Tenth grader Madison Branum is ranked #1 in South Carolina and #4 in the nation in the Girls 15-18 division of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour. Here she talks about why she loves the game despite its challenges, the best advice she’s gotten from coaches, and how she maintains a competitive spirit even in a sport like golf that doesn’t exactly encourage an aggressive style of play.
How did you get your start as a golfer?
My grandfather used to own the Riverside Driving Range on Bush River Road. My dad would go out to play and when I was nine or 10, I started tagging along.
What made you keep at it?
I enjoy the game, and I enjoy the challenge of it. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. There’s always something to work on. I’ve also met a lot of great people through golf.
What’s hardest or most frustrating about golf?
It’s probably the only sport where you can actually get worse by practicing. If you do something wrong or if you have bad habits, playing more will make your game worse. The other tough thing is that, in addition to requiring good technique, golf is such a mental game—probably 70% mental and 30% physical. So even when your form is great, you can still play badly.
You’ve achieved high rankings pretty quickly, despite being one of the youngest people in your age division on the tour. What’s the secret to your success?
I’ve learned that playing with people who are on my level or better makes me want to beat them, so I try harder when the competition is tough. You have to have a competitive spirit to win at golf. You can’t just go out there and have fun and expect to win.
How have your coaches helped you improve?
I have a swing coach who I work with once a month. And Coach Humphrey here at Heathwood is great about helping me keep it all together and making sure I’m doing the right things.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from a coach?
Aim small, miss small. I’ve had a coach tell me to aim at a leaf on a tree before.
What’s your favorite course in the Midlands?
Cobblestone. It’s a beautiful course and has 27 holes.
What advice would you have for others who want to follow in your footsteps—or just to improve their game?
Make it fun, make it interesting, and recognize that you have to have patience. It takes time to get better. If you put the time in and practice the correct drills and procedures, you will get better. In other sports, it can be easier to improve your performance by developing your speed, strength or agility. Golf is much more about technique. That makes it harder to see quick, dramatic improvement in your game—but it also means you don’t have to be the biggest or the strongest to do well.