A golf lesson learned a little late
This is sort of a continuation of yesterday’s post – thought a story would resonate with more golfers. Here’s the story.
It was my first big golf event. I had qualified through to the match play rounds of the State Championships and was paired against a gun golfer. This guy had won a lot of events and had way more experience than me. The course was also set up for a serious tournament – the greens were lightning fast and many of the pins where in tough positions. It’s an understatement to say I was nervous.
I started well. Somehow nailed a shot on the 1st hole that set up birdie. But from then on I was far from my best. Made lots of mistakes and never felt that comfortable in the situation – I was trying hard but couldn’t keep out of my own way long enough to string a decent stretch of holes together.
I made a long putt on the 15th to stay one down. I did the same thing on the 15th and 16th. My opponent was frustrated. Despite me hitting the ball all over, he couldn’t finish me. The 17th is a long par 5 and he was over the green in three and I was safely on in regulation.
It was then I had a moment of clarity.
What are you worried about? This game isn’t so hard. You’re right in this match. Let’s relax and start playing some golf – what’s the worse thing that could happen? If you get through this match just go out and let rip this afternoon. You’ll be fine, there’s nothing to worry about.
I felt confident. And the nerves had disappeared. All I had to do was play and things would be alright. I realised then that the worry and stress didn’t really help – and despite getting in my own way I was still in contention. The jolt of enthusiasm and confidence didn’t last long however.
The gun golfer chipped his ball way past the hole but then sunk the long putt for par. He pumped his fist. At the same time I forgot everything contained in my pep talk and lost my way. I tried way too hard to sink the first putt and made a poor attempt at the second. Instead of playing the 18th hole the match was finished.
I was disappointed, but that moment of clarity has stuck with me all these years later (I think it has been 17 years). From that point on I made steady progress with my game. I learned to stop trying so bloody hard and eventually worked out how to play better under pressure. There was no magic involved. It simply involved letting my system play the game with as little interference (from Pesky) as possible.
My biggest regret is not having the realisation earlier on that day as I may have gone on to bigger things. I should have gotten down to business from the start, but as they say, it’s better late than never.