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A Letter To Junior Golfers

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Dear all of you with dreams in golf, a desire to get better, or simply a passion for the game,

Firstly, I would like to say that the most important part of your development as a player is to enjoy all aspects of the journey. This can sound cliché, but what it means is that golf is not all about winning tournaments, having to beat your friends all the time, hitting a ton of great shots, or constantly having to feel like you’re getting better. Golf is a microcosm of life; you have to enjoy all it has to offer, including the terrible rounds, where you feel like you cannot do anything right. I understand nearly all of the feelings you may be going through. Anxiety, doubt, uncertainty of what to do, lack of trust in yourself, fear of failure, desire to please those around you, desire to look good, wanting to make your parents proud, not knowing what to do next, wanting so badly to get better, the anger you feel when you lose, the sadness and cruelty of your mind when you’re not playing close to your potential, and the emotional whirlwind felt on a day-to-day basis of trying to grow as a player and still just enjoy the game as a kid.

There are many things I wish I would’ve known when I was coming up that I have only come to learn recently, as a 23-year-old man. I used to think we must stay calm at all times and anytime you lose your temper, the rounds are over; there’s no coming back. This is simply not the case. We are all human and we all want to be the best versions of ourselves, which for some of us includes being the best golfers we could be. When we have a terrible shot, which we will do countless times throughout a round, it is okay to get angry. The thing that is unacceptable is to let it linger and still be concerned with what happened minutes, hours, or days ago while trying to hit another shot.

The great Charles Fitzsimmons, whom you may not know, but is an elite Canadian golfer, sports psychologist, and Western graduate with his PH. D. I am very lucky to call him my friend and mentor. Charles taught me something extremely valuable in what is called detachment, in other words, finding a way to get back in the moment. It is about figuring out a way to hit a golf shot no matter how anxious or angry you make feel. He taught me that it does not matter what has happened and it is only what can happen in the present that really matters. This also is the only thing you have any sort of control over and coming back to the present moment, you’re already ahead of 99% of golfers as most are caught up in things they cannot control and things they really want to happen. It is through the ability to execute in the middle of a thunderstorm of emotion within you that excellence is found. The thing that you must come to the realization of, which I still have not fully grasped, is that you will never have a game of golf figured out. It is one of the hardest sports on the planet and one that can be so immensely different from day to day regardless of your skill level or your past performances. This is why you must find bliss and learning opportunities in great losses and terrible days on the course, on the range, and even in your life outside of golf. Every single one of you will go through terribly difficult things, and to be able to overcome these things hardships is learned and will develop through your golf game and ability to detach.

Every single golfer is going to struggle with coming back to the moment to execute a golf shot. It is in this fact that mediocre players and great players are separated. You have to find a way to detach from what has happened and get back to figuring out a way to hit the best shot you can at the moment you are currently in. I have found that what works best for me is to do my best to take a couple of long, deep breaths. When I am in a good headspace, I am oftentimes able to just put the club in my bag, breathe deeply and then move on. If I am extremely angry or disappointed in myself, I may mumble something to myself that is not very nice that lets me know that shot was not anywhere close to good, and creates a feeling that I do not want to have again. When I get to the next shot to start my routine, I am able to commit better to whatever shot I need to hit at the moment because I got a little angry and then let it go. This is what works for me, it may not work for you. As a young man or woman, you must become self-aware of what allows you to let things go and get back in the moment and what only makes you angrier or more irritable for longer periods of time. Eliminate those things. It sounds simple, but I can promise you that it is the most relentless thing that you will have to face in your journey to becoming a better golfer. These triggers for me include stuff like talking about previous shots that I executed poorly, telling myself inside that I do not have it today, deciding to hit the shot even if I do not know what I am trying to do with it, not backing off of a shot if something is distracting me or I am not one hundred percent committed. Lastly, feeding into the negative self-talk and allowing it to come to the surface when I am trying to hit the next shot. Things that allow me to get past these things when I am trying to perform include long, deep breaths through my nose in for four out of eight. This has been proven to lower heart rate and improve mental clarity. If need be, I will step off a shot, shut my eyes for a second to calm my senses, and then get back into the target or the feeling I am trying to repeat before executing my next golf shot.

Another aspect, probably one of the most important, is letting go of the fear of failure. This is still something I struggled with immensely and continue to battle as my desire to be the best golfer I can be overpowers the patience and discipline it takes to hit as many great golf shots as I can each round and constantly pursue being better each day. These feelings will never go away, which is a tough pill to swallow, as it is unsettling that our mind will always try to impede our progress and try to tell us that we are not enough. The thing is, you are enough. If you have a dream in this game, whether it is to play college golf or win your club championship, or be on the PGA tour, there is only one single person or entity in the world that can actually stop you. That person looks back at you in the mirror every day. The more you understand that person and what makes that person feel anxious, fearful, doubt, and what allows that person to feel committed and calm under pressure, the closer you will get to your dream.

The last piece of advice I will leave you with is that when it comes to practice, although a lot of reps is good, to develop as a junior golfer into a strong performer, you must have periods of time in practice when you hit a shot, putt, chip, or pitch and then really try to be aware of what it was that caused that shot to go straight, curve right, turn to much to the left or whatever it may be. Have the patience to not try to change it straight away but to simply be aware of it and allow that awareness to build over time to where you know where your typical miss is going. This allows you to know that if you are going to miss it, you know where that shot is most likely going to end up, and this in turn allows you to be more confident under the gun and avoid high numbers because you will still leave the ball in a playable position. A position where you may still be able to salvage a score. Be yourself, do not try to be like anyone else, and do your best to commit everything you have within to as many swings as you can. You will know if you committed when you hit the shot with very little sense of effort, and a very high sense of awareness of why that shot where went where it did. Enjoy the journey, life goes in the blink of an eye and one day you will look back and wish you gave yourself a break more often and just laughed it off. Good luck!

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