“Some people think they are concentrating when they are merely worrying” – Bobby Jones
I grew up in sports household with the adage, why play for fun when you can play to win. I have played slo-pitch at a competitive level, winning a national championship in 1999. But I have never felt a combination of exhilaration, frustration, nervousness and anxiety in sport like I did when I teed it up in 2011 for the Golf Association of Ontario’s Public Player Championship. I did not need to qualify; I just had to pay the registration fee. I practiced diligently, even travelling to the course in advance for a practice round. Come the day of the tournament I was unable to relax and get into any rhythm. A near six hour round did not help but fact is my game was exposed and I did not pass the audition. I shot a dismal 94 and I missed the cut by two strokes. And while I figuratively threw up on my shoes I relished the competition and wanted to experience that again.
So here we are in 2014 and I have signed up again for the same championship. Déjà vu all over again? Here’s hoping not but there are a few things I’ve learned I’d like to share for others and for myself to consider:
- Have fun – listen, this does not affect my world golf rankings or my tour earnings. It is important but unlike my slo-pitch days where there was expectation backed up by skill and commitment, I can’t make the time to excel at the game the way I would like so I will try my best, play to win, but focus on fun and enjoy the experience.
- Breathe – This is a trigger to achieve a larger objective…slow myself down. The day should feel deliberate. Unlike last time, I will arrive earlier than usual and enjoy a relaxed practice session. I love watching pros on the range. They will hit some balls but chat, laugh and take the time to get prepared for their golf round. For me, breathing will represent my desire to open up my senses – too see, smell and feel. I don’t want to look back and feel the round was a blur.
- Smile – research equates smiling to happiness and laughter to relaxation. This is not to say a duck hook into the woods will result in me doubling over in laughter, but I will purposefully smile throughout the day and, as I said in #1, have fun with the experience. This is not wisdom tooth surgery, its golf.
- Practice – I will seek to prepare myself for the event. I will practice more deliberately, learn about the course I’m playing and feel I have a stock, or ‘go to’ shot I can depend on for the day.
- Acceptance – I’m a 10+ handicap. My chances of breaking the course record are not likely; I may hit a bad shot or two. As I get older I’m doing a better job accepting this and it has reduced the nerves and anxiety I’ve felt on the course in the past. Embrace the nervousness, accept it and prepare for each shot and give it my best effort and move on.
- Talk – take the time, as appropriate, to meet new people and encourage (even if only yourself). I won’t have a caddy so I will seek to be my own caddy, talking through decisions and options.
- Prepare – similar to practice, I will prepare my mind and my attitude for the day. I have books from Dr. Bob Rotella, whom I enjoy reading because he presents information for golfers in clear and digestible bytes.
- Have fun – it starts and stops there for me. So I will play to win, I’m a product of my upbringing, but I will make sure the experience is a fun one. Regardless of outcome, I’m embracing the experience and look forward to the challenges of the day.
The GAO Public Player Championships are scheduled for September 8-9 in Innisfil, Ontario at National Pines Golf Club. There is no cut this year so I’m registered for two days and 36 holes of Net stroke play. I think I will tweet my outfits for the two days like the pros have started doing through their apparel companies. I’m open to sponsorship…if any company wants to support a scratch player stuck in a 10 handicap body endorsing their products, ha ha.