[Ed’s note- Now that this post is getting some attention, I realized I need to alter some of the language to make it clear that I’m talking about a certain type of mockable public image, and not a mockable person. Being dressed to the nines on the links is funny. Other stuff, not so much. I’m also obviously speculating about all of this, because I don’t know this woman personally and if I did I wouldn’t be blogging about her.]
The Australian golfer has been known more for being a model, and carrying that sensibility onto the course in impractical clothes, than an athlete. A course-record 64 in the opening round of the Canadian Women’s Open may have changed that (it’s Rawson’s second 64 of the year). Following her feat she gave an interview to LPGA.com that revealed quite a bit more about her than we have hitherto seen from this woman who seems to exude sartorial confidence. Some excerpts, with commentary:
Q. Did it feel like a course record?
ANNA RAWSON: Yeah, I felt like I had a good chance on 18, too. I was just in between yardages and I left it short putter, the putt short. You know, I really tried today to just stay in the moment. I’m so good at getting ahead of myself and saying, ‘oh, if I get to three, if I get to four, if I get to 5?under.’ So I just didn’t even think about it. I was like, ‘One shot at a time,’ and I’m not surprised of the score.
Rawson admits to having difficulties with the mental aspects of the game very quickly. Thinking too much is usually the sign of an intelligent athlete. It’s not a coincidence that people at the very pinnacle of their sports tend to be single-minded or boring. However in Rawson’s case how quickly she jumps to the specific flaw also flows from other parts of her personality, as we shall see.
Q. Every golfer can identify with the mental struggles of the game. Can you elaborate maybe on what you went through and how you got there and how you’re coming out of it now?
ANNA RAWSON: Yeah, I guess I’m just worried about the future. I just felt like I was going on great at the start of the year and some things kind of set me back and I thought, you know, what if I don’t play well and I started to think ahead of myself; you know, maybe golf isn’t what I should be doing. I have my expectations of myself and I want to be really successful. I thought, well, if I can’t be successful at golf, I can be successful at some else. I was on the course thinking, “What am I going to do with my life? What am I going to do with my life?” Which is not what you want to be doing.
This is only Rawson’s second year on tour, so that kind of doubt is surprising for someone who is just starting out and who has also played the tour two years in a row, which not many young golfers accomplish. Then again, she has a lot of things other than golf in her life rather than having tunnel vision, so it was probably natural to turn to those in moments of stress and say ‘you know, I’m really better at this.’ It also had to be difficult to watch the succession of super rookies who have tremendous success seemingly without effort. Throughout the interview, a positive note is that she does admit she’s been hitting the ball well, just that the results haven’t been what she’s hoped.
I sat down with the sports psychologist and he said, “You’re in your year. You can’t be thinking about next year. You have to make the most of this year.” And I really have just been thinking so far ahead that it’s terrible. It’s the same in my golf game, when I get to 1? or 2?under, I could shoot like 3? or 4?under. It’s this pattern in my life and my golf; it’s terrible. I shouldn’t even admit that I don’t think. I think I lied to my sports psychologist for like the first month, too. “Yeah, I’m good.” Then I finally told him, “I’m having doubts about golf.”
Athletes (and many others) often resist admitting problems because of their belief that it signals weakness and that admitting weakness can itself create more performance issues. The psychologist must have been tempted to say ‘so why the heck am I here, then, if you don’t have any problems with golf,’ but s/he sees that type of thing all the time.
Q. You’re a model, correct?
Anna Rawson: Yeah, part time.
Interesting that she doesn’t want to make this a big thing. I suspect the LPGA and advertisers were all over it to the exclusion of the golf.
Q. So you have something to lean back on.
ANNA RAWSON: Yeah, that’s exactly ?? like I have that part of my life. I’m also university?educated, I studied communication at University of Southern California, and I was going to go into a consultancy; that’s what I was going to do, and then we won the National Championship and I went into golf. I was never what I was going to do. So I’ve spent the last five years doing it and I’ve kept improving and I’ve kept succeeding, but I guess I was like, oh, I don’t know. Maybe I should go pursue the other interests; maybe I could be more successful at that.
The expression is “fall back on.” Rawson is very insistent (almost defensive) about her credentials here. So she doesn’t want to be seen as ‘just’ a model, but also not ‘just’ a golfer either. Indeed, she presents golf as something she almost fell into, which can’t be strictly true, because to be this good she must have been training seriously from a very young age.
Q. The fashion industry, would they not turn their nose up a little bit at golf?
ANNA RAWSON: Yeah, they don’t really – no, we don’t get much traction in the fashion industry, yet. But we’ve got great fashionistas on Tour. So it’s only a matter of time until they find out about us.
This is a weird question. It wouldn’t have been my first thought at all. Perhaps there is a more pervasive feeling among golfers (or female athletes in general) that couture looks down on them? Yet female athletes are constantly being encouraged to imitate models and care about clothes.
Q. As far as your connection to Australia with Karrie Webb, do you have a mentor?
ANNA RAWSON: Not specifically with Australians. I think my sponsor, GoDaddy, their CEO, Bob Parsons, has been amazing to me. I have played golf with him a couple of times and he just is so encouraging. He’s such a successful businessman, and I think if he can see talent in me, then I must have it. So I’ve had a couple of conversations with him and just different people that have really said, you can do this, you can win, just keep going.
A sobering moment. First, to not claim have any golf mentors. Second, to name a man, and one who is not a family member, friend, or lover but a sponsor. Third, that she needed some CEO to validate her own talents. Despite appearances, conventionally attractive women and especially models often have very low self-esteem and need constant external validation. I have no idea if this is true of Rawson but it’s interesting to speculate.
Q. You mentioned that you like success. I’m wondering what would constitute success in golf, is it winning a tournament like this one or winning a lot of tournaments? What do you look for for success?
ANNA RAWSON: Yeah, obviously winning is the peak of success. Once you’ve won, you’ve really achieved a lot. That’s the best you can do. But I mean, just surviving, like making money. I know it sounds weird but just being able to live the lifestyle that I feel is what I want to live I think is being successful to me. Even the girls out here that are 90th on the Money List, they are really successful. They are top one percent in the world at what they do. I look at it maybe not so harshly as the media does. They are more like, you have to win and you’re successful. I think just being out here, playing on Tour, keeping your card and playing out here, I think you’re a really successful woman.
This question is the crux of it, and Rawson answers quite well. If this is her perspective, she is ahead of many athletes who don’t really understand what constitutes success for them or feel worthless if they aren’t winning. However this type of answer also seems like another defensive maneuver, because Rawson obviously does care very much about winning. It feels like something she wants herself to believe rather than something she actually does believe.
These non-golf-related pieces of the interview provided a fascinating window into a figure who has been easily mockable for presenting a certain image in the past in the past. Unfortunately her thinking got ahead of her again in rounds two and three, and she’s tied for 12th going into the final day.
The Australian golfer has been known more for being a model, and carrying that sensibility onto the course in impractical clothes, than an athlete.