U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Goodwin Mentally Ready for Another Junior Am Run
July 15, 2017 | Andover, Kan.
By Stuart Hall
To Noah Goodwin’s way of thinking, he did not lose last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship to Min Woo Lee as much as he was defeated. There is a subtle distinction.
“I just got beat by someone who played better than me,” said Goodwin two days before the 70th U.S. Junior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club. “I played some of the best golf I possibly could that week. I really played up to my potential, so that was a positive.”
Jeff Goodwin, Noah’s father, recalls the nearly 14-hour drive from Ooltewah, Tenn., to their home in Corinth, Texas, following his son’s 2-and-1 loss at The Honors Course.
“There was no mention of should have, could have or what if I would have,” said Jeff, adding that was not always the case with his son. For years, pessimism crept into the younger Goodwin’s mind following a bad shot, round or tournament.
Not helping matters was his size. Growth charts once placed Goodwin in the first percentile for height and weight among boys his age. He suffered from pituitary dwarfism, a condition in which the pituitary gland does not produce an adequate supply of growth hormone.
On the course, Goodwin struggled to keep pace with bigger and stronger peers. While many boys coming up through the junior ranks were chasing titles, Goodwin was “chasing yardage,” his father said. To offset the yardage deficit, Goodwin became a stellar short-game player.
“I had to grind,” said Goodwin, the 2016 American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex Player of the Year who won his first AJGA invitational – the CB&I/Simplify Boys Championship – at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas, in February.
As a result, his confidence and game has flourished.
“I have become the golfer and the person I am because of that,” he says of his growth obstacles. “It also instilled a fighter mentality in me, to never give up when I was playing bad. I would say everything I learned from those challenges were far more helpful and I would do it all over again.”
Today, thanks to a period of growth hormone injections and a health-conscious lifestyle, Goodwin is a chiseled 5-feet-9 and 155 pounds.
“I have maxed for the amount I can grow,” he joked before adding that his average driving distance has improved to a healthy 310 yards. That figure would put him above the PGA Tour average of 290 yards.
As Goodwin patiently waited for his body to grow into his game, another momentous change occurred in August 2014. He began to work with Dallas-based instructor Cameron McCormick, whose most notable client is 2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, who also won a pair of U.S. Junior Amateur titles (2009 and 2011).
McCormick has worked on all facets of Goodwin’s swing mechanics, but the massaging of Goodwin’s mindset has been the X-factor. Goodwin no longer looks at each bad shot as a result of something of which he had complete control.
“Cameron really helped me understand it’s not just me, that there are other factors,” said Goodwin, who shot a course-record 59 at Corinth’s Oakmont Country Club over Memorial Day weekend. “I used to let golf dictate everything. One thing I try to do now is follow the saying, ‘Golf is what I do, but it’s not who I am.’
“I’ve always had a creative feel side and he’s allowed that to grow. Mentally, he allows me to get in my way less and less on the course.”
Armed with positive hubris, Goodwin has ascended to No. 24 in the World Amateur Golf RankingTM. Making his fourth U.S. Junior Amateur appearance, which also includes advancing to the Round of 16 in 2015, Goodwin is the highest-ranked player in this week’s field. But he does not view himself as the favorite.
“I feel like you could say there is a target on the backs of the top five, six, seven, eight players in the field,” Goodwin said, “because it comes down to match play and anyone can win. “I’m just trying to get my game in gear right now and just go out there and play the best golf I am possibly capable of. That’s all I expect of myself.”
Goodwin’s mental game is no doubt ready.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.