Thursday, December 26, 2013


Are you challenged?  Has anyone questioned your ability to succeed?  Have people scoffed at your passion?  Are your goals far-fetched?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will have a shot at success. 

As I read biographies and stories of very successful people, I tend to catch a theme.  Most felt challenged, either by others or by the largeness of their goals.  Many had to fight just to prove that their passion was worthy.  And within the fight and challenge, grew a resolve to succeed at any cost. 

It seems as though our world has changed and instead of challenging our young people, we want to make their paths easy.  While it makes sense to provide a young golfer with all he or she needs to play well, including a swing coach and great practice facilities, there also needs to be a challenge.  If a young player wants ownership over her game, she needs to feel challenged and rise to that challenge with resolve.

If you never have to defend your passion to others, have you stated it clearly to yourself?  If you are always given a magic carpet ride to what you need, will you make the effort to get what you want when it becomes hard?  If your goals seem crazy and far-fetched, will you still get up every morning and allow them to be what propels you through your day?

Not all successful golfers have dealt with real challenges, but those who haven't have felt imagined challenges along the way.  They practice the game with a chip on their shoulder.  They tee off with the intention of beating their playing partners by ten shots.  They challenge the course with overpowering shots.  They find a way to feel challenged and to rise to it. 

The next time you go to the course, whether for a practice session or a game, challenge yourself in some way.  Walk 36 holes.  Hit balls until your hands hurt.  Make 100 putts in a row.  Do something, anything, to get your attention on what it is about golf that you love and why you would do something so crazy.  Fight through your frustration, focus through repetition, conquer a tough shot, tire yourself!  Figure out in your own head and heart how far you would go to be successful in your passion and then begin the journey.

Diana Nyad's Ted Talk  This is an example of a person challenged by an overwhelming goal.
Larry Smith's Ted Talk  In case you need a challenge!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sharing by Great Coaches

Today's blog is simply some sharing of great coaching.  Check out this video and article for a sense of what great coaching is all about.

One thing I liked was what the very best in the world do and how most junior's and college player's expectations are out of line with what a good shot is from 150 yards.  A favorite line I hear from parents when a kid 3 putts is, "She needs to learn to hit it closer."  They value the skill of ball striking more than putting.  That valuation puts more pressure on the ball striking and alleviates the need for performance on the putting green.  The best juniors and collegiate players are usually great putters and good enough ball strikers.  I watched Nicole Morales paired with Casey Danielson at the Thunderbird last year.  It was a fun group to watch.  Nicole didn't hit the ball as well as Casey, but she didn't make mistakes.  However, she made a lot of yardage of putts.  She won! 

Another funny thing that Foley had to say was his main goal is to not hurt them (great players).  That was the advice that Dick Harmon gave me often.  Foley said it can happen in three weeks.  Imagine if a coach works the wrong direction for four years.  Proceed with caution and know your stuff is what I take away.

The second article is about Cameron McCormick's journey with Jordan Spieth.  Here is an excerpt about the same concept.

Golf Magazine:  Were you excited to uncover this talent or nervous about whether you were ready to teach such a talent?
Cameron McCormick:  "That's an insightful question. I was excited and had a little trepidation -- what if I go about changing his style and he doesn't hit it as well? I could destroy this ultra-talent. I went to Jerry Smith, the Brook Hollow head pro and my mentor, and explained the situation. His advice was, "Whatever you do, do it confidently and see it through in such a confident manner that you have no doubt that the athlete and the parent will have no doubt." With a very special player, it's a challenge. I needed the reassurance. After the lesson, I sent his dad an email and said I'd love to help him. I suggested we get together after his summer schedule and sent him some changes we'd go through to turn Jordan into a better ball-striker and a better putter. He was a poor putter back then, quite frankly.
Fast-forward to when Jordan was 16 and playing in the Byron Nelson. Even then he had the skills-the ball control, the putting and short game skills to win a PGA Tour event. The validation of that was how well he played, finishing 16th. He wasn't ready, psychologically or emotionally, to win, but he certainly was of the mindset that he could compete."

I also like that Cameron has helped Jordan be a self-sufficient player instead of a dependent player.  Allowing a player to have ownership is the mark of a good coach.

