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I’ve often heard the saying “Knowledge is power”, and always wondered to myself, ‘Really? What type of power is found in knowledge?’ Is it the power found in a Chevy 350 big block engine found in some of my favorite cars, is it the power to persuade a group of individuals, or is it something entirely different?

To contradict the common belief, knowledge itself, is actually not power. If knowledge was indeed power, than we would see those in academia running the world, or at the very least, running against the likes of Donald Trump for President. Instead they can often be found wearing the same sweater over and over again, as they argue using circular reason, never reaching a finite conclusion. In fact, often times knowledge has the ability to paralyze, as people are not able to function around certain concepts or ideals.

Power then, is actually derived from the process of applying knowledge within a given framework that facilitates change. If no change has taken place, than no new power has been derived or even transferred. This change can be manifest in different forms, (belief systems, functional actions, desires, etc) but without having the knowledge behind the process, there lacks a void that can never be wholly filled.

So what does this have to do with golf? Simple, without a proper knowledge and understanding of the game of golf and what it encompasses, one will never be able to demonstrate the “power” needed to become a good golfer. The power I am referring to is not the ability to hit J.B. Holmes-esque 350 yard drives, but rather the power to change your golf game for the better. There is not one perfect golf swing, or one perfect way to play the game of golf. This often frustrates people, but is also what makes the game so great!

The great golfers of every generation, from Tom Morris to Bobby Jones, from Arnie and Jack to Tiger and Phil , they all had a vast knowledge of the game and used that knowledge to play to the best of their ability.  Not any of the players I mentioned swing remotely the same, but they all are Hall-of-Famers, and they all had the knowledge that allowed them to create a process, which allowed them to play their best golf.

We should all learn something from these great golfers and that is that knowledge, when combined with a process seeking to maximize one’s strengths and minimize one’s weaknesses, is what all great golfers (and leaders) have in common. Seek knowledge, but in a way that facilitates your growth as a person and a golfer!

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By now, those of you who follow the PGA Tour closely or even watch SportsCenter are aware that Kevin Na made a 16 the hole-nine during the first round of the Valero-Texas Open. That is a story in and of itself worth noting, yet he also had the unfortunate (or fortunate depending on your perspective) circumstance of being mic’d for the Golf Channel’s coverage of round one.

Let me precede the following that I am a huge fan of golf, was definitely impressed with how Kevin Na handled himself yesterday, and I try to look for the best in people. I will also be the first to admit that we all have our bad days and that if we were judged solely on our poorest actions, we would all be left alone to self-destruct.

With that being said, I have not been a fan of Kevin Na for quite some time. Although I have never spoken with him personally, I have been around him on several occasions.  Two specific instances that occurred several years ago, (one when I was playing college golf in Southern California, the other when caddying on the PGA Tour) have caused me to severely question his attitude and relational skills to the public. I understand he must face a tremendous amount of pressure from a variety of sources, but that pressure should not be an excuse for poor behavior (or performance).  He is a famous athlete, children look up to him, and he should do his best to set a proper example for all of his followers.

With that being said, I am impressed with how he handled the debauchery that occurred on the ninth hole yesterday and we can all learn from how he handled a difficult situation.

  1. Laugh at Yourself

When you make a mistake and compound it several times to the point of certain embarrassment, you can either remain angry for an indefinite amount of time, or let it go. A great way to let go is to laugh at the situation and mistake made, relieving the nauseating feeling in your stomach and accepting what just occurred. The quicker you can let the situation go, the quicker you will be able to learn from your mistake and use that knowledge to achieve a greater level of success.

  1. Stick to what got you there in the First Place

If you have achieved any level of success in your current position, you have developed a process over time that has allowed you to reach this success. This process is paramount to your success, and although alterations may be needed along the way, there is no reason to “reinvent the wheel”. Kevin Na is not on the PGA Tour because he commonly smashes drives 350+ yards or hits his driver off the deck. He is on the PGA Tour because of a solid wedge game and deft putting stroke. Had he remembered that, I guarantee you he would have taken a 16 out of the equation!

  1. Finish Strong

Being that Na made 16 on the ninth-hole, he had nine holes to decide how he was going to respond. He could have quit by either walking off or just mentally checked-out, tried his best to play well or landed somewhere in between. Na performed very well on the back-nine as he carded three birdies against zero bogeys. This determination and perseverance will serve him well in the future and is a great example to follow.

