Archive for September, 2015

Junior Golf: Lessons From The Tour Championship

imageIn this Wednesday Waggle we will look at a lesson to be learned from last week’s Tour Championship. The top 30 golfers on the PGA Tour gathered in Atlanta to play in the final event of the PGA Season. (Jason Duffner photo¬†golfdigest.com)

This 1st lesson is very simple and very obvious: weather affects everybody. As plain as it sounds, yes, the weather impacts every golfer, even the best 30 pros on the PGA Tour. When it is sunny and pleasant, everyone is in a pretty decent mood. The greens and fairways and bunkers are impacting the ball as anticipated, so really the guys just have to execute their normal shots. No big deal, you’re either hitting good shots or you’re not, but you are in a comfort zone at least as far as course conditions are concerned.

Now let’s throw in an overcast, rainy and chilly Friday and Saturday with 36 holes to be played and see who’s in a comfort zone. Maybe the guys from the British Isles who grew up playing in worse weather than this, but heck, even they don’t play in it as much as they used to. So out of the field of 30 perhaps a handful were in some sort of comfort zone. Probably a better way to look at it is who has the patience to deal with the soggy conditions. How many times did you see umbrellas opened and closed, rain gear put on and taken off, grips wiped, club faces wiped, hands wiped and gloves changed out? This weather wears on everybody and it is tedious to deal with. And they were playing the ball down, meaning you played the ball as is, no lift, clean and place. If your ball had a glob of mud on it, you got to hit it mud and all, until the ball got on the green where it could be cleaned. Just a good mental test. (photo static01.nyt.com)

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The scores reflected the conditions as most players were just trying to hang on to a decent position to be able to make a Sunday run. And Jordan took the lead Saturday as he dealt with 48 hours of unpleasant conditions better than everyone else. And at the ripe old age of 22 years old. You know the ending. Jordan played a solid final round and won The Tour Championship and also The FedEx Cup. Several of the guys had lower final rounds than Jordan, but it was his Friday and Saturday play that put him in a strong position for the final 18 holes. No one shot super low Sunday to come close to catching him. Congratulations to Jordan Spieth!

Your junior golfer will play in weather like this or worse. Much of the preparation is having proper wet weather gear. We’ll address that another time. The often overlooked prep however, is mental. The pros talk all the time about being patient on the golf course, so patience is super important. In inclimate weather, the patience factor goes up by 3 or 4 times. Everything is different. So start working on patience now because your junior golfer is going to need more of it than you ever imagined.

See you on #1 tee, patiently… Sam

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Junior Golf: The Best of Times

imageIn today’s Monday Mulligan, we will look at the Best of Times with your junior golfer. As we have mentioned before the times you are with your son during junior golf will provide some of the most wonderful experiences of your life, memories and bonding opportunities like no other.

When Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1859, he likely was not thinking his opening line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, would be used as a sports metaphor. But this line from one of the great classic novels of all-time could certainly be used to describe the life of a junior golfer and his parents. Any sport has highs and lows, but golf is different as it is an individual sport and with the few exceptions that you can have a caddy or coach during competition, life on the course is a bit isolated. (photo by jennlefforge.com)

Today however, we’re talking about “It was the BEST of times”. S3 came in from college this past weekend to play with me in my high school 50th Anniversary Reunion Golf Tournament. It was a scramble at a course we have played many times. This was a progressive start-meaning tee times and we were the 1st group off. Well S3 was the talk of the tournament, being a college golfer and that he was just 21 years old, since almost everybody else’s kids were around 40 years old. This of course added to the BEST of times for me, the Proud Papa.

A bit of humility returned as I explained to S3 that our teammates each had a gpa that made my very good gpa look not so good. Tom went to Rice and is a prominent chemist/toxicologist and Leo went to UT, my alma mater, that’s The University of Texas for you non-Longhorns, and works in a prominent applied physics lab on the East Coast. Of course some Big Bang Theory jokes were in order.

On #1, I actually crushed my 3-wood right down the middle, but S3 outdrove me, of course, and we used his tee shot to begin the scramble. The first 5 holes we just could not scrape up a birdie, but finally on #6, a par 5, S3 bombed his drive and hit an 8-iron pin high so we finally 2-putted to get on the birdie train. Actually the course ran out of range balls so we had no range warmup, just chipping and putting, so it took a few holes to just loosen up. Bad form for a prominent golf course to be out of range balls by 915am on a Saturday with a tournament starting at 10am.

Now, the kinks were gone and S3 and I hit a bunch of great shots. I played the best golf, for me, in a long time and he finally relaxed and started hitting the amazing shots he is capable of. So the drill was S3 would hit 4th, expecting me or Tom or Leo to hit a decent playable shot so S3 could go for a higher risk shot. It worked. We were 9-under par for our last 13-holes. Not fabulous, but pretty doggone decent!image

The point here parents, is that my son and I got to spend 5 wonderful hours together on a really nice day, on a good golf course on a team with 2 of my high school buddies. Tom and Leo are super guys and great teammates. We all fed off of each other’s good shots. It is always a very close and special relationship between parent and child when you can each feed off of and share in each other’s good and actually quite a few great golf shots. It is just so cool to be there together: “Great shot Son!”, “Great shot Dad!” There’s nothing else like it, period! Find a way to share these moments with your son. If you don’t play golf, be his biggest encourager! That’s a big part of what Linda and I are here to help you do.

