Monday, April 8, 2013

A Player's Responsibility

If you want to be a great golfer, you must have confidence in your ability to play the game.  The confidence must be unconditional and unwavering.  It cannot be based on past results, current ball striking or the golf course you are playing on.  It must come from within.

Just as your confidence isn't based on outer things, it also doesn't need to show up in your scores, your ball striking or your comfort level over a shot.  In other words, you can have a bad shot, a bad day or a missed cut and maintain your confidence if you choose to do so.

Remember my first sentence; "If you want to be a great golfer...."  The world is full of average golfers, but there aren't many winners.  120 players tee it up, but only one comes away with a victory.  What separates these players?  If you stand on the driving range in the morning, you can pick players who have the swing and ball striking to win, yet are they the ones who prevail?   Go to the practice green and watch other players make putts from everywhere before they go to the first tee and you might or might not see those players in the final group.  The difference between great players and the players whose names don't roll off the tongue is confidence.

Look at the past few weeks on the PGA Tour.  Yesterday, Martin Laird won after missing four of eight cuts, including last week at the Shell Houston Open.  Yet, here was his quote after winning:

"I came in here quietly confident, even though my record this year has been poor to say the least," Laird said. "But golf's a funny game; doesn't matter what you did two weeks ago. It turns around pretty quickly."

Martin Laird

The week before, D.A. Points came away with a win at the Shell Houston Open.  He needed a par on the last hole to avoid a playoff.  By the way, he had missed six of eight cuts coming into the week.  Here is what he had to say about that par:

D.A. POINTS: Yeah. You know, again, both super difficult holes, both holes that set-up awful for me because I like to move it left to right and both holes you need to basically hook it off of, and I still hit good shots. I picked the right club off the tee.
You know, I don't like hitting 3-wood, 3-iron into a par 4 ever, but it was the right play and I really hit a nice second shot. The wind was supposed to be a little off the right on 18 today. I'm certainly not going to flag hunt from 231, what I was.
So I was just trying to hit. I hit a nice shot and it just didn't quite fall off like I was expecting, and I had a really tough pitch and I hit it pretty close to how I wanted to. I thought it might roll out a little bit more than that and then the putt, you know, was as good as I could hit.

So, the thing about it, is I never count myself out. I never just chalk it up, like, oh, this year is over with. I've never ever felt like that. I was just grinding, just trying to wait and try to find that one thing that was like, boom, there it is and there I go.
Fortunately, it was this week and I capitalized on it.

D.A. Points

Points had every opportunity to back away from the moment, but instead, he just went forward on the hole with quiet confidence.  The hole didn't set up well for him, but it didn't matter to him.  Instead of allowing that point to take away his confidence, he just did what he trained himself to do.  He had a lot of club into the green, but he did what he could with the shot and didn't allow his expectations to shadow his result.  He said it himself in this quote.  He kept working, he kept believing and he kept searching for an edge.  

As a coach, I've been a bit frustrated with confidence lately.  My team knows that I don't like to hear or use the word frustrated.  To me, the word denotes a helpless feeling and the user is often slipping into being a victim of circumstances.  When it comes to helping others with confidence though, I become a bit frustrated.  My picture of a player might be one of greatness, but if the player's view of herself isn't the same, I am virtually helpless in communicating her greatness to her.  The path to confidence is self belief.  Self belief is the responsibility of the player.

Here are some ways that good players lose their confidence with the real problem in parenthesis.
They rely upon results to decide their worth and then choose the results that reflect their belief.  They can hit ten great shots in a row and miss one to the right or left and use that shot to point out that they aren't good. (Fear of failure)
They argue against their talent or abilities, because to admit to them creates pressure to perform that they aren't ready for or are afraid of facing.  (Fear of success)
They suffer an injury, are forced to take time off and fail to have patience with their own recovery of either the injury or their game.  (Expectations)
They fail to prepare as needed for success and allow that to be an excuse for their performance. (Fear of success)
They play the game to not make mistakes.  (Fear of failure)
They lose their love of the game, because they are wrapped up in results instead of playing the game.  (Fear of failure)
They focus on their shortcomings instead of their strengths.  (Fear of success)
They blame others or find excuses for their shortcomings. (Lack of responsibility)

The "F" Word in relation to your confidence is FEAR!  Delete it from your life and replace it with the "B" Word: Belief!