I am hoping that what we witnessed on Thursday was a more mature Kevin Na that has learned from his seven years on the PGA Tour. He is on one of the world’s largest stages and has the opportunity to make a tremendously positive impact on lives worldwide. Let’s hope he makes the right decisions on and off the golf course in the future – always keeping his driver and his attitude in check!

Any thoughts, comments, or personal interactions regarding Kevin Na? I’d love to hear them!

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Life is full of sadness and disappointment, sprinkled in with moments of great joy and jubilation. We all have memories of various events throughout or life that trigger certain emotions. But where do those emotions come from and why are they so prevalent in our way of life?

Everywhere in society today people are expressing themselves in unique ways and children are being taught that if it “feels good”, they should do it. This leads the entire world up to personal interpretation and allows the masses to run their desired course. Expectations are what our emotions are derived from, and our experiences constitute the majority of our expectations.

Take this past weekend at Augusta National. How many people out there dream of playing Augusta just one time in their life, let alone are privileged enough to play for a chance to win the Green Jacket? Many of us would be thoroughly satisfied walking the grounds during a practice round. Yet for others, such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the majority of the field in this past Master’s expected something more out of their trip down Magnolia Lane this past Sunday afternoon.

Expectations are often built upon a combination of past experiences, beliefs, the influence of others, and self-imposed pressure to please yourself and others. Expectations in-and-of themselves are not inherently bad, but our view of expectations and the weight we place on them can have devastating consequences in life. When our perspective on life changes along with our self-value strictly because of expectations, those expectations, are more harmful than anything else.

Expectations can be used as motivation to maximize a person’s ability. BUT, if a person puts their self-worth and value in any expectation and they do not succeed, well then we have a real problem. If they do succeed, then their expectations will increase to a point where they are eventually unachievable, and their world will collapse under the weight of expectation.

There are various levels of success and various levels of expectations. As long as expectations are used as positive, motivating forces to spur someone onto make the most of their ability, then the expectations are helpful. However, once a person is so focused on what is expected of them and nothing else, they often lose sight of the true purpose of their efforts (doing the best they can), and this lack of foresight causes things to quickly unravel.

Like most things in life, an excessive amount of anything does more harm than good, and the same is true for expectations. We must encourage our students, children, family, and community to excel, but not at the cost of self-worth or respect.

If you can keep expectations in check, no matter if you blow a four-shot lead shooting 80 on Sunday afternoon at Augusta National, or never even have the chance to set foot on the grounds, you will maintain yourself worth and character, and in the end, that is how all of us will be remembered.

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Although I have been teaching golf for several years, the majority of my clients have been adults thus far. With the need for my schedule to be flexible while I pursue completing my MBA, as well as starting my first business, I decided to take a job with The First Tee of Northern Nevada (TFTNN.org) teaching golf and life skills to juniors. This job combines my two teaching passions – golf and life skills.

At first, I was fearful of teaching large groups of children, but after several weeks, I have come to find that they are more enjoyable to teach than adults! Many of the adults I have taught have been able to achieve varying degrees of success in their respective fields, and when they come to the golf course, they expect to achieve a similar level of success.

Many adults come with questions pertaining to articles they read or tips they received from a friend. Much of the lesson is focused on explaining and demonstrating why what they read may not be beneficial in their particular case, or that their friend offered a quick fix to a problem that had a much more serious foundational flaw.

With children however, they are happy to be outside and to have the chance to swing hard at something (other than a sibling) and not get yelled at. When asked to change their grip or not swing out of their shoes, and because I am a golf instructor, someone other than a parent, they are willing to listen.

Children do not have much, if any misguided information, and are willing to listen to what myself or another instructor has to say. Once they hit a good shot, they smile from ear to ear, telling their friends about what they just accomplished are relish in their achievement. They may hit the next shot terrible, but they still remember that one good shot they hit. They then explain to us what they learned, what they enjoyed most, and what areas they need the greatest improvement. If adults took this same approach to both golf and life – many would achieve even greater success.

1. Receive Instruction

If people are open to, and willing to receive instruction, they will be well equipped with information that is applicable in their particular situation. If people are too prideful or are unwilling to receive instruction, they will self-destruct by their own vices and lack of ability to appreciate another’s insight.

