Wright State golfers pursuing improvement in unorthodox way

Wright State golfers spend plenty of time pounding balls and honing their short games. But coach Brian Arlinghaus has implemented a radical way to develop his players, and it seems to be paying off.

For 20 minutes most days, the Raiders find a comfortable spot in the team facility and do absolutely nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly. They’re physically still, but their minds are at work at visualization.

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Arlinghaus, who owns Cincinnati Sports Psychology and has a Master’s in the field, believes his players can benefit from picturing themselves accomplishing something before they actually do it.

“I don’t tell them what to visualize. If they want to visualize winning a conference championship or winning a tournament individually, or if they want to visualize high-cut 7-irons from 165 (yards), that’s on them,” he said. “I just provide them the time and guidance in how to do it.

“I give them a visualization script and say, ‘The more detailed you can be with your visualization, the better. When the time comes where you have a six-foot birdie putt to win, and you’ve visualized it over and over again, it’s not new to you. Your heart rate stays the same. You’ve seen it, done it, and it’s just another six-foot putt.’”

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The veteran Raiders are accustomed to Arlinghaus’ unconventional methods, but there’s usually some awkwardness for the newcomers.

“At first, it seems silly. To an incoming freshman, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m wasting my time.’ But, no, you’re really not if you do it right,” the coach said. “Guys are starting to buy into that, and it works.”

The Raiders have played three of their six spring events leading up to the Horizon League championships April 21-23. They’ve finished eighth among 18 schools in the Savannah Invitational, fourth in a 21-team tourney in Daytona Beach, Fla., and tied for fifth out of 15 squads at another invitational in Sevierville, Tenn.

Leading the way are senior Mitch Lehigh, junior Austin Schoonmaker and sophomore Bryce Haney, who was a second-team all-league pick last season.

“We started the season better than we’ve started seasons in the past,” Arlinghaus said.

The Raiders also have been tailoring their practices to address their shortcomings with the help of Golfmetrics, an app that calculates data and gives precise readouts on how players are faring compared to the standard on the PGA Tour.

They log each shot from every round from the tee to the hole, and Arlinghaus has compiled stats over several seasons for analysis.

“We can identify players’ weaknesses and structure practices around their weaknesses,” Arlinghaus said. “I say, ‘OK, you need work from 3 to 12 feet. You’re only making 35 percent of your putts, and we want to get to 45 percent.’

“Chipping was a big area of emphasis and a lot of wedge work as well. We need to get the ball a lot closer to the hole. I’m telling them what to do instead of leaving it all up to them.”

The Raiders spend about half of their practices on their deficiencies. And while golfers generally have a sense of what’s holding them back, the feedback is helpful.

“They’re athletes. They can figure it out. They just need a little guidance,” Arlinghaus said.

BASEBALL: The Raiders (13-5, 2-1) have heated up with nine wins in their last 10 games. They have a three-game series at UIC this weekend.

Peyton Burdick leads the league in hitting with a .400 average and is tied for first with teammate Seth Gray in RBIs with 20. Gray is third in the conference with a .367 average, and pitcher Zane Collins, who has a 4-1 record, is first in wins.

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