By Matthew Speakman

Special to The Tuscaloosa News

When sophomore Cheyenne Knight stepped on campus at Alabama, she immediately formed an important relationship.

Emma Talley, a national champion in 2015, took Knight under her wing. Talley gave her the leadership she needed and helped her be the golfer she is now – the No. 2 golfer in the country.

“She told me that it was all about believing in yourself,” Knight said. “She said ‘if you believe, you can reach that level. You can win a national championship. You can. It’s all about the mindset.’”

Knight made a massive impact on the team her freshman year. She was WGCA freshman of the year last season, a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC. Knight said Talley’s example was a big reason why she had so much success early.

“Your coaches can tell you to practice, but it’s all about how motivated you want to be,” Knight said. “Having her on the team, she helped me so much mentally. Seeing her work ethic made me better.”

Even with Talley moving on to the LPGA Tour, Knight’s sophomore season has been more of the same.

She leads the team in scoring average and score vs. par, and picked up an individual win at the Darius Rucker Invitational on March 3. She’s a large reason why Alabama is ranked No. 1 heading into the SEC Tournament this weekend.

“She understands her game,” Crimson Tide head coach Mic Potter said. “She’s not very often going to overpower a golf course. She plays to her strengths. She capitalizes on her opportunities and she just keeps getting better and better at that.”

Knight has taken on a big leadership role early on in her career. She believes it’s important to not only be productive on the course, but to be a leader off it.

“My goal is to be a leader and to be a positive influence to the girls,” she said. “We help each other get better and I want to surround them with that positive energy.”

Her career has been mostly success up to this point, but she definitely had an obstacle to overcome. Potter said the early success made her push herself a little too hard. She had to learn that not every tournament was going to be a win.

“It’s hard for someone like her, who is successful, to understand that even the best players in the world don’t win every week,” Potter said. “So, you have to learn and take away what you can from every effort, no matter if it’s a win or a top 10 or a top 20. You still have to learn from it.”

She’s embraced that mindset now, and it is helping her become more comfortable on the course. As Alabama competes in the SEC Tournament this week, Knight will play a big role. This is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, but she wants to be relaxed. She is not letting the pressure get to her. She knows it will play itself out.

“I just want to be committed to every shot and not get ahead of myself and stay good mentally,” Knight said. “I feel like if I do that well, at the end, the results will come.”

SEC Championships
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Greystone Golf & Country Club, Birmingham
Note: Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country by Golfstat