Bob Edens, retired mental coach, brings back deep love of the game for title defense at Golfweek Senior National

A lot of doors have opened for Bob Edens in the name of research. Edens, a sports psychologist, always felt he needed to understand the sport in order to properly coach a student. Through the years, that led the 68-year-old through some interesting experiences, from sailing to dressage (a form of competitive horse riding), but the one that really stuck was golf.

Edens had grown up a competitive soccer player. He was a midfielder on the club team at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina (which would later become the first varsity team). But Edens, who had gone on to get his master’s degree from Western Carolina and a doctorate in exercise and sports science (with a focus in sports psychology and pedagogy) from North Carolina-Greensboro, had developed friendships with a few college golf coaches in the region, including current College of Charleston women’s golf coach Jamie Futrell, who formerly coached at Charleston Southern.

When he was asked to work with college golfers, he knew there was a piece missing.

“I had played locally at my club in their events, championship events, or whatever we had there,” said Edens, who had also started out his working life as a soccer coach. “I said you know, in order for me to understand what these young ladies are going through, I need to go play in a big event.”

Edens’ first tournament experience was the Myrtle Beach World Golf Amateur, a 72-hole net championship where thousands of players compete over 50 Myrtle Beach-area golf courses.

“I was like whoa, this is a lot of fun, and I like competing,” he said. “So that kind of gave me the push.”

Edens, who is now largely retired from coaching, speaks about his work with players practically. Asked how long the process normally takes, he notes it’s personal.

“It depends on the player, sometimes it lasts for a long time,” Edens said. “I’m still in touch with some of the players I’ve worked with twentysomething years ago, maybe even close to 30, but not much.

“It’s not about the number of sessions, it’s really about the quality of the session. Can you get to the root of the problem and then find solutions that they can, step by step, get to the next point and solve their issue? That’s really all it’s about.”

Edens remembers one of his first students, who traveled with her team as a freshman and was about to play her first collegiate tournament. By the time she arrived, she was scared to tee off, and Edens got a call from her coach. Edens drove down for a chat and attempted to reframe things.

“She ends up leading after the first round and then ends up winning the tournament,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”

All his experience helping others perform their best mentally has left Edens with a good bit of perspective when it comes to his own game.

“I just like competing. I think competition makes you a better player. It’s going to expose your flaws, it’s going to bring out the good and the bad in everybody,” he said. “Literally I just play, if I win that’s great, I’m going to do my best to win. If I don’t, hey, did I play my best? And then congratulations to the guy who won.”

Edens was in his late 30s when he took up golf, a game he always thought moved too slowly when he was a kid obsessed with soccer. He heard about the North & South Senior Amateur in Pinehurst, North Carolina, by word of mouth when he was in his mid-50s and thought it sounded fun, albeit being “big league.”

But once Edens competed in that, he saw just how extensive the senior schedule was. He competed roughly 15 times a year but doesn’t have any big-picture goals at this stage, at least in terms of player-of-the-year honors or winning big events. Edens largely competes close to home.

This isn’t something Edens, who plays out of Forest Lake Golf Club in Columbia, South Carolina, ever dreamed of doing in his retirement, but said it’s the people he meets at each tournament that keep him coming back to tee it up again and again.

This week at the Golfweek Senior National at Grandover Resort, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Edens will defend his super senior title – something he’d forgotten about in the lead-up to the event.

“That was last year so I can’t do anything about that except yeah, that was a pretty good accomplishment, so can you repeat?” he said. “Let’s go give it all we got and see if we can make some putts and hit some good shots.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek