Sabrina Bonanno began working with swing coach Eric Pick on July 25, 2012, and in their first sessions together Pick said he saw Bonanno teetering on the edge of burnout.
About three months after she first started working with Pick, Bonanno won a Class A state title. It was the biggest accomplishment during her storied career at Ridgewood — the senior finished second at state the other three years, including Saturday — but her triumph was followed by another warning sign.
“On multiple occasions in the last 12 months, she said golf was not fun anymore,” Pick said Monday morning. “And that was a huge red flag for me, and (the focus) was, ‘How do we make this more enjoyable for Sabrina?’ ”
Pick added: “We really spend time on what else can she do outside of golf to get her life balanced. (Bonanno) came to me at the end of July of last year, after coming off a pretty poor performance at USGA Junior Nationals, and the first couple times I talked to her, I just felt like golf was her entire life basically and everything she did revolved around golf.
“What I tried to work on with her is getting other areas in balance — her school work, in particular. … It seemed like when she played the U.S. Junior Girls Championship down in Sycamore, Indiana, (in July), she had a much (more) balanced life, in general. I think that just made her a lot more comfortable on the golf course. Also, it seemed like she wanted to go out and practice and she wanted to go out and play. It wasn’t a full-time job, basically. I got a sense the first couple of times I met her that (golf) was just like a job for her.”
Pick said he didn’t try to alter the amount of time Bonanno dedicated to the game, but he tried to improve the balance in her life and change the seriousness with which she approached each round. One of his goals has been to get her to a point where a round of golf doesn’t seem like life or death. He said having conversations on the phone with Bonanno that don’t center around golf or course management have been helpful. They talk about topics like school and her social life instead.
Pick attended the first day of the state tournament on Friday, and he said he saw a new Bonanno. She was smiling on the course — when they first started working together, Pick said Bonanno told him she never smiled on the course — and joking with other players. She still remained focused on the task at hand and ended up leading the field by shooting a 5-under-par 67.
Her mood changed on Saturday, however. Bonanno struggled to adjust to the damp, windy conditions in Decatur. She got off to a slow start, playing her first five holes at 4-over en route to a round of 79.
“I made my first bogey (on) two,” Bonanno said on Saturday night in a phone interview. “I think the game plan changed there because I started getting in my head, ‘You have to make a birdie here, you have to do this.’ … I played yesterday and didn’t have a care in the world. Today, because I was too worried (about) how I was going to finish, it just threw me off.”
Ridgewood coach Tom Parrillo has coached Bonanno for four seasons, and he’s seen Bonanno become one of the most accomplished girls golfers in Illinois history.
“She’s really hard on herself,” Parrillo said. “Her issue (this weekend) is she put pressure on herself that she had to win (state) again. In actuality, she didn’t. … It’s been a great honor for the school and for me to coach a state champion.”
Bonanno practices nearly every day of the high school season and works with Pick for an hour every Sunday morning. Bonanno will step away from golf over the next month to, as she said Saturday evening, recover mentally and regain balance in her life.
“Within the next month, I’m definitely going to take it easy,” said Bonanno, who has verbally committed to Arkansas-Little Rock. “I’ll still go practice, maybe go play a couple of fun little tournaments with people, but there’s nothing too intense I’m going to do. It’s been a long season. I haven’t taken a break since the summer began, so it’s time to take a few things for myself and just take a step back and actually enjoy high school while it lasts.”