Teen golfer chips across the Tasman

By Braedan Jason

Katie Pryce-Jones is no silver-haired Sunday senior golfer. The 19-year-old star stands out among the Noosa Springs casuals with her short blonde hair and talent that could find the green easier than most Tiger Woods wannabes.

Now living in Maroochydore, the Sunshine Coast has become her new home after crossing the ditch from New Zealand only days before the university semester started back in February. The move was not in the teenager’s plan but when her parents – both physios – relocated, it became a chance to further her golf after some misfortune late in 2018. “Basically I thought uni wasn’t going great here [in New Zealand] and I’m not getting to play golf like I want to so let’s go and get a new opportunity,” Pryce-Jones says.

For any athlete there are two vital parts that are essential to improve your craft: your training venue, and your coach. Previously playing at the Peninsula Golf Club in New Zealand under coach Stuart Reese, Pryce-Jones lost both things in one swing late last year.

“The golf course I trained at moved, so they sold the land – and as well – my coach moved,” she says. “He didn’t get a job at the new place. I lost a coach and the golf course I played at – and loved – and spent most of my time at.”

The psychology major at the University of the Sunshine Coast may have been driven into the rough in recent times but is looking forward to getting back on the fairway soon. Pryce-Jones’ impressive handicap of zero was unfortunately not able to be transferred to Australia but she says she wants to go about acquiring it the right way. “You can go through the back door and pay for it,” she says with a dismissive tone. “It’s official but it’s not like you hand your cards in.”

A former member of the New Zealand development team, Pryce-Jones brings an insight to the sport that would be over-looked by amateurs. A trick she shared was she implements a concept of not thinking about technique as soon as you walk onto the course in tournaments. It’s a mind boggling tip for any casual player.

“You look at the ball and you look at the hole and you say ‘I want that ball to go there’,” Pryce-Jones says. “You can’t swing if you have a million things running through your mind, you know?”

University of the Sunshine Coast associate professor of psychology Geoff Lovell says that a strong mental game is equally as important as a strong physical game in any sport – and particularly golf. “What is important is that both are very important,” Lovell says. “So if you’ve got a strong physical game, but your mental game is exceptionally weak, you’re going to perform very poorly.”

Pryce-Jones has applied her golfing mind into her goal setting for her sport. It is a theory that small, achievable goals lead to better success than hoping for a hole-in-one off the drive. She says if you’re not ticking off those small things you will lose direction and feel lost.

“Now it’s getting the handicap, playing in a few tournaments and just getting back into the grind of it,” she says. Pryce-Jones is keen to start practicing everyday like she was back in New Zealand while also going to the gym and focusing on her diet to help her game. Although she is not certain whether Noosa Springs will remain her regular golfing venue.

In a similar way to putting your ball in and looking back on where you have come from, Pryce-Jones wants to look back and be proud of what she has done. With eyes set on being a part of the Queensland Golfing Academy, Pryce-Jones will continue to focus on achieving every shot – and goal. But not while thinking of her golf swing when she tees up.

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