Sophomore LoraLie Cowart, the University of Georgia’s youngest golf player, is in the Bulldogs’ lineup for the NCAA regional in Athens this week. Last year, she was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team and was in the Bulldogs’ NCAA championship lineup. She then missed the fall season because of a wrist surgery that was essential for Cowart to continue her dream of becoming a professional golf player. Here, she discusses that surgery, her “fire and spunk” and her “happy medium.”

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: Is there anything about the way you play or how your game goes that you want to improve on?

A: I definitely need to work on my wedges in the 50- to 80-yard range. The distance isn’t what I struggle with; it’s about hitting the ball left or right. Putting is one of my favorite things to do. If my putting is going well that day, you know I’m about to have a pretty good round just because I get a lot of my confidence in my entire game from putting.

Q: What goes through your head when you walk up to the tee box?

A: Once I get to the tee box, my goal is to hit the fairway. Hitting off the tee box does not give me any nervousness. I definitely have a little bit of fire and spunk in my game. So before I’m about to get a tee shot, I really just say out loud or in my head, ‘Trust yourself, you got this,’ and I take a deep breath. The deep breath is to calm myself down because I have really high adrenaline when I play, and then I tell myself, ‘You got this.’ I just want to instill confidence in myself.

Q: Is there anything else you do before and after playing?

A: I pray to God and thank him that I have confidence. He keeps me safe. And, most importantly: Have fun. When I get done, I thank God just because being able to play a sport is a gift.

Q: How did you prepare for the regional?

A: We actually have a qualifier for a spot, so it basically just gives us prep to be in that tournament mode because it’s definitely a different tournament mode than when you’re just practicing. The qualifier helps us get into that competitive mode where we’re striving to play the best. It’s definitely a different mindset. A short game is definitely something our team likes to focus on. So short game and just making sure that we have a good mindset going into the tournament is what’s good for us.

Q: Could you tell me about the wrist injury you had that kept you out for the fall campaign?

A: Last fall, I had surgery on my left wrist. One of my ulna bones was too long, so anytime I grip a club, that bone grinds against the wrist bones. It kept me out for 18 weeks. I didn’t play the beginning of the spring, and then I came back and played the Darius Rucker and the Clover Cup, and then I played the Liz Murphey.

Q: What did you do to keep practicing and keep your game still there during your recovery?

A: I putted with one hand, and chipping was done with one hand as well. Say we had a chipping drill, I had to do that also, but with one hand. So it was instilling a bit of mental toughness in me, trying to get stronger and not be behind. I don’t feel like I was behind once I came back because of everything I did.

Q: Did you ever have any doubts about your game, or did you feel stuck during this process?

A: I was very bored. Like you said, I felt stuck, I kept thinking about what would happen if this didn’t heal in time – could it affect my swing? I will have to have another surgery down the line because they took everything out that was damaged, but the bone is still long. To get the damaged bone fixed again or shorten the bone – which puts me out for three to four months – we did not want to do that last year because that’s a lot of time.

Georgia golfer LoraLie Cowart during the Athens regional of the 2023 NCAA Division I women’s golf championships at the UGA Golf Course in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. (Kari Hodges/UGAAA) (Kari Hodges/Dawgnation)

Q: Is that why you feel like going out and doing your best because you know that in the future you will have a lot of down time and can’t play? Did your swing ever change?

A: I am a player that likes to shape shots, and when I dealt with the pain in my wrist, it was gone. I had to play a draw the whole time. I am just now getting back to it so I can shape those shots.

Both of my arm bones are longer. But because my right hand in my swing isn’t gripped quite as tight so it doesn’t hurt, I’ll only have surgery on this arm if it starts to hurt. I felt like I was being stabbed the whole time.

Q: Do you think it is the faith that you have in yourself that makes you the player you are today?

A: Confidence for me is a big thing because I know when I get too calm or when I get too high on adrenaline, I have to have that happy medium, but more towards the adrenaline side. Because if I’m too calm, I am bored and I don’t have fun. But when I have the more upbeat personality, I am more on the upper scale.

Q: Does any stress affect your game?

A: Sometimes it does; sometimes I push too hard on myself. I have to control what I can control.

Golf is a sport where, once that ball leaves the club face, anything can happen, especially being in nature, and it is out of our control. You have to deal with what you’re dealt, not get stressed out or angry, and make the best of the situation. That’s what I have to remember.

Q: How do you stay in the zone for the happy medium, or have you stressed too much to get there?

A: Once you get in that spot, the game goes so quickly and seems so easy. It was all in your head. Golf is a good escape; that’s why I fell in love with it and being outside.

Q: What about you sets you apart from other players?

A: I can feel the slopes of the greens with my feet really well. Greens that have more grain, the hole where you can see a part of the cup, where it is a jagged edge, and not smooth, that’s the lower side of the cup. Most people don’t know that. Grain on the cup, low side, that is where you want to hit, there is where the ball is going to land.

Olivia Podes is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.