She knows that, in her game, mental acuity is more important than any physical attribute she can bring to the course.
“I’ve had to learn to play against the course and not my competitors,” Talbott said. “I’m trying to get smarter and not make stupid shots, but playing my way around the course. It’s difficult to learn that.”
Talbott has been playing golf since she was 7 and said she is just not realizing the importance of the mental aspect of golf. When she was younger, she would practice on the course or at the driving range for hours to improve her driving, chips, putts and course management, but it still didn’t prepare her for a competitive tournament.
“If you mentally aren’t good, then you have no chance of winning,” she said. “It’s very hard to learn, but as you grow and learn, it raises your general IQ.”
Taking cues from Etowah coach Craig McKinney, Talbott settled into a rhythm on the course, learning to be patient and believe in herself.
The mental and emotional work paid off when Talbott won the Cherokee County championship and led the Lady Eagles to the team title. Etowah also went on to win the Region 5AAAAAA title and place fourth in the state.
For setting the bar high for her teammates, Talbott is the 2014 Cherokee Tribune Girls Golfer of the Year.
Talbott considered winning the award a step toward her goal of playing at the college level. She said her junior season was about getting the attention of college programs, while elevating her game to that level. Facing other solid golfers from surrounding schools every time she took the course, Talbott is motivated.
Even though she is young, Talbott knows where to look for golf role models. She admires many of the sport’s top athletes and hopes to shape her game using the principles they build their games upon.
“My role model is Bobby Jones,” Talbott said of the iconic amateur player who helped found the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club.
Talbott cited Jones’ pursuit of degrees at Georgia Tech, Harvard and Emory, as well as his ability to compete at the highest level in golf.
“He is respected for doing things that no one else has,” Talbott said. “He shows that you can be competitive, have a lot of fun and be a really great person, too. I want to be able to go to college and get a degree, but playing golf, in general, teaches you manners and how to treat other people. Bobby Jones showed that, and that’s how I want to be.”
Talbott’s favorite course to play is the Jones-designed Augusta National.
Talbott believes she has a lot to learn from golf’s all-time greats. If she could tee off with anyone, it would be Arnold Palmer, a seven-time major champion with four Masters titles.
“I want to hear how he learned to play golf and everything he did for the sport,” Talbott said. “I feel like he would help me improve my game, learn more tricks and tell me how to handle the game better.”
At this time, Talbott is working on her short game in addition to mental preparation. She’s playing in Hurricane Junior Golf Tour events around the Southeast and trying to improve as much as she can before her final season of prep competition.
“You can never be good enough,” Talbott said. “You can always further your accomplishments and try to achieve more.”