Over the years, I have seen so many players with great talent fail to realize their dreams.  The dreams fall away slowly as the players fail to confront what is truly needed; self-belief and confidence.  They chase better swings, better putting strokes, new pros, different workouts or new clubs. None of those things hold their answers.  Until they can sit quietly in front of a mirror and see a champion looking back at them, they will not find their answer.  No coaching will lift them unless they allow themselves to feel weightless and worthy of praise.  No swing will be good enough until they accept their swing as a product of their preparation and belief instead of a living, breathing thing that controls them and their game.  No putting stroke will work until the eyes and mind combine to visualize what the hands will produce.  Greatness lies within.

In the meantime, I have seen players who didn't have the best junior careers blossom in college.  I have seen average college players win on tour.  I have seen men and women who wouldn't stand out on the driving range lead the money list.  Why?  Self belief!  Confidence!  Faith in their own abilities!  They understand that they might not shine every week, but the ability to shine is just around the corner.  They work hard to play better golf and understand their strengths will lift them while their weaknesses don't have to define them.  They have patience with themselves and do what they are capable of doing instead of becoming impatient and either giving up or playing like a hero. They have faith that if they continue to work hard, believe in themselves and keep their love of the game that they will achieve their dreams.  

Who are these people?  How about Mark Wilson.  He has won five times on tour and has over 13 million in earnings.  Pretty good for a guy who ranks 174th in driving distance.  Instead of worrying about how short he was off the tee, he figured out ways to win.  Mark was one of a bunch of all stars I accompanied to Japan in the 90's.  His game might have been the least impressive of the 6 guys on the trip, yet he has the biggest earnings.  Why?  He has quiet confidence in his own ability.   

Stacy Lewis

How about Stacy Lewis?  She wasn't the best on her high school team and had back surgery her freshman year of college.  Here is what one of her college coaches, Shauna Estes, had to say about her, "Stacy definitely had a little down time when she would get a little frustrated when she couldn’t lift much weight or do a whole lot. When she got cleared to do some things like chipping and putting, she took full advantage of the year to work on her short game.” 

Stacy did what she could and slowly built her game to become the best in the world.  Her attitude to do what she could in her red shirt year at Arkansas taught her exactly the right lesson for success.  Work hard at your capabilities and add to them as you go.  It isn't about being content with your status, but understanding that sometimes it is enough for the moment and you can slowly add to it to become the best.  Stacy was named to four All America teams while at Arkansas.  She managed this after surgery, bed rest for 2 months, having a steel rod in her back, not lifting weight or swinging a club for a year and not competing for over a year.  

Luckily, Stacy didn't reflect on any of those things to choose whether or not to have confidence or belief in herself.  Instead, she worked her way quietly and confidently to the top.  My list could go on and on.  Zach Johnson was never recruited and walked on to a team at Drake University in Iowa.  However, he is now a Masters Champion.  Ai Miyazato is #9 on the LPGA money list, but 80th in driving distance.  Instead of focusing on her weakness, she figures out how to score despite it. Erik Compton has had two heart transplants, but earned a PGA Tour card this year and has a win in his sights.  His ability to set aside difficulty and fight for what he wants is clear.  

In this case, you have to learn to believe in yourself.  If you don't, no one can help you.  If you do, no one can stop you.

The bottom line of all of this talk about confidence and self belief is, it is the player's responsibility.  If you want to be great, you need to set aside your fears, your weaknesses, your self consciousness, your past results, your laziness, and your doubts and decide to embrace confidence.  No one can do it for you.  This isn't about your parents, your coach, your pro, your caddy or your past.  This is about you and this is about now.  If you want to argue for the reasons you don't have confidence, you will never have it.  If you want to point out what is holding you back, does it compare to Stacy Lewis or Erik Compton?  If you want success, you have to see yourself as the star who achieves it.  With that success will come praise, pressure and spotlight.  You have to be able to see yourself accepting praise graciously, handling pressure with grace and being in the spotlight with humility prior to ever having it.  You have to choose confidence!  

Can you do it?  Can you believe in yourself more than you believe in anyone else?  Can you accept the responsibility of steering your own ship?  Can you be great?



  1. Awesome article!

    - Purdue W Golf Team


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