Over the course of 162 regular-season games, and the playoffs (for the 10 teams that qualify), a Major League Baseball season is a mental grind for the players. As New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra once quipped, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”
However, golf is commonly viewed as the most challenging mind game of them all.
Riverside-Brookfield High School sophomore KiKi Keen can attest to that. In fact, she has her own pie chart of percentages regarding golf. Unlike Yogi’s, it adds up.
“I think golf is about 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical,” she said. “The mental game is what can really destroy players. I go in with the mindset if I have a bad hole, forget about it. I try to go one shot at a time and not worry too much about the outcome.”
Coupled with a strong skills set, Keen’s mentality paved the way to her first appearance at the state finals over the weekend.
While she didn’t play particularly well, the experience was well worth the trip to Decatur, Illinois.
“Honestly, it felt great just to go down there and see so many amazing golfers,” Keen said. “It was so much fun. I didn’t play my best, but it was a challenging and long course.”
Cold temperatures, rain and glimpses of snow didn’t help matters. Keen carded a 98 (26-over) over 18 holes.
So how did playing in 30 degrees affect Keen’s strategy, if at all?
“I knew I had to dress really warm,” she said. “I also knew the greens would be a little slower because of all the rain. I tried to be more aggressive. Overall though, my strategy was the same.”
Needing to par on the last hole at the Conant Sectional to qualify for state, Keen came through with a score of 89. She shot 96 at the Payton Regional.
“I had a pretty good round at the sectional,” Keen said. “I started off well on the front nine but had a little bit of a breakdown later. I just tried to stay calm throughout (the round).”
The Bulldogs’ varsity has only six players — Keen, Isabel Hughes, Eva Funaki, Gillian Gaines, Tess Bruno and Elizabeth Centorcelli — and no junior varsity team.
Keen, an all-conference and all-tournament Metro Suburban pick, emerged as the team’s top golfer this season. She averaged a score of 42 per nine holes during the regular season.
Putting is the best part of her game.
“[RBHS] Coach [Mark] Gouwens always stressed to us during the season that that putting is the easiest way to knock down our scores,” she said.
The offseason will be spent developing her game.
In the meantime, Keen will likely play basketball in the winter and possibly soccer in the spring. If she opts out of the latter, that time will be reallocated to plenty of practice on the golf course.
Although she’s a multi-sport athlete, Keen’s primary passion is clearly golf.
“I started playing golf when I was in sixth grade,” Keen said. “Going into high school, I really fell in the love with the sport. I would love to play college golf. That’s my dream.”