Coming of age
Pressel maturing, learning as career continues to evolve
BY NEAL REID
The ascension of Morgan Pressel to the LPGA Tour six years ago was a widely publicized and much talked-about phenomenon.
After tying for second at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, Pressel petitioned then-Commissioner Ty Votaw to waive the Tour’s 18-year-old age requirement so she could attempt to become a member of the association. Votaw allowed Pressel to compete in that year’s LPGA Qualifying Tournament, where she promptly tied for sixth and gained exempt status for 2006.
Another former commish, Carolyn Bivens, granted Pressel early membership, and the rest has been a flurry of achievement. Pressel became the youngest major winner in Tour history when she claimed her first LPGA Tour victory at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship and has tallied nearly 50 top-10s while putting more than $4.3 million in her bank account.
The spotlight shone brightly on Pressel from the start, and she didn’t wilt under the pressure. But she also struggled to find personal balance and conquer the immensely important mental aspect of the game.
“I think the mental part is the most difficult part of the game, for me at least,” said Pressel, now 23. “That’s something that I’ve worked more on now than I ever have, and I think that’s helped me.”
Weighed down by the lofty expectations of a results-oriented golf world, Pressel went through some growing pains early in her career as she adjusted to the rigors of professional golf week-in and week-out.
“Expectations are always high, and mine were high for myself,” she said. “I was the one who wanted to come out and dominate and really take charge, because I was a cocky little girl. But you realize that it’s a little tougher out there and that it takes a little more than junior and amateur golf. Players are a million times better than that, and I’ve been working hard to try and get to the top at this level now.”
It’s taken years, but Pressel now feels more complete as a player, mostly because of the evolution of her mental game, the acquisition of experience and the knowledge of what it takes to be an elite player. The results were always there for the young talent, however, as she notched 21 top-10s her first two seasons.
Now in her sixth season, Pressel says she has mellowed a bit, even though she still has her moments.
“I’m probably a little bit more levelheaded,” she said. “I’m still emotional, but at different times and in different capacities. I’ve learned to harness it a little better. I think I’m mentally a different player than I was.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I get upset and am disappointed in myself and my game. That’s the first instant reaction, but then I try to take a step back and say, ‘You know, it’s not really the end of the world. You can go back next week or next year and kill it.’”
Rather than set specific feats of achievement she’d like to produce, the more mature Pressel has established a more general and intrinsic goal for herself and her career.
“A goal I pretty much set every year is, every day, try to get a little bit better,” she said. “I feel like I can walk away from every day – even if I have a poor day – and learn from it. I just really try to grow a lot, be a little less emotional, be a little more understanding of myself and my golf game and the ups and downs. When they come, just say it’s a natural progression of the game and it’s time to move on and learn from it.”
This season has been another solid one for Pressel. She has seven top-10 finishes in 2011 while earning more than $800,000.
“It’s definitely been a good season, maybe not my best, but it has the potential to be one of my best in terms of results, because I have the opportunity to be in the top 10 on the money list,” she said. “I feel like I’ve played well. I’ve been in the hunt a few times and have grown a lot as a player. I’ve learned a lot about my game, and I think that’s the biggest thing you get with experience. You learn and continue to improve.”
The sky is the limit for Pressel, and as she continues to evolve and grow as a person and player, there’s no reason she can’t achieve anything she wants.
Topics: Pressel, Morgan