"The more I practice, the luckier I get"
As I stood on the 18th tee level with my playing partner I knew this was the most important shot of the whole tour. We had traded blows for 17 holes. I had started one point behind and his lead had extended to two after nine holes. On the back nine we had both played well - the closer to the end, the more exciting the game. I had a tough front nine but started to claw his lead back. We had halved the 17th by making clutch putts. It was getting exciting. To add to the tension I was leading the tour with three holes to go last year then “blew up” and finished second.
I took a bit of extra time, it was a really windy day and this was a tough shot. In this situation the shot routine is essential. One practice swing, ensure my alignment is correct, deep breath, check clubhead is square, one look at the target then swish. The ball went straight down the left half of the fairway with the wind moving it nicely into the middle. I was in the zone.
My playing partner stepped up. He is a classy golfer; his handicap is three. In short, he is much better than me. He addresses the ball, pauses then swish! It goes hard left through a palm tree and out of bounds. What a turn up! He’s been driving the ball beautifully all day. He reloads and hits it way right.
I retain my composure. My second shot goes onto the back of the green and two putts later I am tour champion. He makes a triple bogey. It’s my 6th tour victory in the last 10 tours. A decent record.
As I walk off the green I feel a sense of achievement. I have three young kids and only tee it up once in a blue moon.
I was determined not to repeat last year’s mistakes: I had rushed, got hot under the collar and got ahead of myself. This time I was more patient, following the typical golfing clichés – stay in the moment, one shot at a time. I had got into a rhythm and the consistency of my play had put pressure on my opponent. Classic match play.
I’m a completely “self-taught” golfer, style of my own but I just have that annoying knack of getting my ball around the course. I chip in regularly, I hole bunker shots but I’m also wayward of the tee and the putter blows hot and cold. Infuriating for both myself and my opponent.
So how did I manage it?
I do have a strategy.
- Don’t give up. We play stableford and this format is forgiving. You can afford a few bad holes.
- Use momentum, remember the good shots, forget the bad ones.
- Try not to compound an error with another one.
As the All blacks Rugby team would say “keep a blue head”. Alert, but not overly emotional. This is also part our mantra within the Manufacturing Practice at Interim Partners.
Then there’s my obsession with process. Same shot routine, I tee the ball at the same height every time. I try to reign myself in and use the percentages, i.e. aiming for the middle of the green, not the flag. Easier said than done as my instinct is to go for it.
As I’ve matured, so has my game. I used to pursue perfection. I used to get irritated even if the shot wasn’t that bad. I have become more resilient, I have learned how to manage my emotions and my powers of recovery are also better. I like to let my mind go empty in between shots, then switch on when I get to my ball. I try to stay in the present.
Golf is a hard game. It’s mentally punishing and there are many decisions to make. Where is the wind coming from? How will slope affect the putts, ball flight, spin rates? I could go on.
However for all the technical and mental complexities, it is quite simple. The aim is to get the ball in the hole in the least shots. I hate gamesmanship and never use it but I do like to use the things that I can control to gain a competitive advantage, which is relatively easy regardless of who you are playing as long as you can execute your plan. Keep a clear head and try really hard.
I liken my approach to golf to my approach at Interim Partners. Always give it 110%, each indifferent shot is an opportunity to improve, a clear goal really helps. Good etiquette really does matter. You don’t need to have the most polished technique to win but you do need a solid repeatable process and a good overall strategy.
In the words of Gary Player. “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.
I guess I just got lucky, again!
Joel Kirkland is the Senior Consultant of Manufacturing at Interim Partners