Stanford's Mar Mentally Tough
By Ryan Reiswig
If you hear of a high school athlete tearing both ACL's, a lateral meniscus, and a LCL, more than likely you'd think it would mean the end to their athletic career.
After all, an ACL tear is normally a season-ender in most sports, and is an injury that can change an athlete's explosiveness and agility for a lifetime.
For Stanford's Marissa Mar, tearing her ACL was ultimately a blessing to her; it enabled her to focus on the sport that may someday give her a paycheck.
Prior to becoming a Cardinal, Mar was a standout athlete at St. Francis High School in Sacramento, Calif., excelling in basketball in addition to golf.
During a basketball game in her sophomore year, Mar attempted to steal the ball from an opposing player, which, in turn, led her to tearing her right ACL, lateral meniscus, and LCL. The following year as a junior, Mar tore her left ACL in a basketball game.
At the time of her injuries, Mar, already an accomplished high school golfer, enjoyed basketball the most.
"I feel like basketball was number one in the beginning of my career, before I injured myself, because I had so much more fun," says Mar, now a sophomore at Stanford. "It had more of a team atmosphere whereas my high school golf team was just five girls who traveled and saw each other at practice."
However, looking back on her high school injuries from her current position as a leader on Stanford's golf team, Mar sees it as the vessel that put her in the position she's in today.
"Everything happens for a reason, that's what I take out of it," says Mar, a three-time Delta River League first team selection in golf in high school. "It got me to Stanford playing golf and I wouldn't change anything at all."
In addition to her fateful injuries pointing her into the prosperous direction her sports career eventually took, they also helped make her mentally stronger, a trait she carries with her on the golf course to this day.
"I learned a ton of things from it," Mar says. "Recovering was a long, long process. Going to surgery and then rehab, it tested not only my physical strength but also my mental strength."
Upon graduating from St. Francis, Mar took the mental strength gained from the injuries and walked onto the Stanford women's golf team and hasn't looked back.
As a freshman in the 2010-11 season, Mar earned a varsity letter, competing in eight events, finishing with a 76.4 stroke average in 24 rounds of play. Walking on the team, Mar says, played a factor in her early success.
"Coming on without any scholarship was a huge motivation for me," says Mar. "I felt like I had to prove myself worthy to be on the team and prove I can be one of the best players on the team. From that I knew I'd have to work twice, if not three times harder than everyone; whether it was in the gym or at practice or on the course."
It wasn't all smooth sailing early on in her freshman year. Mar encountered early frustrations by constantly shooting the same score round after round, not seeing the improvement she expected in her game.
"Early in the fall I was stuck on shooting 77 at qualifying," says Mar. "I'd start out well and end up shooting 77. It was definitely emotionally draining."
It's in these times where having a parent with exceptional athletic success can pay off. Mar's mother, Gigi, competed for Canada in the 1984 Olympics as a gymnast and has been able to teach Marissa about dealing with the highs and lows of athletics.
"There were times where I'd call my mom and ask her 'What do I do?'" says Mar. "In spring break I got to regroup a little bit and came back more confident with my game and knowing that I'm not expected to be a superstar right out of the gate. That's obviously the standard I wanted to put for myself but that doesn't always happen."
There was, however, a moment in her freshman season where she flashed superstar potential. Playing in the Pac-10 Championships, Mar shot a season-low 69 in the first round. By the end of the tournament she had produced her best finish of the year, finishing 13th.
"The Pac-10 was one of my favorite tournaments," Mar says. "It was my first taste of being at the top of the leaderboard. It boosted my confidence and also gave me something that I can carry on into the season. I didn't have a great final round, but I think that can only help me in upcoming tournaments when I'm in that same position."
Although her basketball career is in her past, Mar has something basketball related that also helps her stay mentally strong during her rounds. She carries around quotes from one of the NBA's greats, hall of famer Michael Jordan, and will read them to inspire herself in tough moments.
"Sometimes you'll have a couple bad shots and it'll snowball into a bad hole or bad five holes," says Mar. "I've learned to take those quotes out and say 'Hey, regroup, let's start over.'"
Having the bloodlines of an Olympian, the words of a Hall of Famer, and the willpower to overcome so many injuries, Mar is someone the Pac-12 should be hearing a lot from this season.