2. Remember Success

When you achieve something that you have been striving for, be it a quality golf shot or job promotion, take some time to enjoy the accomplishment. If you rush onto the next goal without thoroughly enjoying what you have accomplished, you will rarely be content or satisfied. Remembering your successes can be used as motivation for future times of struggle, so it is invaluable to have those memories to recall.

3. Take Time to Self Reflect

At the end of the day, week, month, or whenever you can, take some time and evaluate how you are doing across the board (i.e. marriage, family, work, personal time, etc). During this time you may realize areas where you are doing extremely well in (remember those feelings brought on by success) and other areas that could use improvement.

These are just three of the many lessons that can be witnessed when working with junior golfers. If you have any thoughts or experiences relating to this matter I would love to hear about them! Remember, it is no one else’s responsibility to improve you – you must take the initiative to do it yourself!

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It is often said that there is nothing like the back nine at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon, and this Sunday was no exception. What started out as a probable landmark victory (if there ever was such a notion in golf) for Rory McIlroy quickly turned into one of the most memorable and Masters Tournaments in recent history. In the end, Charl Schwartzel triumphed as the victor with many worthy opponents within striking distance.

With a four-stroke lead to open the round, many believed it was McIlroy’s to lose, and eventually he did lose it. Charl Schwartzel did play a fantastic round of golf, but had McIlroy played the way he had been playing all week, the tournament was well within his grasp. Unfortunately for McIlroy, his grasp quickly slipped, and he allowed a half-dozen other players the opportunity to make claims on the coveted Green Jacket.

There was so much excitement between, Tiger, Adam Scott, Bo Van Pelt, Geoff Ogilvy, and Jayson Day that once the sun had set at Augusta National, I could not help but a bit confused as to what I had just witnessed. What started as a one man show quickly became a sprint to the finish and then boom – just like your first hole in one, it was over before you realized what just happened..

I am genuinely happy for Schwartzel, however I cannot help but feel sorrow for McIlroy. Sure, he has money, fame and all the perks that go with being one of the best golfers in the world, but in the end, he wants to win. Money cannot buy him a Green Jacket – not the one he wants anyway. He had been extremely outspoken about his preparation being tailored directly for the Masters, and the first three days, he showed everyone some amazing golf. Unfortunately, on this fateful Sunday afternoon at Augusta, and the only day that truly matters, he was not able to retain his place atop the leader board.

I was intrigued to see what his response would be after the round, and I believe the way he carried himself after shooting 80 was more impressive than any of the golf he played. He answered the questions with patience, respect, and showed tremendous composure after such an agonizing day.

I’ll remember Schwartzel for winning this Masters, but I will remember McIlroy even more for the composure and class he showed after the round. I hope all of us handle defeat, in whatever area of life this might occur, with such grace and humility. Losing is tragic, but what is even more tragic is not learning and growing from the experience. My hope is that all (including Rory) will be able to use what is learned through defeat to catapult us onward to success in the future.

 

What’s Your Motivation?

In both golf and life, I sometimes find myself lacking a purpose (and focus) on what I exactly wish to accomplish. Growing up we are taught to go to school, work hard to get a good job and then life will be set. Playing golf as a junior, the youth are taught similarly to work hard at your game, earn a college scholarship and then hopefully make a living playing professional golf.

This mentality applies a one-size-fits-all to both education and athletics.  But what if you aren’t interested in simply having a good job or what if you don’t desire (or lack the capability) the strenuous always-on-the-road lifestyle that many professional golfers struggle with? What are people now supposed to do with what they were taught was the ideal approach to life?

Find success in whatever avenue a person pursues in life, often comes down to maintaining motivation. A good friend of mine who had a very successful college career played professionally upon graduation with marginal success. After one year of playing he decided to travel the world and let go of golf. He was gone for nearly a full year, returning home with stories about adventure upon adventure. Throughout our discussion he explained how he lost focus of his goals for playing professional golf, and lacked the driving motivation he needed to pursue a path of success on the golf course. I have no doubt he could make a great living playing golf, but his lack of motivation has caused him to pursue other interests.

In order to succeed long-term in anything, be it academics, athletics, or a career, it is imperative that a person obtain and maintain a high level of motivation. This motivation can be derived from many different sources, but they all must foster the motivation of the individual.

