Freshman NCAA golfer takes lessons from older teammate

DADE CITY, Fla., — While one senior golfer has already figured how to mentally control his mind during a game, another freshman is trying to learn the ropes from his older teammate.

Arkansas State University senior Sawyer Radler and freshman Christian Helmbold participated in the NCAA men’s golf tournament at the University of South Florida Invitational on the Lake Jovita course.

Helmbold, an 18-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa who shot an 8-over 80 on Tuesday, believes that golfers can’t allow doubt to settle in if they make a bad shot.

“Golf challenges every part of your mental side possible,” Helmbold said just outside the clubhouse after his final round that saw him tied for 63rd overall. “You can go from the happiest person to the most depressed person in a second. I think it’s very important to have the same attitude no matter what’s happening to you.”

Helmbold also said that he constantly looks up to the older members on his team for advice on the game.

“All the seniors set a good standard, especially Chris Pledger,” he said. “I always go to him and Sawyer for advice in certain situations. I’m very lucky to have them on my team.”

Helmbold saw firsthand how far the nerves of a senior can go, watching Pledger win co-medallists honours with Louisville’s Justin Dorward.

For his part, Radler understands the ups and downs that go with being a first-year college player.

“When you come into this as a freshman you tend to take more risks,” said Radler, who was 3-over for the day and 45th for the tournament. “But as a senior now, you evaluate things a little differently and you take your medicine.”

Playing in his fourth and final year at Arkansas State, Radler says he always had good composure when playing, but recently realized the importance of it.

“You can’t let your frustration affect your other shots because it can take you off your game,” said Radler. “It’s hard to do that but the more you play, you can to teach yourself to respond well.”

Although both students are very passionate about the game of golf, Sawyer has made up his mind that he will only play recreationally after he graduates in May. He could put his his television broadcast major to use if the Golf Channel comes knocking, or chose a career in audio and video production.

Helmbold faces the same dilemma. He is still unsure if he wants to pursue golf on a professional level or find another direction.

“I want to see how my golf skills develop,” Helmbold said.  “If it doesn’t [happen] then I have my economics degree to back me up.”

As a team, Arkansas State finished 16-over collectively, finishing 13th out of 17 schools.

Radler, Helmbold and the rest of the Red Wolves now head to Florida State for a tournament in Tallahassee, Fla., beginning Saturday.