To someone who has never stepped onto the golf course or hit a bucket of balls at the driving range, golf appears to be a rather easy game. All you have to do is walk up to a ball and hit it as hard as you can, repeating the motion until the ball is in the hole. How hard can that be?
Well, the truth is that golf is hard. In order to make that ball go anywhere, and preferably in the direction of the hole, you have to learn to swing the club, which is no small feat in itself — it takes many hours down at the driving range to come up with something workable. And that’s just scratching the surface before working on skills such as chipping, putting, or perhaps most importantly, your mental game.
So it’s rather surprising to hear senior golfer John Mlikotic say that he has only been playing seriously since grade nine, only taking up the game after having to hang up his skates.
“I was a hockey player when I was young, actually. I just lived and breathed hockey, but then things changed; I got injured multiple times and then I wasn’t able to play anymore. A bunch of my friends were golfers, and I thought ‘why not try it,’ so in grade nine I took up golfing, bought a membership and loved it. I haven’t dropped it since.”
Playing for his high school, Imaculata Regional, Mlikotic quickly became a proficient golfer, helping the school — which was single-A calibre — compete with the higher ranked triple-A schools. During his grade 10 year, his team went to provincials and came in second, and the following year the team won. To top it off, the school repeated in his grade 12 year.
However, his high school accomplishments were not just limited his team’s success; Mlikotic won the individual provincial championship in his senior year of high school as well — not bad for a player who only started golfing seriously in his grade nine year.
He attributes his quick proficiency to hard work: “I’d like to think I’m a pretty athletic guy, but I picked it up and just put a lot of time and effort into it. I dedicated a lot of time to improving and trying to catch up to my age group, because I was obviously pretty far behind,” said Mlikotic. “I think just hard work and the enjoyment and passion for the game definitely got me to where I am right now.”
He speculates that perhaps the late start made things easier in a way: “It probably took the pressure off me. I wasn’t really expected to do very well but, throughout time, I just kept getting better.”
His high school success carried over to his time at SFU — he was named a GNAC Second Team All-Star the last two seasons, and during the 2012-13 season placed third at the GNAC Championship, a team best.
“I played well that week and things were just clicking. We played in the final group, I learned a lot then [. . .] how to hold my composure while being close to the lead, not getting nervous and [to] not worry about results. I’d say that tournament was a contributor to adding confidence in my game.”
During his time here, he has focused on not only improving his golf game, but on his attitude as well: “When I was younger, I would just go out there and try to hit the ball far and see what happened from there. I think over the years I’ve matured and tried to stay patient throughout my rounds, and not get so frustrated when things don’t go well.”
“When I first came to SFU, I was young and maybe not mature enough at the time to realize that the mental side of golf is probably more important than the actual technical side, but now I realize that, and I’ve done research on that side of the game. I understand there’s certain techniques that I use to stay focused and stay calm on the golf course.”
This season, Mlikotic will lead the team in their quest for a national championship — a Clan golf first — as he begins his last season of NCAA eligibility.