If you are lacking success or even direction in different areas of your life, I strong suggest stepping back and looking at the cause of your actions. If a person can find a reason to be passionate about whatever they are pursing, it will provide a reinforcement of their efforts and make the challenging days easier to bear, and the fruitful day that much more sweet.

Pursue Passions – Maintain Motivation – Secure Success!

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Seeing Green!

 

This week, as most of you are well aware, is the week of the Masters Golf Tournament – one of the four men’s major championships and arguably the most precious title in all of golf. It also happens to be my personal favorite golf tournament, hand-down.

The opportunity to play Augusta National is afforded to a select few and rarely discussed at that. In an age of technology, much of the interworking of Augusta National is not publicized and I am sure that is just how the members want it. Yet for one

For many golf fanatics the television coverage is as close to Augusta, Georgia as they will ever come. This does not however, keep them from remaining transfixed to the television screen year after year eagerly awaiting the last nine holes on Sunday at Augusta National.

Historic Augusta

The course itself was original a nursery (Fruitland), which is quite ironic considering the immaculate shape it is kept in year round. Dr. Alistair Mackenzie was hired as the architect in 1931 and the course was the brainchild of the legendary golfer Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. The first Masters Tournament was held in 1934 and the inaugural winner was Horton Smith. Past winners of Augusta National are a list of who’s who among golf’s elite.

Many professionals who commonly show little emotion get excited about the event and prepare diligently for the first quarter of the year in hopes of bringing their best golf abilities to Augusta. Tiger Woods routinely stated his efforts at the beginning of the year are directed specifically towards The Masters Tournament and Rory McIlroy recently said that all his focus and efforts are directly related to being prepared for this year’s Masters.

Augusta 2011

The 2011 Masters is undoubtedly going to be an exciting event and may very well be the defining moment of a player’s career. Some year’s, the event has been won by players with tremendous length (Mickelson last year, Tiger, etc) yet other years, tacticians have won – see Zach Johnson and Jose Maria-Olazabal.

I believe the winner this year will have a combination of power and a soft touch on the greens. If Hunter Mahan can avoid chip shots, and keep his ball-striking at a premium, he has a great chance of winning, as does Anthony Kim whose game has recently turned for the better. The 2011 Masters Tournament is up for grabs, and although I will not be in attendance at Augusta, I will be glued to my television in anticipation of witnessing history like so many of you.

You know my two picks, but who do you believe will be the victor come Sunday afternoon at Augusta?

 

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Mind Games

 

At first glance, golf appears to simply be a game consisting of the swinging a club at a little white ball. However, much of person’s success at this game rests in their ability to control what is occurring in space between their ears.  The longer a person is around golf, the quicker they realize that without having a strong mental framework, they will not be able succeed at the highest level. This applies to a weekend golfer playing once a month, or to the touring professional who makes a living from playing the game.

Two of the most colorful golf commentators on television, Johnny Miller and Ian Baker-Finch, both went from winning a major – the zenith of a professional golfers’ career, to sitting behind the booth analyzing the shots of their former competitors. No golfer, touring professional or otherwise, is immune from the mental aspect of golf.

Retief Goosen, winner of states that “…what has turned my golfing career is my mental toughness.” A major champion, who has searched diligently on ways to improve his game, finally came to the conclusion that his mental toughness and ability were the keys to his improvement and continued success on the golf course.

Also, Bobby Jones, one of the greatest American golfers and amateur players of all time stated that, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.”

If professionals who have dedicated their lives to playing and learning the game of golf conclude that the mental aspect of golf is vital to their success, isn’t this an area that all golfers should devote some serious attention to?

If you are a golfer looking to improve your game, I strongly encourage you look at your mental approach to the game of golf and determine the areas in which you need to improve. Some of you may be confident, which is great, but overconfidence can lead to poor decision making, which then leads to poor shots and ultimately higher scores. I’ll be reviewing some books in the future on the mental side of golf, but if you are looking for ways to improve your game, you must not overlook your mind!

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Now some of you may need to get your mind out of the gutter. Yet others of you may rather be stuck in a gutter, than utter this horrific, five letter-word. It is a word that is often forbidden on the golf course and referred to by many different names in many different languages. If you have spoken it on the golf course, you  will have been undoubtedly shunned by your playing partners. This word has also been known as,  “The Laterals”, “ The Hosel Rockets”, and “The El Hosels”.

