They say golf is a game for old men. I say it is a lifelong obsession. Your body may slow down, but your mind still focuses on winning. It is not an accident professional athletes from other sports play golf. Other games can be physical; golf is mental.
Blue monsters are not the boogie men who hid under your bed as a child. A golf course can inspire the same fear if you have allowed negativity to interfere with your confidence. This game, these two to four hours of your life, demonstrates what type of man you are. The fewer shots you take, the better. Competitors size you up for weaknesses, or handicaps within the first round. Professional golfers do not have handicaps; amateurs have them. A scratch golfer means you have no handicap. You could say I was a scratch golfer given I was professional for eight years and had numerous sponsors, including Foot Joy.
Each game had to be better than the last in order for me to stay in tournaments. There is no room for error or a bad day in this game. Competition only gets fiercer by the day. Golf is growing in popularity thanks to Tiger Woods. He was the first billion dollar athlete. Billionaire with a “B”. Tiger has surpassed Michael Jordan in earnings and is still playing, not bad for a sport played by geezers in a quest for the elusive green jacket.
Another misconception about golf is that is all in the arms. One arm is to guide the other. Your true power comes from the core. When you swing, your body has to remain in balance. Just like in life, one part cannot overtake the others. It must be in unison, working for tangible success.
If golf had one word to describe it, I would use the word challenging. You have to fight hard to stay in the game and be better each round. Wins cannot make you too confident and losses are only a chance to get better. The only friend you have on the greens is your caddie and he makes ten percent of your earnings. He is as invested as you are.
Before I was a golfer, I was a young kid in Miami playing basketball and chasing girls. My cousin played golf and kept asking me to play a round with him on Saturday mornings. I went one morning after scoring big at my high school basketball game with little expectation for the geezer game. It was early; I was a little hung over from the previous night’s victory party. If I was great in basketball, golf could not be any different I reasoned. I had never been more wrong in my life. Peaking my interest was a honeypot of $100. I had money left over from Christmas and threw it in with complete confidence. By the second hole, it was clear he would win. I was not used to losing.
It was two years before I could beat him and to develop a serious addiction to the sport. Basketball was forgotten, but I still kept the girls. Some left because they did not have an audience to be seen cheering me on. Golf was quieter and more intense. All the glory was internal.
Golf is mental and rituals are important. We all have our superstitions and I certainly have mine. Foot Joy provided me with shoes, so my superstition revolved around that. I would wear the same pair of shoes throughout a tournament and then never wear them again. They were with me in practice rounds so on some level I felt the greens were imprinting their feel on them and since they were always new, they could not recall anything else. This is an example of a tame superstition. Other players had their ways as well. One guy would not talk to anyone during the tournament. He would be friendly on the plane and right afterwards, never during competition. I once witnessed a bee stinging him in the face. Without a sound, he simply wiped the stinger off and continued playing. My caddie and I nudged each other, but he remained stoic.
Caddies are vital to the game. The relationship is more like comrades than anything else. They manage the game for us as agents. My caddie earned 10% of whatever I made and because of that we had to be a team. Before any tournament, he would walk the grounds making notes and warning me of challenges. We would meet and discuss at length what he observed. I was lucky and found Frank right off the bat; he wanted to be a professional golfer, but his back had started to give under the strain. With him, I had a golfer’s mentality and the keen eye of a caddie. To outsiders our meetings must have sounded as if they were in code. That was the goal we developed a jargon only we could understand. In such a mental game, the stakes are higher. Men do not sabotage each other the way some women do in beauty pageants. However, we would try to get under each other’s skin through mental intimidation. We all had to walk we knew the greens like the backs of our hands. The ones that suffered the most were the ones who were open with their confidence. They wanted to show us their hands and try to make us believe they knew the run.
Ultimately, they never made it past Friday; we knew their confidence was a smoke screen because when you have an advantage, you never let anyone know it least of all your competitors.