Cheyenne Knight on the grueling mental aspect of the LPGA: ‘Bad golf is never fun’

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Cheyenne Knight isn’t afraid to admit that life on the LPGA tour hasn’t been exactly perfect of late where she’s concerned.

After missing just three cuts during the entire 2020 season, Knight came to the Shoprite LPGA Classic at Seaview in Galloway, New Jersey, having missed the cut in each of her last three events — the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Cambia Portland Classic and AIG Women’s British Open. She’s now missed the cut 11 times in 2021 and knew she was in need of a reboot.

A detour to see her mental coach has brought the reset she needed — after one round this week, she’s feeling like her old self again and a breezy 67 has her just two shots behind leader So Yeon Ryu.

“It’s just a constant mindset you have to have,” the three-time Alabama All-American and 2017 SEC Player of the Year said after her round. “I was just not enjoying myself. Bad golf is never fun.

“But like I’ve been putting in some good work with my coach, because I struggled a lot this summer. I was missing it kind of both ways. So we’ve been working hard to just like get back to how I play golf, which is really straight, consistent.”

Of course, mental exhaustion that often comes from competing on the world’s largest stages has become a focal point in recent months as players in multiple sports — Naomi Osaka, for example — have talked openly about the strain.

Cheyenne Knight reacts after winning the Volunteers of America Classic golf tournament at the Old American Golf Club on October 6, 2019, in The Colony, Texas. (Chuck Burton/Getty Images)

Knight knew she wasn’t feeling right. She reached out to get some focus.

“It’s easy to let the hard times kind of get you down. But just know that I’m putting in work, especially a lot on the mental side, visualizing my shot well, just playing the shot at hand, and not let my emotions affect me so much on the golf course,” Knight said. “And it-is-what-it-is attitude. So I did a good job of that today.

“It’s a constant effort. I mean, everything is good. You’re happy when you’re playing well. It’s all fine. But when you’re not playing well it’s hard because we do this all — I mean, I was actually talking about this with someone yesterday,” Knight said. “You go from in college you don’t play that many events a year, and out here it’s hard when it’s week after week after week and you’re struggling a little bit.

“But just look how far I’ve come and just try to enjoy it more, because I play the best when I’m having fun or not so hard on myself.”

Of course, Knight has a victory under her belt — the 2019 Volunteers of America Classic — and at the age of 23 she knows these struggles can pay off over the course of a career.

“I’ve won on tour before,” she said. “I feel like the hard times are necessary, even though you don’t want to go through them. My faith has helped me a lot, because like I don’t know why I’m like going through all this stuff.

“But it’s to make me stronger and a better player and a better person. It’s hard to tell yourself that, but it’s the truth. Just to keep believing that, keep working hard, being honest with yourself, and just like checking in with yourself mentally to make sure you still play the game for a reason.”