Bailey Mittal showed a lot of promise in her freshman golf season. Defying the odds by shooting a 95 at the sectional and advancing to the 2017 IHSAA Regional.
But then an elbow injury prevented improvement in her game from happening, and for two seasons she was stuck worrying more about the pain shooting throuhg her arm than focusing on each stroke.
Mittal wasn’t about to let that define her senior season.
“Sophomore year I kind of let my injury get to me, and junior year it was working through the pain, and then I went to the doctor and had the procedure done and then senior year was just kind of picking up on freshman years’ success, and really making it count this year.”
She definitely made it count.
As a senior Mittal averaged a 44.3 as a 9-hole average — three strokes better than her junior season. She also won the Montgomery County meet, earned first-team all-conference honors, helped Crawfordsville to a regional qualification for the first time since 2009, and was named academic all-state. Mittal is the 2020 Journal Review Girls Golfer of the Year.
Once Mittal’s elbow injury healed, the first step was hitting the course as soon as school shut down last spring due to COVID-19 — an excuse many athletes used, but never Mittal.
“As soon as school shut down last March, Bailey started going to the golf course with her grandfather,” Crawfordsville coach Tony Thomas said. “I’ve got 5-6 friends and we usually tee off around 8 a.m. and I usually saw her on three or four as we were finishing five and starting six.”
It gave Mittal time to focus on the things she had neglected for two years due to her injury.
“I was able to focus on my swing, and not worrying bout if ‘this hurts, or if I’m injuring my arm.’ Just really focusing on making my swing better,” she said. “I definitely worked on my short game a lot and it was very noticeable. That’s something I’ve always struggled with and it really helped me win a lot of big matches.”
Mittal’s biggest win came at the Montgomery County meet. Another comeback story.
Through six holes, Mittal was +8 and trailed Southmont’s Macie Shirk by two strokes. The senior finished with two birdies in the final two holes to win medalist honors with a 43.
“Struggling in the first few holes isn’t new to me, because it’s the par 3s and it’s No. 11, and I knew I would get to my favorite holes which are the par 5s, and I knew I could make them count, and I was very happy,” Mittal recalled about the moment.
She never got rattled — always coming up with her best golf when it mattered most.
“Golf is the most mental game I’ve ever played and that’s one reason that I’ve fallen in love with the game,” Thomas said. “We talked a lot about not wearing your feelings on your sleeve, not allowing your opponents to know you’re rattle when your stomach is churning, not giving them the advantage of knowing that you’re struggling. One of the things I tried to pass on was a CS Lewis quote: ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’”
Those lessons and teachings from her coach paid off in big ways.
Mittal will join former Southmont golfers Bailey Thompson and Erin Williams on the course at St. Mary-of-the-Woods in 2021.
And as one chapter of her golf career closes, theirs no doubt she left the Crawfordsville golf program in a better place than she found it.