Golf Magazine:  What kind of maintenance does he need?
Cameron McCormick:  "I'm proud of the fact that he's developed into a very self-sufficient player. A player who has self-awareness -- what's my body feel like, what does the club feel like and what does the contact feel like-can create a change that allows him to play. Sometimes, he'll have his caddie shoot video on the range. Sometimes, he'll email me a video. I went to PGA Championship. He prepared great, took the week before off, but he didn't play well. He missed the cut and said, "I'm going to play Wyndham next week. Can I get some time?" I said, "Sure, but we're not going to the range, we're going to play." I said, "What I saw out there translated to performing on the course." We played 18 on Sunday of the PGA Championship and he shot 64 or 65 at Brook Hollow, had great ball control with only a small alignment tweak. The course is closed Monday, but I have the luxury of taking a few people out there. He shoots 29 on the front. I said, "Jordan, this is affirmation for you that things were in place and you didn't need much more than validation to set your mind free to play golf." And then he went to Wyndham and lost in a playoff to Patrick Reed.
I'll go to four or five PGA Tour events next year, and I see Jordan every week he comes home, but he doesn't require much of an overhaul."

Read more:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blank Slate

A quick blog about some things we learned this week at tour school.  I was there to support and coach Casey Grice, who is playing it for the first time.  Tour school is a learning process in and of itself.  First of all, it's five days with two practice rounds.  That means a full week of intense focus on two golf courses.  Second, you can feel the importance of each shot more than in any tournament I've been associated with.  It is sort of like the final few holes on Sunday in a group with three players all close to the lead, only for 90 holes.  If a 3 foot putt lips out, everyone in the group wonders if that little piece of bad luck will make a difference.  It is the ultimate test of staying in the moment, relying on your routine and holding your attitude and focus together on each shot.

Casey has started with a birdie almost every round of every stage of Q school.  She did so again today!  She goes to the first tee excited, ready and happy.  Yesterday, after her round, I asked her if she could conjure up that attitude 18 times.  As the rounds progressed, Casey started to carry things along with her, such as a missed putt or a pulled drive.  On the first tee, she had a blank slate of experience and it lead to a beautiful start.  By the 10th tee, there seemed to be a bit of tentativeness, pressing and playing not to miss.  Within the round, the skills remained very strong, but the attitude had changed ever so slightly.  Ever so slightly is all you need at this level and with this amount of stress.  Her goal for today was to go to each tee with the same openness she carried to the first tee.

Stress was the other thing we talked about yesterday.  We played the first two rounds with Sophia Sheridan, who played at Cal and is a beautiful player.  She didn't do anything outstanding either round, but she played stress free golf.  That allowed her to score well and carry her momentum along throughout the rounds.  When she had a 20-30 footer, if it didn't fall, she rarely had to mark, but instead, tapped in.  She played the par 5's from the widest spots after 2 shots and placed her wedges within 10-15 feet on her 3rd shots.  When she missed the green, she played the high percentage shot and accepted an occasional 5 footer, which she made more than missed.  After two rounds, she stands at -2.  She looked like a consummate professional as she made her way around the golf course.  On the other hand, Casey's round involved a lot of stress and that eventually caught up with her.  She was often in the narrowest part of the fairway on par 5's or just off the fairway in the rough after her second shot.  That made it tougher to spin the wedge shot and made it tougher to get close.  A 20-30 footer for birdie was often followed by a 4 footer coming back and the greens aren't perfect, so those come backs aren't going to fall all day long.  As the day went on, there were a lot of little things that took their toll and most were due to management and aggressiveness instead of poor shots.  It is an important lesson to learn that ball striking and position are of equal importance to scoring. 

The final thing we talked about was mindset and readiness.  Jaye Marie Green started the first round of Tour School with four birdies in a row.  She ended the day with 11 birdies and a bogey on the card to shoot 62.  Her mindset most likely stayed consistent all day.  Her good play didn't cause her to relax or play more aggressively, but to stick to her game plan.  She also accepted her good play and was ready for a record breaking performance.  Casey and I talked about the importance of that readiness and preparation.  If you have the game to shoot 62, you must also have the mindset to support that great play. 

As I write this, Casey is -2 through 4.  Sadly, I have to travel today, so I will miss the round, but I know that she is ready and has a good mindset and attitude to match her game today.  I'm pulling for her to play well and achieve her goal of reaching the LPGA, but either way, she is doing well on the journey.  She learns and grows as a player every day and will get there at some point for sure.  I am also sending good thoughts to all the other players I'm pulling for to earn their cards.  Good luck to Jamie, Julia and Maddie! 


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