Angela Stanford stayed with her family across the street from Champions Golf Club during the 75th U.S. Women’s Open. When she walked in the door after a gut-wrenching opening round of 80, her parents were sitting on the couch and her dad, Steve, had already opened up a Coors Original.
“You want one of these?” he asked, offering up a beer.
“Yeah,” Stanford replied.
Such a fickle game. Four days prior, the trio had been on top of the proverbial mountain in suburban Dallas, with Angela winning on the LPGA for the first time in front of her parents at the Volunteers of America Classic. Now, with expectations and emotions running as high as the clouds, Stanford hit the opening tee shot in her home state of Texas – “God’s country,” as she calls it – and proceeded to play the first four holes in six over par.
Double, bogey, bogey, double.
The heart that once swelled so big it could bust was ripped out in about an hour.
“Standing over a par putt on the fifth hole, I’m just praying and begging for this 3-footer to go in,” said Stanford. “I’m like, I’ve got to make a par.”
In a way, the fact that it was so bad almost made it easier to get over. A missed put on Friday to miss the weekend by one might have stung even harder.
Still, learning how to deal with moments that run high on emotion remains something of an enigma to Stanford. And at 43, she’s perfectly fine with having questions about her game that remained unanswered. The fact that there’s still so much left to unlock is what drives her to want more after two decades on tour.
“I love that I’ve been a late bloomer,” she said. “I love that it takes me a little bit longer than most. I tell people I’m slow at everything, except when I get behind the wheel.”
After the 2020 season came to an end – she’s still vexed that she hasn’t figured out how to play Tiburon Golf Club, site of the CME Group Tour Championship – Stanford put her clubs away and headed north to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where she has a little place and likes to ski at Wolf Creek. She also spent time on the slopes with friends in Vail and then flew to Montana to ski some more.
Stanford has skied for a long as she can remember, taking road trips with her family to Red River, New Mexico. Skiing, she said, is the only thing she can do that truly gets her away from golf.
“There’s something about being on a ski lift, the quiet and the peace,” she said. “For me it’s a spiritual thing.”
Friends gave her a hard time for having the shortest skis. She might be the best skier in the group, but the seven-time LPGA winner knows her limitations and she stays within them.
Going into the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Stanford hit fewer than a dozen balls into a net. She has a putting mat and a weighted club at her home in Colorado, and she poured through statistics, looking for new goals for the 2021 season.
But for the most part, she went into the TOC with zero expectations and finished tied for fifth. The real work on her game gets started in offseason No. 2, as the tour takes a month off before returning to Orlando in late February. (Stanford does have one more ski trip to Park City planned.)
For 2021, Stanford told instructor Todd Kolb that she wanted to go about her goals differently this time around.
“If you look at my history,” she said, “I’ll win and then I’ll play bad … disappear for months. I’ve got to figure out what’s going on there.”
While Stanford has long prided herself on being a consistent player, it frustrates her that she has never come close to winning the Vare Trophy for low scoring average.
“You can be consistently average,” she concluded.
The fact that Stanford isn’t afraid to look in the mirror at this stage in her career and honestly assess what needs to improve makes Kolb’s job that much easier. He’s not one to sugarcoat either.
“Let’s just get after it,” said Kolb, who points to two specific stats that draw a direct line to Stanford’s success.
The first: average length of her first putt after a missed green.
“I always tell people chipping differentiates,” said Kolb.
The second: tracking her conversion rate on birdie putts from 9 to 15 feet.
“That’s the range that great players are hitting it when they’re hitting the ball well,” he said.
Stanford, a Solheim Cup assistant captain who might end up playing, has greatly enjoyed her weekly Zoom chats with fellow assistant Michelle Wie and captain Pat Hurst. She downplays whether or not she’ll be hitting shots in Toledo.
For someone who isn’t really into stats, Stanford has found that being aware of where she stands with certain numbers helps her to maintain focus during rounds. Keeping a running count of total putts and fairways hit at the TOC, for example, kept her in the present with mini-goals.
There is one goal, however, that’s so big that she hasn’t even put it down on paper.
“If you talk to anybody this year and they don’t mention playing the Olympics,” said Stanford, “then they’re lying. So I don’t want to lie to you. Playing in the Olympics is a dream for every athlete … that’s probably the long shot.”
She won he first major at age 40. Why not?
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/31/lpga-angela-stanford-solheim-cup/