YOUR PLAY­ING LES­SON

Fred Fruisen dis­cusses a play­ers big­gest haz­ard, men­tally quit­ting.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENT -

For some rea­son, many golfers go into a round of golf not ex­pect­ing ad­ver­sity. This is flawed think­ing be­cause ad­ver­sity is in­evitable. Be­cause they are not men­tally pre­pared, they are shocked and sad­dened when ad­ver­sity ar­rives and too many times they are un­able to cope. Like in the il­lus­tra­tion, they will­ingly jump off into the abyss of de­spair, where there is no re­cov­ery and the penalty lasts for the re­main­der of the round.

Some­how golfers be­lieve that ev­ery shot will be hit per­fectly and that golf will be easy. That is not re­al­ity, not for any golfer at any level. Golfers must re­mem­ber that the game is usu­ally a strug­gle. Golf is the equiv­a­lent of salmon swim­ming up­stream. It's hard. It's hard al­most ev­ery day.

When you pre­pare for a round of golf, you should make a men­tal com­mit­ment - to ac­cept what­ever hap­pens, good or bad, and in the words of Win­ston Churchill, "Stay calm and carry on."

Stay­ing calm and car­ry­ing on is the only good op­tion you have. Some days are easy, most are hard. You must re­main pos­i­tive and fight with ev­ery­thing you have un­til you ar­rive at the club­house. Oth­er­wise, you'll be mis­er­able, you'll make your play­ing part­ners mis­er­able and you will be guar­an­teed you will shoot a mis­er­able score.

I know all of you have watched Tiger's top 10 shots on the Golf Chan­nel. Did you notice that none of those shots was from an ideal po­si­tion? Only one of shot hap­pened from the mid­dle of the fair­way, and he hit that shot in al­most to­tal dark­ness.

The point is, one of the rea­sons he's been so suc­cess­ful is that he be­lieves with ev­ery fiber of his be­ing that some­thing good will hap­pen even when he is in a tough spot.

I have a great ex­am­ple from my uni­ver­sity team in 2012. One of the fresh­man on my team was named Maken­zie. He was a fine player and I be­lieved he could be­come a su­per­star, but as with most fresh­man, he had a lot to learn - espe­cially when it came to keep­ing his head in the game dur­ing tough rounds.

We were play­ing in a pres­ti­gious tour­na­ment. The Golfweek Fall Preview in Florida. This is an ac­count of Maken­zie's fi­nal round.

Go­ing into the round Maken­zie had high ex­pec­ta­tions, too high. When I saw him on the range, Maken­zie was up­beat, "mint­ing it" as he used to say, and was telling me he was go­ing to tear it up.

When I caught up with him on the 7th hole, a par 5, I thought he has just played his 2nd from the fair­way, but I then learned that it was ac­tu­ally his 4th shot. His 2nd shot had gone out of bounds. He was com­pletely de­spon­dent be­cause af­ter fin­ish­ing his 7th hole with a dou­ble, I learned he was now seven over af­ter seven holes. The round was not go­ing at all the way he had en­vi­sioned. I could tell he had men­tally checked out and he had no fight in him. If I had given him the op­tion he would have walked off the course. I told him, "Sorry dude, I don't get to sub­sti­tute for you like in other sports. You're stuck out here and have to make a de­ci­sion to make. Are you gonna cry or try?" It's some­thing I used to say to my young son. He would al­ways take on projects that were beyond his abil­i­ties and even­tu­ally get frus­trated to the point of tears. I would say to him, "Son, we can cry or try, but we can't do both. We'll do whichever you choose. But you have a de­ci­sion to make." Back to Maken­zie... he was men­tally checked out and we still had 11 holes to play in the fi­nal round of a re­ally im­por­tant tour­na­ment. I wasn't go­ing to let him let his team or him­self down. I told him, "We can still sal­vage this round! So, lets get started right now!"

