Oct. 22, 2009
BY CHRIS WHITE
Focus is Nathalie Mansson's mantra. It's the most important part of her game.
She says that's what propelled the Lady Vols golf team to a dominating, 19-stroke win at the Mercedes Benz Collegiate Championships from Oct. 16-18.
Along with the overall team championship, the native of Stockholm, Sweden, also notched her first individual title in collegiate play.
Dominating as the victory was, it certainly wasn't easy. Cold, rainy, and blustery conditions at Fox Den Country Club made for a less than ideal day on the links.
"It was really cold, so the ball was going much shorter," Mansson said. "I had to take one or two extra clubs on each shot and be patient because it's really hard to play when it's that cold."
Mansson simply had to focus and, as she says, "play her game."
"I think we were so focused from the start. We also prepared for bad weather from the start and I don't know if all the teams were doing that. I think we had an advantage because of that," she said.
Focus and preparation paid off in the first round. Tennessee jumped out to a commanding 13-stroke lead that it never surrendered. Mansson finished the first round tied for third place, having sunk four birdies.
Mansson says that putting was her strong suit through the tournament.
"I missed a couple of short putts, but I made many more long putts than I normally do. I think that was the difference," she said.
Mansson continued her strong putting, hitting four more birdies in the second round. Her efforts moved her into second place and had her vying for medalist honors.
Then on the 18th hole of the final round, tied for the lead, things went sour.
"I was on a par 5, and I totally pushed a wedge out to right in the rough," Mansson said.
The errant shot set up a 110-yard approach to the green which fell short. After chipping on, Mansson missed a five-foot putt that would have sealed the win.
"I just lost my focus," she said.
Her bogey forced a playoff against Louisville's Laura Anderson to decide the individual championship.
Although she was a little disappointed with the bogey, Mansson says she was not discouraged.
"It's always hard to start over when you make a bogey on the last hole. It was good that we had ten minutes before the actual playoff so I could calm down and putt some, and feel good about it again," she said.
Following the break in action, Mansson felt pretty good about her chances.
"I felt like I was supposed to win it," she said. "I know that I am a pretty good match player. I won the Swedish national championships for juniors in match play (in 2007 and 2008). I was just focusing on playing my game."
Mansson was consistent through the playoff, sinking five pars to clinch the win.
All the more special for Mansson and the Lady Vols was that their parents were there to see them win a tournament for the first time in three years.
"With all the parents here, all the people around the course, it helped us win," she said.
Although she was thrilled with the win, Mansson, who aspires to play in the LPGA, knows there are more tournaments this year and a lot more work to do.
"I felt like I could have done so much better," she said. "I had a lot of birdies but a lot of bogeys too. Those bogeys, some of them were actually three-putts. That's where I feel I need to put in the most effort."
Mansson and the Lady Vols look to continue being focused and prepared as they head into their final tournament of the fall, the Alamo Invitational in San Antonio, Texas, this Monday and Tuesday.
"We have talked about winning every tournament, being 100 percent committed to each shot in each tournament and also about being committed in everything we do off the course as well," Mansson said.