Surgical on the course
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Photos: Niagara University Athletics
You walk up to the tee, it’s a picture perfect day. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, there is zero wind. It’s just you and ball. As you walk up to the first tee of the day it get quite. There is no talking. The concentration is just there.
Then you step up and you hear that sweet noise of the driver ripping through the ball. It’s the sound that all golfers love. After that first shot, your day starts. It’s going to be a good day on the greens, you can feel it.
You are ready to prove to yourself that your short game is just as good as your long game. But, to do so, you need to make sure you can hit those putts when you are called upon to do it.
Niagara University golfer Alea Griffith had herself a pretty good fall season when it came to draining those putts. The junior was a birdie machine, draining 22 during fall tournaments. While some may think it’s easy when watching on television, it’s really not.
You can’t tell on television the speed of the greens or if they are going to break a certain way or not. It’s all about confidence when draining that first one. A bad miss could set up a golfer for a bad round.
In the fall, Griffith was all about confidence.
“When I can walk up to a birdie putt and drain it, I am overflowing with confidence. That confidence fuels me and helps me continue to be confident over every single putt. Talking your time reading greens is so important for accurate putting,” stated Griffith. “Putting to me, is the most important part of the game, chipping being the second. I sometimes tend to struggle hitting greens throughout my rounds, and my short game saves me every single time. I always say drive for dough, putt for show, and that is the honest truth. Short game is everything, and you really have to work at it and put in endless hours of green work to excel in this part of your golf game. Personally, I always envision the shot before I hit the ball. I tell myself the ball is going in, and I manifest that.”
When Griffith is on her game it’s fun to watch. Last spring at the MAAC Championships, Griffith was showing everyone in the first round what happens when a golfer gets hot. She came out firing as she shot a career low 76, and put the rest of the MAAC on notice that she can compete with anyone.
With the bright lights of the television camera’s on, Griffith was at her best. She tuned out all the noise that was happening around her, and just focused on the task at hand. She went into those championships with the right mindset and it showed.
“The MAAC Championship is where a player wants to succeed and shine the most. The mentality one must hold there is unmatchable to any other tournament. There are rules officials everywhere, cameras in your face, broadcasting on ESPN, this can be a lot for players who do not hold the right mindset. If I am being honest, I did not have a thought behind my eyes. I was focused on each shot so deeply, that I was able to block out everything around me and just focus on what was right in front of me,” stated Griffith. “That day, nothing came between the ball and I, I was confident in every single swing and shot I took. I think the key to a positive mindset is to not worry about the other players, focus on yourself and what you are doing. One of my favorite sayings in golf is, “The most important shot is always your next.”, and I think that is what helped me fire a 76 at the MAAC Championship”
For her game to come together like it has is an accomplishment in its self considering she plays up in the Northeast. It’s not easy playing golf in the Northeast, whether it’s Buffalo or Ohio. The weather can easily just change on a dime, and you only get maybe six months of good weather to get out there and get your swings.
While some golfers might use that as an excuse, Griffith hash;t. She has world hard on her game during the summer and grits her teeth and goes to work.
“Growing up in northeast Ohio was most definitely a challenge being a golfer. Realistically you only have about 6 months out of the year to play golf comfortably. Sometimes we would get lucky and have a really warm day in the winter, but then the next day it would snow. Just like Western New York, the weather is crazy,” stated Griffith. “In Ohio the weather is so unpredictable, so I really had to take advantage of any nice day we had and get a solid practice in. I always felt like I was at a disadvantage in tournaments when I was playing against plates from the south or from other countries that constantly have nice weather. This is where a player’s grit and determination really shine through. I tried my very best to work hard, and never let those feelings get the best of me. If they could do it I could do it too.”
What makes what she is doing on the golf even more amazing is that Griffith is a nursing major at Niagara. She is putting a lot of work in in the classroom to achieve her goals. Being a Division I athlete is hard enough with all the practice times and traveling and matches.
Now, add in the fact that Griffith has clinics and everything else that goes in with being a nursing student. To say it can get stressful at time is an understatement.
“Saying that being a nursing major and a division 1 athlete is a struggle is and understatement. I constantly have an hour to hour schedule almost everyday of the week whether it be practice, lift, studying, exams, class or homework. I am a student athlete, so student always comes first, but I have such a strong passion for both nursing and golf that sometimes it is very hard to balance them both,” stated Griffith. “Being on the road for tournaments is very hard while being in nursing school. We have been so grateful to have professors that are accommodating and understanding of their student athletes. I am also very grateful to have a coach that takes my major into consideration when scheduling tournaments so that we can go to as many tournaments as possible and miss as little of school as possible. With nursing we have clinical days and lab days that are difficult to make up, and attendance is mandatory for all of my classes so missing is very crucial to my learning but we make it work and I could not ask for a better schedule than I have currently.”
As a nursing student, Griffith does clinic throughout her time at Niagara. Clinics allow her to learn everything there is to learn about being a successful nurse. She learns about the human body and how that works.
She has been able to be in the operating room a coupe a times. This all gives her a better appreciation on how short life can be, and how she will be able to be a big part of helping people.
“My clinicals have provided me with so much information not only on how the human body functions, but just people in general. I have learned so much in the past year that I have been doing clinicals. I have been blessed to be able to visit the operating room a couple times, which is the specialty I want to go into as a nurse,” stated Griffith. “The experience we get as nursing students at the hospital is truly such an awesome experience. I have seen multiple operations and learned so many new things about human anatomy that you just cannot get out of the textbook. Seeing things in real life really just gives you such an eye-opening experience rather than just reading about it in class.”
Students have a lot on their plates every single day. Besides begin a DI athlete and nursing student, Griffith also holds down two jobs. Everything that is going on around can easily affect her mental state.
Griffith makes sure she is able to decompress when she gets the time. She understands how important it is to be able to have another things on the side to help her have a “normal” everyday life. If it was all about school, work and athletics, a person could easily fall into a state of depression.
“Aside from being a student-athlete and a nursing major, I also currently have two jobs. Self care and alone time are so valuable in such a busy lifestyle. To help myself decompress in these busy times I love to workout, take a super hot shower, and a good face mask always hits the spot. I do not always have time to lay down and take time to myself, which can easily become a much larger problem and honestly it restricts my mental capacity to do pretty much everything around me,” stated Griffith. “I start to see mental blocks at practice or during homework sessions, I find myself not wanting to go to the gym or not eating correctly. This is when I have to take a step back and remind myself to put my physical and mental health first, always. I think sometimes I get this idea in my head that I have to work, or I absolutely have to do these specific tasks today and I do not make time for myself. Sometimes it even takes someone else telling me that I need to not work so much or I need to take a break from something to actually put time aside for myself. That is simply just the grit and determination characteristics in me shining through.”