After winning her third LPGA Tour event, the Dana Open presented by Marathon, Mexico’s Gaby Lopez once again acknowledged the support of her family, friends and coaches. She also elaborated on her mental labor and struggles.
“Sometimes the biggest victory is not winning on the pitch. It’s winning against yourself and getting out of the way. It’s about overcoming those fears, overcoming those battles, those doubts, because you don’t believe in yourself and you’re in a tough time,” said Lopez, 28, currently number 39 of the Rolex Women’s. World Golf Rankings.
“The biggest win is being able to recover from two injuries that I had at the start of the year,” Lopez added of his recovery from a neck injury and tendonitis in his wrist. “It sets you back and you start to doubt even more if you can come back with more speed and consistency.”
She came back physically and mentally stronger to claim her first victory since January 2020. After a recovery journey with her team and her longtime coach, Horacio Morales, never doubted Lopez’s potential.
“You lead by example as a person, as a professional and as a friend. You are the pride of Mexico. I’m so glad I walked the path with you and that you let me help you on this journey,” Morales said in his congratulatory message to his oldest student.
In fact, Morales has become an institution and an essential part of the engine that propels women’s golf in Mexico. In addition to coaching Lopez, Morales also works with four of the six Mexicans on the Epson circuit: Fernanda Lira, Regina Plasencia, Ingrid Gutiérrez and María Balcazar.
“It’s the training ground for them,” Morales said of his cutting-edge studio at Club de Golf de Chapultepec, Mexico City, where he tirelessly learns and applies new technologies and theories. “We work with the experts who inspired me,” adds Morales, once a young aspiring professional golfer under the wing of Rafael Alarcon, the famous coach of Lorena Ochoa.
“When I went to tournaments with Alarcon, he had these long phone conversations with Lorena about attitude, commitment to shooting, positive mindset, visualization. Lorena was number one and I don’t ever top 1,000 in the world, so I became a coach,” Morales recalled of his first exposure to mental labor in golf.
These conversations with Alarcon launched a decade of exploration of the mental side of golf and sport in general, from Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott’s work with Vision 54 to interactions with world champion boxer Canelo Alvarez, an avid golfer and student of applied golf. Canelo spoke to Morales about his mindset during his legendary wins with a broken hand.
As he continues to learn, these days Morales has not one, but two psychologists from different backgrounds working with his players. On the one hand, Claudia Rivas, the first female psychologist in Mexican football and recognized by Club Puebla fans for the mental strength and renewal of their team, brings the female perspective and her understanding of the strong emotions of Latinas.
“We work on controlling emotions on the golf course, especially reactions,” Morales said of what Gaby Lopez described as “being quiet and patient, getting rid of all the drama.” This taming of reactions has been a winning formula for Lopez and a product of his work with Rivas and Steve Yellin.
“I pretty much reset my whole mental game. I spent time with Steve creating more quiet moments and quiet spaces so I could sink in a bit more,” Lopez said of her preparations. for the Dana Open with Yellin, creator of Fluid Motion Factor and the other mental coach helping Morales’ players.
“Mental coaches help them do the things they need to know themselves better, deal with anger and anxiety, stay present. However, at the end of the day, the technical and mental aspects are linked. You don’t hit the golf ball with your head,” Morales clarified with a smile.
He explained, for example, how technical work on the dispersion of shots is a very important mental tool for his players. “Knowing their percentages on the course and acknowledging their margin for error increases and accelerates their tolerance and acceptance during competition,” said Morales, always ready to accept responsibility for his mistakes.
“A coach’s most important job is to make him realize things on his own. As they say in sports in Mexico, when they win, they’re the good guys and when they lose, the coach is the bad guy,” added Morales, who is still celebrating Gaby Lopez’s third LPGA victory.