When she’s standing over the golf ball, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard is all business. Her face gets serious, her lips purse and her vision sharpens, eyes filling with determination as she looks to find her target with a well-aimed strike. But once the swing is made and the 45 seconds are up, the goofy, giggly Pauline returns, joking with her caddie Sebastien Clement until it’s time to focus on the next shot once again.
This Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon is par for the course for Roussin-Bouchard with the 21-year-old being a bit of a walking conundrum. She’s businesslike about her game, appearing unflinching and stern on the range and putting green with her coach. But she makes faces at the tournament photographer in the throes of competition, unafraid to “hit ‘em with the dab” after a made birdie putt. It’s all part of her strategy, what she calls “happy golf.” Considering she’s only been a professional since August and already has a win to her name, it seems to be working well thus far.
“I'm surrounded by people that are very funny and we just create a very peaceful atmosphere, funny atmosphere and pressure-less atmosphere,” she said. “A lot of work is done before the tournaments. My coach, my physio, my caddie, they're wonderful people, very nice human beings. It's very natural to just let go once I'm off the golf course.”
But her hobbies off the golf course are anything but peaceful, another anomaly to add to the enigma that’s Roussin-Bouchard. While drawing is an interest, she straps on gloves and spars in the boxing ring and practices martial arts in her free time, a release that’s critical to the maintenance of her peppy demeanor. Ahead of teeing it up in LPGA Q-Series, she made sure to spend some time in the gym, letting off some steam and readying her mind to take on a grueling two weeks in Lower Alabama.
“I do a lot of martial arts and boxing, and I went boxing before leaving because I needed to let some pressure go. It really helped because it puts me in the mood where I want to destroy everything in my way.”
A Frenchwoman in boxing gloves sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s a passion that Roussin-Bouchard has had since she was a kid. And not surprisingly, she’s quite good at it.
“I actually had a job offer last week to be an instructor. I was like, ‘Well, I'm into golf right now, but I'll take it into consideration,’” she said. “I'm a huge fan. I've been doing judo for like nine years when I was younger, and then went into boxing, a mix of Thai boxing, MMA and jiu-jitsu, knives, sticks, just a bunch of stuff. Just martial arts in general. That's my meditation.”
As the line from Rocky goes, “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” So far at LPGA Q-Series, Roussin-Bouchard hasn’t been taking many punches from the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, instead giving week one in Mobile, Alabama a good ‘ole knuckle sandwich. She played some knockout golf at Magnolia Grove, carding four rounds in the 60s to finish the week at -19, ironically the same total with which she medaled at Stage II.
Three hours northeast in the city of Dothan, Highland Oaks presents a different challenge with the course featuring more water and slightly bigger greens than last week. But the game plan for Roussin-Bouchard remains the same. After a quick pit stop at a gun range on the drive over—yet another atypical habit for the Jill of all trades—one can be sure that she’s locked and loaded, ready to finally earn her LPGA Tour card and join the world’s best next season, a place she’s proven that she belongs.
But be certain, even with everything that’s on the line at week two, there will be no shortage of Roussin-Bouchard’s silly antics in this serious moment, staying true to herself amidst one of the most pressure-packed events of the year.
“(I’ll just) reset in terms of energy, in terms of thoughts, in terms of everything, and just start a new week, fresh week,” she said of this week’s mindset. “Whatever happens, I'm going to go back to the house, workout, or do something like abs or some tough workout, depending on the day, and then I'm going to work with my physio, and then I don't know.
“(Week one) gives me a lot of confidence, but it's going to be a different week, different course so the mood is going to be the same. I'll still be happy me, crazy me.”