The grind for LPGA Tour players can be exhausting, even for the best in the world. The tour just ended its 10th tournament in a row with the Amundi Evian Championship and will finish an 11-week stretch with the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
For Solheim points, world rankings and – of course – money, players need to play as much as possible to keep their card, make ends meet or earn spots to represent their countries. Yealimi Noh, who turned 20 on Monday, finished third at the Evian Championship which marked her eighth consecutive start – her first time playing that amount of golf.
“It's definitely tiring, so my body is kind of getting there. But I'm hoping that I can fight it out mentally,” said Noh during the Evian. “Everyone is like, You're young, it's OK, but I'm still a person. I get tired. I'm just trying to get through every day.”
This LPGA stretch has included three majors, events traversing the U.S., last week in France and this week in Northern Ireland. And with all of the tournaments and all of the travel, there is rarely time for players to be proud of a great finish or champions to celebrate their victories.
When Nelly Korda won the Meijer LPGA Classic for her second title of the season, there was no time to appreciate the achievement. She had a major to play the following week. She won the KPGA Women’s PGA, too, becoming world No. 1 in the process.
Korda was ecstatic and overwhelmed. “Reaching world No. 1 has always been a goal of mine, and I can’t believe that I’ve actually done it,” Korda told the media after earning her maiden major.
After a two-week break, Korda was asked how she celebrated achieving a life-long dream. What did she do during that downtime? “Nothing,” she said. “Watched my brother play tennis.”
She also explained at the KPMG how it had been difficult to even enjoy her win at the Meijer the week before. “It hasn’t even sunk in that I've won,” she said.
Another barrier that can prevent players from enjoying their victories is their “present-moment” mindset. This mental preparation is essential to relieve external pressure, but can make it difficult to celebrate prior wins.
“At the end of the day, you have the same game plan going into every week, and when it comes to game plans, I stick to the same thing every week despite my ranking,” said Korda, when asked if she prepared differently for the Evian Championship as the world No. 1. “I could be 30th in the world or I could be whatever, I'm still going to go into every week with the same game plan.”
Jeongeun Lee6 had a five-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round at the Evian. Lee6 won the ’19 U.S. Women’s Open and the media asked her if having a major victory under her belt took off any pressure.
“No, no,” Lee6 replied. “That is just the first win. I am waiting so much on my second win.”
The wait continues as Lee6 blew her advantage and lost to Minjee Lee in a playoff.
Hopefully for Lee6, she rebounds quickly, because holding onto poor performances can come much easier.
And when the poor performances add up, expectations and pressures increase, which takes a toll on a player, both physically and mentally.
Before Lizette Salas finished T-5 at the Pure Silk Championship in May, she had missed three cuts and finished outside the top 40 in three other starts. “When I saw that I wasn't getting the results I wanted, it ate me up,” Salas reflected during the KPMG, where she finished runner-up.
Noh and Korda also opened up about the difficult grind golf often brings. “The beginning of this year was definitely mentally really tough,” said Noh, who didn’t record her first top-20 finish until mid-June.
Korda spoke about the various emotions golf has given her, after missing the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open and winning the next week at the Meijer. “It's nice when you're on top of your game and everything is going well,” she said, “but you also have the roller coasters.”
To add to the “on-the-go” grind, almost every player is asked, “What’s next?” after they win.
For Evian champion Lee, she has the Olympics in a week and then the Scottish and Women’s opens.
As for Noh, she has one more start, which makes nine in a row.
“Is that two months?” she asked last Saturday. Yes, she was informed. Actually, more than two months.
“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed.
It’s easy for players to lose track of the simple things when they get wrapped up in their routine and their quest to accomplish. So much so that they can also find it difficult to enjoy what they do accomplish.
As for Noh, she’ll take off a couple of weeks after the Handa and then it’s back at it with another major, the AIG Women’s Open.
The grind never ends, it just takes a few breaks here and there. Players just have to try and find time to enjoy things along the way.