by Shannon Scovel
Third-year sports studies golf scholar Chloe Goadby schedule looks like a tetris board.
Class, practice, meals and rest are all neatly calculated to fit in their perfect place by Stirling’s golf legend, Dean Robertson. Gym workouts at 7am, breakfast at 8am, practice from 9-11am – and that’s all before lunch. This routine, a daily schedule that has come to shape Goadby’s university experience, helps her manage and stay focused during what she calls a “long season, a busy season” of golf, and while the structure may seem daunting, for Goadby, it’s all she’s ever known.
“I think you just keep doing it, and it becomes normal because it’s normal to you,” she said. “If we are just here doing university, I can’t imagine what that would be like because we play so much golf, and we get the opportunity to play so much, so yeah, it’s a cool experience.”
On October 8, Goadby made history as a member of the first international team to win a Division I golf tournament in the United States. She helped her team rebound from an 11th place finish at the same tournament, the Yale Intercollegiate, a year before to a win in 2017, and, in the process, also captured the individual win, another milestone on a monumental season that has included other individual wins at BUCS tournaments in the Midlands and Fife.
Yet, three weeks after her big win at Yale, sitting in the sports centre cafe on campus, Goadby spoke with such calmness, a genuine love for the game, and a mentality that would thrill any sports psychologist.
“I think I know it sounds a bit cliche, but we generally just play to enjoy it,” Goadby said. “We get all of these experiences, and I think, like, you’ve got to kind of appreciate them and enjoy them while they are here because we only get four years at university, and it goes pretty quickly. My goal this year was just to enjoy every opportunity that I have.”
Goadby’s enthusiasm for the game of golf might sound cliche, and she said, and her story of learning to play the sport from her grandfather and now being able to have such success as he follows her career, might sound too good to be true. But the work that went into creating this success story proves that her achievements in the sport aren’t as simple as a fairytale. Her journey to the top, she said, is a result of time, energy, effort and the right mindset.
A St Andrew’s native, Goadby grew up around golf and learned to love the sport from her grandfather, a man she considers to be one of her biggest role models. She played as a child in Scotland before her family moved out to Australia for four years, yet Goadby knew she wanted to return to her country Scotland to continue her career. She did briefly consider attending university in the United States because “it’s kind of the expectation that if you are good at golf and are going to college or university … you would probably go to the States.” However, Scotland was calling her home.
Goadby connected with Stirling coach Dean Robertson to inquire about the school, and she said that Robertson’s expertise and reputation, combined with Stirling’s focus on sport and the facilities on campus, helped her decide to commit to programme. The decision has paid off.
Goadby has helped make Stirling golf history with her performances thus far, and Robertson said he’s excited to see her work pay off in a way that allows her to receive some press attention and a confidence boost. As a coach, Robertson works with each of his athletes to create individual programmes based around “their strengths and key areas to improve”; he’s focused on the physical side of training his athletes, but Robertson also recognises the value of the mental game, and, in order to give his athletes the edge psychological, he enlists the help of Dr John Mathers, Stirling’s highly regarded sports psychologist to work with his athletes throughout the year.
“We keep our ‘eye on the outcome,’ however, our mind on the process,” Roberston said via email regarding athlete mindset.
“With the expert help of Dr John Mathers, we strive to work with a growth mindset at all times. Staying grounded, in the moment and focused on what they can control, and I try to keep the players grounded.”
When Dr John Mathers first came to the University of Stirling in 1996, the institution was just starting to embrace sport as an academic subject. Over the last 20 years, he has seen the program go through a series of restructuring, but he believes wholeheartedly in the value of continuing the partnership between the study of sports, particularly sports psychology and the performance side of sport. Mathers works with several of the teams on campus, including tennis and football, but his relationship with golf has flourished in particular largely because of his working relationship with Robertson.
“Dean came and joined us with a strong playing profile and immense credibility in the sport, and [he] was also a coach who realised the importance of sports psychology at the highest level, whereas many coaches don’t” said Mathers.
“Because we had that interest in mindset, him and I struck up a very productive working relationship, I think probably because I knew his sport, but he also appreciated my discipline.
“Because of that, we’ve managed to develop programs and systems for training session and workshops and training camps abroad and here that have integrated all of these things.”
Mathers works with the golf team for 70 hours over the course of the year, but he spends a significant portion of those hours with the team on a two-week training retreat in January. He said that while he has come to know each of the players individually and identify areas where they can improve their mental game, he sees something special in Goadby.
“I think she’s excited about getting better, developing her skills and fundamentally being able to control the ball in competition, and the better that she can do that, the more chance she’ll have victory,” Mathers said. “I know Chloe is desperately keen to do well and win stuff, but when we talk and I see her in action, I always think that a bigger driver is the desire to improve. That would be my view of Chloe.”
Driving for success
Now in her third year of university golf and in a leadership position on a young team, Goadby’s role has changed among her peer group, but her overall approach the game and her passion for the sport remains the same. She feels a sense of pride competing as a student athlete, and with coaching from Robertson and mental support from Mathers, she has the ingredients she needs to success. The rest is up to her.
“Everything is here that you need, so it’s kind of what you make of it,” Goadby said.
Whilst some may see the student-athlete balance as a grind or a stressful schedule, Goadby has decided to make the process fun. A large part of that mindset, she said, comes from the joy of playing golf at Stirling and travelling around the world representing her university.
“It’s a pretty special place to play golf, and it’s nice that we get the opportunity to overseas, and the likes of European unis and try to tackle Europe and see how we compare and then go further afield and go to the States and see how we compare to the best teams out there, so we are very lucky here,” Goadby said.
Goadby’s golf career, while incredibly successful, won’t end when she walks across the stage at graduation next year. She hopes to pursue a pro career in the sport, but even if that path doesn’t work out, the Stirling star expects to remain involved in the sport. The generational nature of golf, and it’s ability to bring together people of all ages to come play together, makes the sport unique, she said. After all, her love for the sport came from someone two generations older than her, her grandfather, and she hopes that one day she will be able to share the sport with younger athletes.
“A lot of people have the stereotype of it being boring or for old people, but I think it’s definitely thriving in the younger generations, so hopefully we can keep it going,” Goadby said. “I guess everyone would say that about their own sport, that they enjoy it or they wouldn’t do it.
It’s this enjoyment that keep her going, even as her Tetris board of training keeps filling up.
This article originally appeared in the November edition of Brig