On the par 3, 8th tee he would hit last so we had time to chat. I got his mind away from his trou­bles and told him how much I thought of him as a per­son and as a golfer. I re­minded him how beau­ti­ful this part of Florida was and how blessed he was to be able to play col­lege golf. He re­fo­cused and hit a nice tee shot onto the green. As we walked to the green we laughed as I told him sto­ries of other golfers I coached through the years and the times when they were able to make some­thing out of noth­ing. When we got to the green we were sur­prised to see he was left with a re­ally dif­fi­cult 36 footer that was down hill and a dou­ble breaker. We read the putt from ev­ery pos­si­ble an­gle and what do you know, he made it for birdie! Big smile on his face! He was back!

On the most dif­fi­cult hole on the course, the par 4 ninth, he played the hole well but ended up 3 putting from long range for bo­gie. Just like that, his world was com­ing to an end once again. I said, "What is so bad? You've just played the last 2 holes at even par af­ter a ter­ri­ble start on the first 7 holes! So I con­tin­ued to make him smile, telling him funny sto­ries about coach­ing and golf as we played the par 4, 10th hole and what do you know, we made a re­ally

good 18 footer that broke from left to right for an­other birdie!

Once again, big smiles, life was good. Un­for­tu­nately, he bo­geyed the par 5, 11th and was once again in the dumps. To­tal de­spair. Life sucks! He thought, golf hates me! Af­ter more cheer­lead­ing from me, he made a rou­tine par on the par 3, twelfth. I pointed out to him that in spite of the ups and downs that he had just played the last 5 holes at even par and that he's do­ing fine. But now I had to leave him to go check on other mem­bers of the team. I had him prom­ise me that he would re­main op­ti­mistic and up­beat. He as­sured me he would be fine.

I caught up with Maken­zie again as he was walk­ing from the 13th green to the 14th tee. His life was over! He had just triple bo­geyed! All of the fight was com­pletely gone. There was noth­ing left. He was now 10 over par.

At this point, I'll ad­mit, I had had enough! I "coached him up," as we say in the biz, al­beit firmly. I told him he had a de­ci­sion to make - this time, it wasn't as much about this round, but more about what kind of player he was go­ing to be. I chal­lenged him, "You've got to de­cide right now, is golf tougher than you, or are you tougher than golf?"

I had his at­ten­tion. Once again, I told him that if he had 100% be­lief that some­thing good was go­ing to come out of this, it would, and con­versely, if he didn't, it wouldn't. What­ever he de­cided would hap­pen, would ac­tu­ally hap­pen. He was now com­pletely on board. He was now de­ter­mined to not let his mind have a sin­gle neg­a­tive thought. We then took a mo­ment to map out the fi­nal stretch of 5 holes. I thought we could birdie 3 of the last 5. He com­pletely bought in, had to­tal be­lief in his skills and Maken­zie went on to birdie the 14th, 15th and 16th! Amaz­ing! He had com­pletely erased the triple! We were on the 17th, prob­a­bly the best chance for birdie and af­ter a mon­ster drive, ended up mak­ing a tough par af­ter pretty much chop­ping up the hole.

He played the par 4, 18th per­fectly and made a 10 footer for birdie to fin­ish out his roller coaster round. We hugged and laughed. He had birdied 4 of his last 5 holes and 6 of his last 11. Maken­zie played the last 11 holes at -1. He shot +6 for the round and ended up help­ing our team.

As we stood there watch­ing the oth­ers in his group putt out, I'll never for­get how he had his arm over my shoul­der thank­ing me for my help and telling me how much he had learned.

Iron­i­cally, not once did we talk about swing dur­ing his round.

It wasn't the most im­pres­sive round ever shot - a 77. But for him it was the spring­board that pro­pelled him to be a great col­le­giate golfer. His col­le­giate play­ing ca­reer is now over. I can as­sure you, that's one of the few rounds he re­mem­bers. That's how it is in col­lege golf. You play a lot of rounds in a lot of places. You don't re­mem­ber much about the good days. There isn't much to re­mem­ber. Those days are easy. The proud­est and most mem­o­rable rounds are the ones where you dig deep when faced with ad­ver­sity and come out on the other side learn­ing some­thing about your­self. The ones where you made some­thing out of noth­ing.

If you never give in and jump off into the pit of de­spair, you too will have great sto­ries to tell.

Graphic by Fred Fruisen.

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