Reading the green

Greg Towne uses an unexpected training method to get the best performance from the Indiana State women’s golf team.

Indiana State head women’s golf coach Greg Towne has learned winning is not just about judging the distance to the green or reading the slope of a putt.

Towne grew up a baseball player. His skill on the diamond landed him a scholarship in early days of what would become an impressive run of dominance for the program at Wichita State University.

Instead, Towne taught himself the game of golf. His daily schedule would be practice at WSU’s on-campus golf course, go to class, practice some more, work at a bank and then practice some more.

As a freshman, he told the Wichita State golf coach he was going to work hard and be on his team by his senior year. “If someone were to come in my office at Indiana State, I would probably start laughing at a suggestion like that,” Towne said.

But that is exactly what Towne did. During practice rounds, he routinely beat the Shockers’ best, and not only earned a spot on the team as a senior but also became the program’s best golfer that season.

Towne_DSC_0233-X3After graduating and almost a decade in the banking industry, Towne packed up and moved to Orlando. He spent a year working on his game, which earned him a place in the professional golf ranks.

“I didn’t have any television. I spent a lot of time not only working on the skill of the game of golf but also the mental side,” Towne said. “I limited distractions, did a ton of reading and at the end of that year went on to have a great phase in my life of competitive golf and giving lessons to other professional golfers.”

In April, Towne coached a Sycamore team to a second place finish at the Missouri Valley Conference Championship in Chicago. It was the second time in his six years he has led Indiana State to the brink of a trip to the NCAA Championship.

“Everyone was surprised by our second place result at the MVC Championship,” Towne said. “But it wasn’t surprising to us, I actually expected the team to perform very well. We had put in the work to get ready for the wind and other obstacles we knew we were going to face playing on Lake Michigan. We talked all year about how the wind we were facing in early March during a Texas tournament would be crucial to our success at the conference championship.”

The team came within one stroke back of winning in 2014 and posted school records for low round (287) and three-round tournament score (897) in 2016 as they once again posted an impressive second-place finish.

His secret? He began the Indiana State Women’s Golf Reading Program — all student-athletes are required to read a set amount of books that rotate. For instance, in 2016, the team will read a book on each of the presidential candidates.

“They say that golf is a game that is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, so it’s important to spend an appropriate amount of time on the mental side of the game,” Towne said. “After my first couple of years, I noticed the players would be way too distracted before playing events. They couldn’t concentrate enough to thrive on the mental side of the game.”

Towne_62-2590x1727The reading program was not popular at first, but now incoming freshman and their parents ask before they arrive what book they need to get started on.

“The team was with Cheri Bradley and other boosters at a dinner, and Mrs. Bradley asked the team what movies they recently enjoyed,” Towne said. “The team asked her if they could talk about books and their reading instead. Before the dinner ended, Cheri and the other ladies had out notepads taking down the names of the books that our team had read.”

A typical Indiana State women’s golf practice lasts three hours. One hour is devoted to putting, and one hour spends time with the driver and other long-range clubs. The final hour is spent reading.

“Sometimes, it’s a challenge to get the team to put down the books and get back to work on the golf course,” Towne said with a smile.

Towne’s wife, Vicki, is an international flight attendant. They have three children, Connor (student manager with Florida State Basketball), daughter Taylor (lives full-time in Orlando) and oldest son Tyler (a psychology professor at Florida State).

“My son Tyler and I talk about the mental side of the game a lot,” Towne said. “We don’t always agree, but it is rewarding to be able to spend time speaking with him about ideas that I’ve used to further develop the minds of the Sycamore student-athletes.”

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