DADE CITY, Fla. – Emmanuel Kountakis knows his main opponent will always be the 18 holes in front of him.
The humble Augusta, Ga., native has a quiet presence on the course, but the focus remains on fulfilling his own potential rather than being compared to anyone else.
“I just motivate myself to keep on getting better and better,” said Kountakis, who finished 15th at the USF Invitational Tournament on Tuesday. “Honestly, it’s just me and the course, I’m not really against people.
“I usually keep to myself, I guess it’s just my personality. I just stay focused, try to focus on my game rather than watch [others].”
The freshman at Georgia’s Mercer University didn’t always have his calm demeanour on the course.
The 19-year-old attributes his progression in handling the emotional pressures of golf to his teammates and his coaches.
“[They] taught me to look at golf from a different perspective,” he said. “Like when you get up to a shot and instead of just thinking, ‘okay, I’m in trouble, let’s just save par,’ and you take a danger shot.
“You just accept the miss-hit and take a bogey instead of just going in hard and getting a double or a triple [bogey].”
Coach Steve Bradley saw Kountakis when he was still a junior golfer and stumbled upon his talent by accident.
“I was watching somebody else that got paired with him,” said Bradley. “Three weeks later I interviewed at Mercer and got the Mercer job and he was one of the first people that I emailed.”
Kountakis said he chose Mercer University because of the small-college atmosphere that gave him an opportunity to play and improve his game.
He started taking the game seriously at age five, posted his first birdie at six, completed his first under par tournament round at 12, and won his first NCAA event within a month of his 19th birthday.
He shared the victory with fellow teammate Hans Reimers, whom Kountakis credits as a contributor to his improved mental game when he was handed a copy of Dr. Gio Valiante’s Fearless Golf after a poor showing (60th overall) during a tournament two weeks ago.
The tip worked.
At the USF tournament this week, Kountakis shot 65, 75, and 70 in the three-day event, helped Mercer to a fourth-place team finish.
“Hopefully this tournament starts to turn things in the right direction,” said Kountakis.
Bradley is excited to see Kountakis’s motivation to succeed over the next four years.
“He wants to learn, he has a lot to learn, and I think for the first time he’s actually working at it and it’s come easy to him,” he said. “The upside is huge for him and huge for our program.”