Paul Brown remarked that you can “learn a line from a win and a book from defeat.” In golf, as in life, it is essential to have a close knit group of people to have your back in the wins and in the losses. For Sally Little, this support group was primarily found in her family. The role of consistent and unwavering support cannot be underestimated and is scientifically proven to have a lasting impact on a player’s performance. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology recently published a study showing the benefit of having ‘social support’ as being most significant when a player is under stress.
The researchers focused on 197 British male amateur golfers, who all played at a high level (handicaps ranging from +2 to 4). The golfers completed a series of questionnaires to measure the level of support they receive from their peers. They were also questioned about their confidence before a game and about a number of factors that could cause stress or anxiety. Statistical analysis then revealed the relationship between these sets of results. The results showed that, when playing under stress, social support could improve performance by nearly one shot per round of golf. The researchers believe that this significant difference is the result of the increased confidence brought about by social support. For players with the lowest levels of support, increases in stress caused a performance deterioration of up to three shots per round.
Dr. Tim Rees of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, said: “Our study reveals the ongoing support of friends and family to be one of the most important factors influencing sports performance. This support proves to be the gust of wind in opening up their wings and reaching new heights.”
This point is reiterated by Sally who notes that she would never have been able to cope with the challenges of the game without her family and friends. One such a moment is when her brother Donovon volunteered to caddy for her in the US Women’s Open soon after their father had passed. This proved to be just the gust of wind needed for Sally to truly take off.
“My dad passed on 15 March 1986. I suddenly I had this renewed desire to win it all for him. To honour him for all he had invested in me,” explained Sally, “it turns out he was pretty good in the role as he is actually quite a good golfer, I think he is six-handicap or so.” That partnership created the opportunity for siblings to bond over a much loved sport in the family. Having someone at her side that fully believed in her capabilities helped alleviate the stress.
However, for many female pro-golfers who are not as fortunate to have that backing, their dreams often remain exactly that. Without the financial and emotional support to push them further in achieving their golfing goals, the pressures of the game prove to be too overwhelming leading to a lack of longevity amongst female players. Only once society provides the backing our females deserve, will women’s golf be equipped to soar to new heights.
Soar with Sally Little in her soon to be released biography “Capturing The Fire!”
Written by Mikaela Oosthuizen