This fall, our team was playing very good golf. We had the lead with just 9 holes to play at UT's event, the Betsy Rawls. On the 9th green, there was a big scoreboard that told us the news. This was a new experience for us and we played the final 9 holes with protection in mind. Protection usually equals the goal of perfect. We had played 45 holes of golf with freedom and 9 holes with tightness. We fell to 4th place and lost to Tulane by 5 shots. Our games were ready, but our mindsets weren't. Next time we are in this position, we will remember that freedom and flow are the keys, not protection and perfection.
All of us can slip in and out of the mode of perfection. In a conversation with Casey Grice yesterday about whether or not she was a perfectionist on the course, she said she recognized certain behaviors in the chart at the end of yesterday's blog. The one that she dealt with at Q school last week was the ability to accept mistakes. At the most important tournament of her career to date with a LPGA card on the line, she found it harder and harder to let go of mistakes and refocus. This is another form of perfectionism, especially from a player known for her bouncebacks. We are all prone to being our worst critics when our desire for a goal overcomes our ability to be in the moment.
One of the comments I received about the blog yesterday was this from my friend Steven Yellin, founder of the Fluid Motion Factor: "I enjoyed reading this. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of perfection as long as one doesn't become a prisoner of it. The key experience in all activities in life is balance. Nature thrives on balance and as we are all a part of Nature, we are most most happy when balance is there. If in the pursuit of perfection, balance is lost, which means a part (of anything) overshadows the whole, then the most precious element of our lives is partially, or fully lost...peace."
In some ways I agree with Steven. Balance is very important and the pursuit of perfection seems to be the path for becoming the best we can be. Yet, the premise that there is a perfect player model discounts the individual and the understanding that each of us has unique greatness. All of us will have a strength that separates us and a weakness that will cost us. Practice time needs to be spent on both, but if a player focuses only on the weakness, she will lose her strength. As Steven said, balance needs to be in place.
The best putter I ever coached was Wendi Wiese. She turned in a 24 putt round under the greatest of pressure, NCAA Regionals. That performance was representative of her skill, not an anomaly. Yet, she spent her first few years of college golf chasing distance and higher ball flight. She was certain that those were the keys to her success. In her junior year, she realized she hit it well enough to score if she chipped and putted well and from that point on, she scored well. She was a key to our team's success. Chasing better ball striking is important for players. Good ball striking is a major key to scoring at every level. The important factors of power and accuracy will always be a focus of golf practice. However, do you need perfection to be win majors? Bubba Watson was #1 in driving distance in 2014, but he ranked #102 in driving accuracy. I bet Bubba understands that his distance is his strength and he will deal with his accuracy the best he can. If he had the attitude that he needed to be #1 in both categories, would he need to dial back and lose some speed? Would he hit more 3 woods off the tee? His acceptance of his strengths and weaknesses allows his strengths to stay intact.
Jason Dufner also won a major in the past few years and if you take a look at his stats, nothing stands out. He is good at all stats, but not great at any. Perhaps his mindset or competitiveness is his greatest strength. He won't be able to measure that strength on Trackman or through any measurable other than his own analysis. What would it mean if he looked at the stats he recorded and decided they were holding him back? Would it effect his mindset? Would it effect his competitiveness?
Here is a great quote from a blogpost I found on the subject. Jennifer Kunst writes,
"We can mistakenly believe that our limitations and imperfections are obstacles to our mental health, happiness, and peace of mind." It is the same with golf. We can get so caught up with our limitations that we forget our strengths.
The point of this blog isn't to discount your desire to be great at what you do. It is an understandable process. The point of this blog is to understand the role of perfection as you compete, practice and evaluate yourself as a player. Understand that you will not be the same as the golfers in your group. If one of your competitors makes a lot of long putts, it doesn't cause your putting to pale, it simply means that player has a different strength. Remember, you are unique, but not perfect.