Mind matters in uptick for Blessinger

Photos by Sarah Shaw/The Herald
Forest Park's Emily Nord watched as her competitors putted during the Wildcat Invitational at Buffalo Trace Golf Course in Jasper on Saturday. For a gallery of the Invitational, visit Duboiscountyherald.com.


JASPER — To improve her golf game, Gillian Blessinger had to come to terms with the fact that “one bad shot isn’t the end of the world.”

For Blessinger, a junior on Jasper’s girls team, enhancement has been a constant theme of her high school golf career. She began her freshman year shooting rounds in the 120s. Then, her sophomore year, those marks decreased to the 90s. Now she aims for scores of 85 or lower.

“Last season, I shot around 90, but I’ve gotten myself down in scores this summer, because I, more or less, started looking at the mental aspect,” Blessinger said. “I focused on becoming mentally stronger and developing a better mental game and I think that’s developing me the most because I’m a lot more calm when I have a bad shot and I know that I’m going to recover from it.”

Blessinger said last season, she struggled with confidence and couldn’t bounce back easily from bad shots or rough holes. For the last two years, she’s assisted her swing coach and the City of Jasper’s golf director, John Bertges, with his youth golf summer camp. Blessinger noted that a portion of her low scores can be credited to mentoring players.

“I was teaching, but when you’re teaching, you’re learning yourself, too,” Blessinger said. “And you’re learning little, basic things that you forget you need to know.”

Her improvements in mental toughness aside, Blessinger has also gained confidence from an improved short game. She spent much of her summer zeroing in on putting and chipping while working at Bertges’ camp. In the offseason, Blessinger went as low as 78 at a summer tournament.   

“I mean, you might have a 30-foot putt on the course, but it’s going to be more beneficial to practice 4-footers,” Blessinger said.

So far this school season, Blessinger’s lowest score has been an 81. At Saturday’s Wildcat Invitational at Buffalo Trace Golf Course, Blessinger posted the second-lowest score for the Wildcats, who were in third place in the 11-team tourney when play had to be halted for the day. The meet was first delayed by an early-afternoon downpour, then eventually cut short after a second storm rolled through late in the afternoon. Junior Maddie Wagner posted the lowest score for the Cats at the time of the stoppage and Haley Schroeder finished third on the team, followed by Mady Horney and Brynn Leinenbach. For Southridge, Olivia Mundy and Dalie Wibbeler were within four strokes of each other with the top Raider scores, followed by teammates Megan Buechler, Morgan Stapleton and Lauren Springer.    

Jasper coach Phil Olinger said Blessinger’s offseason improvements and hard work have influenced the rest of the team, noting that the Wildcats realize “if they’re really going to compete to move on past regional, you can’t make golf a two-month sport, it’s got to be a yearlong commitment,” Olinger said.  

Olinger added that to begin the season, his team’s scores could be low near the 70s, but there was too much inconsistency, with scores in the 90s popping up too much. As the season has progressed, stability in scores have become more constant.

“Lately we’ve been really consistent in having scores that don’t go past 90,” Olinger said. “We can get four scores that are in the mid to high 80s or lower. That’s definitely the consistency you want to see during this time of the year where sectional is going to be here before you know it, then regional. If we’re going to be posting consistent scores, then the girls are having an idea of where we’re going to place for regional.”

Olinger said much of the uptick can be credited to seniors Horney and Hannah Erny, “who (the) other girls look up to, whether we’re on the bus on our way to a match or if they’re asking them for tips on the courses they’ve played a few times already,” he said.  

Jasper's Madelynne Wagner teed off number 2 during the Wildcat Invitational at Buffalo Trace Golf Course in Jasper on Saturday.

Wagner said the team feeds off of each other’s improvements. For example, when they see Blessinger brushing off a bad hole, it makes it easier to do the same.

“We see how they’re just letting it go and we think, ‘Oh, we should just let it go, too,’” Wagner said.
This season, Wagner mentioned they’ve specifically improved teamwork by hanging out more (at spots such as Libby’s) and also texting frequently, which has built camaraderie.

“We’re getting along, which improves our mental game, which improves our scores,” Wagner said. “Everything just improves.”  

Wacky weather
Hannah Weyer’s golf scorecard was so wet that it wasn’t fully legible.

That’s just a fraction of the zaniness that took place Saturday. Weyer, who played 12 total holes, had a match to remember, as the first rain delay kicked in after the first four holes for Weyer and most of her Ranger teammates.   

“I got splattered with mud a couple times,” joked Weyer, a senior. “I had mud on top on top of my head. I don’t know how it happened, but it was on the top of my visor and when I got home there was mud in my hair. It survived the rain somehow.”

After the first rain delay, Weyer ventured back onto the course and thought “we’ve got to play as fast as we can so we can get as many holes in as we can.” Weyer said she used the initial rain delay as a mental “do-over” because she hadn’t played up to par — shooting about a 24 through four holes — before the rain.

“I took it as a chance to start over,” said Weyer, who tied Miranda Sermersheim for the best scores by a Ranger golfer. “Before the (rain delay), I wasn’t playing the best, but whenever I came back out, I just told myself it’s kind of like starting the match over again. There’s a whole new realm of possibilities.”

Turns out one of those possibilities — another rain storm — manifested only eight holes after the first delay, when lightning struck around 6 p.m. just before the second storm stopped play permanently. Emily Nord finished with the third-best Ranger score, followed by Brianne Seffernick and Skyla McKim.

Weyer admitted that one can’t get too caught up in their performance with conditions as nasty as Saturday’s. Still, Weyer said she used the delays as a teaching tool, practicing hitting her drives farther and straighter.

“I know I’ll play in rain more, especially how this year has been going,” Weyer said. “It helps me learn to experience everything. I use it as a practice round because I know it’s going to be canceled. So I just try to improve on things that I knew I was messing up on.”

And on the bright side, Weyer said the group of girls she played with joked about the rain, looking at it as a blessing in some ways.

“It was fun playing in the sprinkling,” Weyer said. “It feels really good because it’s hot outside.” 

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