NCAA women's golf: Tennessee's Anna Newell has interesting superstition
Anna Newell innocently constructed the guidelines more than a decade ago. Over time, abiding by these rules evolved into a strict ritual.
This isn't an optional affair anymore; any alternative method is believed to bring dire consequences.
"If I match my socks," the Tennessee sophomore golfer said, "I'll get struck by lightning."
The superstitious athlete is a common mantra, and Newell is just that.
Numerous items -- from ball markers to hair ribbons -- carry significant weight.
But socks are the primary avenue.
The parameters are as follows: Newell's socks must be different colors but have identical patterns. Additional efforts are made to avoid wearing the same color combinations on consecutive days.
"I remember being like eight in a certain golf tournament and telling my playing competitors, 'Yeah, I can't match my socks. It's just bad luck,' " Newell said. "And so that's the memory that's really stuck with me. ... I think that tournament, I probably won or got second or had that personal record round, and I was like, 'Ah got to keep doing it.'
"Since then, it's just been my thing."
Meeting those conditions requires extensive planning. Sock pairs are laid out pre-tournament, and additional laundry is sometimes needed to avoid conflicts.
Newell's latest colorful mismatch will be on display at the SEC women's golf championship, which runs Friday through Sunday in Birmingham, Ala.
"Usually the night before (leaving for a tournament)," Newell said, "I'll pull out all my single socks and say, 'OK, this one goes with this. That color combo is fine. It's not too obnoxious.'
"I also don't like to match blue and orange."
It's an understandable stipulation.
"That's too close to Gator colors, especially with the socks I have," said Newell, who is from Tampa, Fla., roughly 130 miles south of the Florida campus. "I have to match the different colors really well to make sure I'm not stuck with that blue-and-orange combo.
"I had to grow up around Florida fans, even though I was born a Vol fan with both my parents coming here. So I had to live with Gator fans, and I just can't deal with Florida."
Newell has the results to back up her superstitions. She racked up All-SEC second team and All-SEC freshman team honors in her rookie campaign, then followed up with eight top-20 finishes in nine tournaments this season.
Her most dominant performance came at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown in October, when Newell won the event and earned national recognition in the process.
Her 18-under-par 198 snapped two NCAA records, including the 54-hole record for total strokes and relation to par. As Newell put it, owning a piece of history still "blows my mind thinking about it."
"It's great to have a player like that on your team, who you know you can just count on day in and day out," UT coach Judi Pavon said. "We love having her, and she handles the pressure of being the low scorer for the team really well."
Mismatched socks usually help with the pressure.
Neon pairs are the easiest to operate with, but Newell's collection also includes camouflage sets. She has yet to find a passable UT-themed combination -- since colored socks and white socks rarely come in the same pack -- but a search around campus stores may change that.
Pavon, family members and teammates have come to accept the quirky habit, which is mandatory even off the course.
But Newell still hears the critics.
"I've gotten a lot of comments throughout the years like, 'Did you get dressed in the dark or something?' " she said laughing. "And I'm like, 'No, no. This is on purpose.'
"... I just feel like some stuff has an influence on (how I play). I don't know. Athletes are weird."
Even so, Newell isn't going to risk breaking the rules.
This article was written by Dargan Southard from Knoxville News Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.