course, it's not like, Oh yeah, on the golf course, I have my own back, but I'm going to go home and beat the crap out of myself. No, it's you want to take care of you everywhere you go. And that's why I always say that golf has a tendency to reveal the way that we manage our minds, the way that we treat ourselves, the thoughts and beliefs that we have, how well we manage our emotions and deal with our emotions. It just all shows up on the golf course because of the nature of the game. What do you think people underestimate as an amateur about what it takes to play at a top level? Well, I think it's, you have to work really hard and that's just. And I think you have to work really hard on all aspects of your game, but I think you also have to like, be able to stare yourself in the look at yourself in the mirror and be like, am I really working on what I need to work on? Um. Cause it could be mental, could be short game, could be ball striking, but you know, like, of course, everyone has a lot of fun. I have, I love playing, like if I could just go play, I'd go play, but that's not necessarily what I need to work on in my game. You know? Like, does that make sense? Oh my gosh, that's awesome advice. That was awesome. Yes, exactly. I don't think, I think this is anywhere to write when, um, but being really brutally honest with ourselves. Cause we, we focus on. Things that maybe sting the most or we might miss the mark and not want to work on a certain part of our game or we avoid working on, you know, the mental part when it is just glaring us in the face on how we how we're feeling and how we're treating ourselves and we just avoid it. So yeah, I think that's awesome advice. I do think people underestimate, you know, how How much work it takes to get to a top level on a consistent basis. And I know a lot of people on the call are not trying to play at tour player level. That doesn't matter. But even you just taking your handicap down a couple shots is like the amount of work it takes just to take it down a couple shots. I think a lot of people underestimate and how much the mental game plays a role in that. Like you being able to manage your brain even around those few couple shots. I think a lot of people underestimate that part too. Okay. So if you were going to take like going into next year and next season, what is going to take Yoonhee to the next level? I think just like, like believing in myself, believing in my ability, um, continuing to work on the things I need to work on and like not being afraid to fail. Cause like, I think that's Something I've always struggled with is like, well, what if I try so hard and I put everything I have into this and I fail, but like realizing like, that's just me failing anyway. So I think like last winter I was like, okay, I want to give it up my all. And like, if I fail, I fail. And, um, it just showed me like, wow. Like when I put everything I can into this and like sacrifice. The fun like like, you know, like i'm 25 years old I sometimes want to just go and have fun or go on a trip or do something fun like that But it's also like sacrificing like what do I want? What's my dream? And like what do I want to do? So I think um I've done that and I've seen the results. So just like continuing to do that and like not Realizing like me trying is like not failing me working my butt off is not failing like if anything I can look back in like 20 years and be like I'm so proud of myself and finding pride in that I think it's like sometimes it's hard for me to be like, I'm good or like, I'm so proud of myself and like how I've grown like saying things like that kind of make me like, like feel weird, but being okay with like, yeah. Thanks. Yes, I love that. Wow. What a nice, beautiful contrast to our first call, you know, I'm just going to say, yeah, you've done awesome. I do not doubt that you're going to have an amazing, uh, 24, um, cause you're, you know, it's about the evolving. Like, I love to use that word now for some reason, it's like we're evolving, you know, we evolve on and off the golf course, but with our games, we're evolving and you can see the evolution of you moving forward with your golf game and managing your mind and having your own back. Okay. And it's easy to look back and go, wow, I've come a long way. And then being really proud of the progress that you've made and you, and you have, and I know you'll continue to do that. Okay. Thank you, Eunice, so much for coming on the podcast and talking to our members of the academy and taking questions. And if anybody wants to learn more about how do you can work with me or work more on your mental game, make sure you head to kathyheartwood. com. I have a beautiful week and I'll talk to you next Wednesday.