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UNC Professor Gives Corey Pavin Lessons on Mental Golf

Posted June 16, 1999

— All golfers know there is a lot more to the game than sheer physical ability. Golf is such a mental game, a thinking man's game that can wear a player down, and drive him or her to the brink when everything does not go well.

At that point, many pros turn to a man like Dr. Richard Coop, an educational psychologist at theUniversity of North Carolina. Corey Pavin, the 1995U.S. Openchampion, will tell you that he would not have won without Coop's help.

Like many pros, Pavin has one coach to help with swing techniques, and another to work with his swing thoughts. Dr. Coop has Pavin playing with more confidence these last two months.

"We had a little chat at Augusta, and he said, 'You just have to go out and play with confidence, and putt with confidence,' because that was my biggest problem then," Pavin said.

"I'm sharing some things that are pretty private about my golf game and how I'm thinking, and what I'm thinking about on the golf course," Pavin said, "and to trust someone, to have them understand, to give you really positive feedback, and ways to improve my mental golf game, is great."

"The better the player is physically, the more important the mental side becomes, because out here on tour there are so many players so close in terms of their physical ability," Coop said.

The professor is all about the P's when it come to golf -- preparation, patience, positive thinking -- all come into play in practice.

"We're doing that [during the practice rounds] with Corey," Coop said. "We're going over every hole and how he intends to play it."

Pavin has good memories at Pinehurst winning there as an amateur in 1981.

Educational psychology can be a good tool in sports. Coop teaches his golfing clients to think before they swing, not while they swing, by using a preshot routine.

"When tension comes or pressure comes, and you're standing on the 18th tee at the U.S. Open, it's your friend," Coop said. "It's a security blanket that you have."

Coop is not all serious business, there is some gamesmanship on the course.

"We'll go out and play and he'll jingle change or move a little bit behind me to see how well I'm concentrating and how I'm thinking," Pavin said. "He tries to play games like that, and I'm on to him a lot."

Coop, one of golf's top mental coaches, says perseverance will win out this week.

"This one is going to be the last guy standing is going to win," he said. "I firmly believe if it plays the way it should play here, it'll be a shootout at the O.K. Corral because I think the course is going to win."

To win the Open, Pavin and the professor say a golfer needs to know his P's from his Q's at Pinehurst.


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