Living in a climate where it snows most of the winter, I was grateful to play in my first pro-am of the year today. Having spent more time on my snowboard than on the golf course over the past 4 months, I was looking forward to playing golf, fully prepared that my game would likely be marginally at best.  I had a good (insert fun) team of amateur players and it was just nice to have the sun shining on our faces.

I hit the ball surprisingly well on the first four holes, and although I missed a few short birdie putts, I managed to be -1 under par. I hit a mediocre tee-shot on the 5th hole and left my second shot short of the green, where I had to play a delicate pitch. That delicate pitch was quickly replaced with a bunker shot as I strait (insert 7-letter S-word here) my 15-yard pitch and after barely avoiding collision with one of my amateur players, rolled into the bunker that was  a45* angle to my right. There was a brief moment, of shock, horror, awe, and thankfully, laughter as one of my team members quite eloquently stated with a Coors Lite in his hand, “Well that was a (insert other 5 letter S-word here) shot! “

This was the beginning of my demise that would last the majority of the round. I could not help but analysis why/how I was able to hit such a shot, and my mental aptitude for the remainder of the round was of minimal success. I was able to hit some good shots, but my focus was on trying to understand what had occurred several holes prior.  At the end of the day, I finished four shots out of the money, and was left thinking about what might have been…

Let this be a lesson to you all. One bad shot, in and of itself, will not kill or ruin the chances of playing a good round of golf. However, if the bad shot lingers in your mind for any amount of time longer than it takes you to reach your next shot, (for me it was 5 seconds and only about 12 yards!), than the negative effects of that shot has a much greater impact than what is recorded on the scorecard. The sooner you can move past focusing on your poor shots, the sooner you will start playing better golf!

 

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Golf is a game that can never be mastered. Sure, skills can be developed, methods taught, and talent extrapolated, yet any combination of these factors will never be able to fully master the complexities of the game of golf. Yet, this game of golf is able to provide lessons that span across a multitude of areas.

To achieve various levels of success in golf there are certain traits that must be developed over time. Here are three of the many character traits that golf helps teach that are most beneficial to how we live our lives as a whole. If people can take these three traits, and implement them in their daily lives, I believe a drastic improvement will be noticeable in performance across the board.

1. Patience

Patience is definitely a virtue, especially when it comes to golf. Very few sports can have such devastating consequences for making the most minimal mistakes. One of the most common pieces of advice is to be sure not to follow one poor shot/decision with another. However, if you are not able to keep your emotions in check and lack the patience to move on from the prior mistake, you are likely doomed to compound this mistake.

As an instructor I have noticed that people’s approach to golf, is often similar to how they approach life. If someone is impatient and always in a rush in their everyday life, this same trait is displayed when they play a round of golf, or are on the lesson tee receiving instruction. If an instructor is able to help these students remain calm and composed throughout the lesson, that lesson in patience will hopefully reach the student’s other areas of life. Patience makes a student a better golf and a better person.

2. Perseverance

Golf is an intricate game that requires much effort to learn. Golf not only requires much effort, but often times, the results of a person’s efforts are not immediately visible (also why patience is so important).  Perseverance is defined as the ability, “to persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, journey or mission in spite of distraction, difficulty, obstacles or discouragement”.

Throughout the games of both golf and life, there are often difficulties, distractions, or various impediments that may possibly limit your desire and even ability to succeed. However, by persevering through the midst of struggle, a person is able to refine their skills and grow from the challenges being faced. An obstacle in your golf ability has similar characteristic to various obstacles in life. Persevere, and find success.

3. Honesty

Golf is the only game that I am aware of where you are not only asked to, but it is expected that a person call a penalty on themselves.  Honesty and integrity are at the heart of the game, and with society today being driven by earnings and not honesty; golf remains to hold these principles in the highest regard. What you are willing to do when no one is watching you in the woods when your ball is behind a tree stump, will likely carry on in your business dealings. Honesty is at the heart of golf, and hopefully at the heart of your being as well.

These are just three of the many traits that golf helps instill in its participants. Not only will these three traits help you improve your golf game, they may just improve your overall quality of life too!

 

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