Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kathy Whitworth

Who has the most wins in professional golf?  Is it Tiger with 79?  No, Sam Snead beats that with 82, as does Mickey Wright with the same number.  Who beats both of those tallies?  Kathy Whitworth with 88.  It is an impressive record and we got a small glimpse into what lead Miss Whitworth to her success.  The SMU Women's Golf Team was honored to have Miss Whitworth speak to us about success in general and her golf career. 

Kathy Whitworth, 1977

There were eleven of us listening and I'm certain everyone took away different things, but I thought I would share what struck me as important from what Miss Whitworth had to say.  First of all, the mere presence of her in our little conference room told us a lot.  She drove 45 minutes at our request, just to share her love of golf with us.  She received a lot from the game and she is willing to give back in the smallest of ways.  She also mentioned she gives back to the Boys and Girls Club of Ft. Worth and hosts a national tournament each spring in Ft. Worth bringing together the best junior girls in the nation.

Miss Whitworth turned pro at the age of 19 and told us she learned to play on tour.  She talked of the camaraderie among the players and the willingness of the pros to help each other.  She told us of the story of the first check she earned in professional golf, which amounted to about $35.  Before the final round of a tournament, she read an interview that Betsy Rawls had done.  In it, Rawls remarked that she worked harder when she shot 80, then when she shot a 70.  Miss Whitworth told us that it didn't make sense to her at first, but after some thought, she realized that she had developed some bad habits that lead to her giving up on a round or a tournament after a bad shot or a bad day.  She decided after reading that article that she would never give up again.  From then on, she played the game by looking forward, never back and tried on every shot.  She came back to this idea many times in the 90 minutes she spoke to us.

Kathy Whitworth, 2013

The next thing that Whitworth spoke of was something she learned from her instructor, Harvey Penick.  It was to take DEAD AIM!  Penick was one of the first people to speak of the need for intention over every shot.  He believed that you could only think of one thing at a time and it needed to be the target.  Anytime your thoughts are about mechanics or what happened in the past, you were in the wrong frame of mind to play great golf.  Miss Whitworth told us that she played every hole, every round and every shot the same.  She spoke of picking specific targets and being focused on them through her routine.

Another important idea for Miss Whitworth was that of learning from mistakes.  She told us that when she learned to acknowledge her mistakes, learn from them and decide not to repeat them, she felt freedom.   It allowed her to be in control of what she was doing on the golf course.  She told us that players who make the same mistake multiple times are not being honest with themselves and acknowledging their responsibility in making mistakes.  I really liked the way that her learning loop lead her to feel freedom.  It is a very good example of how champions think.

One of the final things that Miss Whitworth spoke of was nerves.  She told us that everyone out there feels pressure and nerves.  It is important to acknowledge the nerves so you can make a commitment to focus on what you choose.  When Miss Whitworth felt nerves and couldn't draw the club back, she asked her friend and fellow-competitor, Mickey Wright for help.  Mickey told her to quit working on her swing on the golf course and focus on the pin.  She told her that everyone gets nervous and when she was nervous, she often whistled.

Miss Whitworth spoke fondly of her friend and competitor, Mickey Wright.  Here is Mickey on the cover of the Sports Illustrated in 1962.

Overall, the team was fortunate to spend time with Kathy Whitworth.  She was open and honest and allowed them to ask as many questions as they had for her.  What a wonderful person she is and an incredible ambassador for women's golf.  Thanks Kathy!

1 comment:

  1. I liked when she talked about leaning to hit all nine ball flights and what that did for her game. It gave her the ability to to get to more pins but more importantly it helped her escape trouble. Which she was proud of, being voted best trouble player multiple times.


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