See you on #1 tee, hopefully both of you… Sam

Junior Golf: The Solheim Cup Lesson 2

imageIn this Friday Flop Shot we’ll look at another lesson to be learned from the Solheim Cup. Every golf tournament is a stage and the entrants are under scrutiny. International team competition like the Solheim Cup provides the biggest stage with a gigantic microscope for seeing and commenting on each player’s every move and shot.

In match play, such as the Solheim Cup, it is common for short putts, maybe 2-feet or less to be “conceded” or to be acknowledged by the opposition to be “good”. So if your daughter’s remaining 2-foot putt was “conceded”, she would pick her ball up and the other team would finish putting or if both teams had finished the hole they would proceed to the next tee. The key here is that your daughter must never assume a putt is conceded. Ask specifically, usually something like “Is that good?” Make certain of the response before doing anything.

So last week Alison Lee of the US thought her par putt had been conceded on #17, and picked the ball up. Well, it was not conceded and she lost the hole. Big mental error. Europe could have chosen to “give” her the putt after that fact, thus negating the loss of hole, but chose not to do so. While all this is within the match play rules, golf is a game of sportsmanship, honor, integrity and good etiquette and manners. All the women involved were very distressed by this event, some being in tears. Alison Lee felt terrible because loss of the hole contributed to losing the match in a very close team competition. The Europeans had second thoughts after they were seen by some as ruthless and not playing within the sportsmanship spirit of the game. Europe’s Suzann Pettersen apologized after the match. (photo pbs.twimg.com)image

Or, as they say, on the other hand, let’s look at the finish of the 1969 Ryder Cup hosted by England. On the 18th hole of the final match between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklyn, Nicklaus made his par putt and Jacklyn had a knee-knocking 2-footer left for his par. In one of the great all-time examples of good sportsmanship, Jack Nicklaus walked over and picked up Tony Jacklyn’s coin, conceding the putt, halving their match and ending the 1969 Ryder Cup in a tie. US team captain Sam Snead was furious and other US team members were surprised to say the least. Over time this gesture by golf’s greatest player has overcome the initial critics and is now seen as perhaps the greatest example of good sportsmanship of all time.

20 years from now what will be said about the European Women’s decision not to concede Alison Lee’s putt after the fact? They may be put into the Nicklaus/Jacklyn conversation, but at the other end of the scale. Please instill into your daughter that she can choose her actions but she cannot choose the consequences of her actions. Encourage her to make good decisions, because she knows what they are.

See you on #1 tee…with an attitude of good sportsmanship… Sam

Junior Golf: Solheim Cup Lesson 1

imageIn this Wednesday Waggle we will look at lessons to be learned from last week’s Solheim Cup. Your daughter can learn something from virtually everything she does in life and this women’s golf event was loaded with even more lessons than usual. (Jason Duffner photo golfdigest.com)

So what is this Lesson #1 from The Solheim Cup, simple the overriding takeaway is that you never quit. You never give up. It’s not over till it’s over. However you want to say it or hear it, your daughter must keep playing as in trying to play really good golf and keep grinding away at her opponent, human or the golf course, until the ball is in the cup on the last hole.

The US women were down 10-6 before the start of the 12 singles matches. With 2 closely matched teams, a 4-point lead is a lot so the odds were against our ladies winning the Cup. A controversial call in a 4-ball match really fired our ladies up and they played like it. Ultimately they won 8.5 of 12 points and we won the Cup 14.5-13.5. This is a great testament to squaring your shoulders, finding a little “tude” and kicking your opponent’s rear! Way to go ladies!

These cup events are unique in that they are really team events even though there is a considerable amount of individual effort required by each player. The US’s Angela Stanford said “This is probably the closest knit group we’ve ever been a part of. We never stopped believing.”

And your daughter must continue believing, yes, when she’s down 4-holes with 4-holes left to play. She must believe in each “next” shot. That she can hit enough good shots, 1-shot at a time to win that hole. Then win the next hole. Win all 4 holes so they can go to extra holes.

You can be sure that Jordan Spieth thought he was in pretty good shape in the Ryder Cup when he was 4-up on Graeme McDowell through 12-holes. Well, the seasoned pro Graeme found his game and tied the match. I don’t remember if they split or McDowell won, doesn’t matter. What does matter is the momentum of the match changed: Jordan lost his and Graeme found his. (graem’s photo i2.cdn.turner.com)image

Staying positive during the whole round/game is tough. When you see the pros having trouble with it, know that your daughter and all junior golfers are going to struggle with it as well. What gets her back to being positive? There are a lot of books on this subject, but the short answer is that your daughter needs to believe that she can hit a good tee shot, hit a good approach shot and have a chance to make a birdie. And making a birdie will bring back her smile and some confidence. Encourage her!

See you on #1 tee…with a never give up attitude… Sam

Junior Golf: Who You Are Playing With

imageIn this Monday Mulligan we will look at who you are playing with. Who is in your group on the golf course and why it matters, even though really it should not matter very much, if at all. (photo jennlefforge.com)

In last Wednesday’s press conference before the BMW Championship, Ricky Fowler was asked if he was looking forward to playing the first two days of the event with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. Ricky’s response was basically, “We’re all really good friends and it’s going to be an absolute blast playing together!” Even the world’s top pros, with all their mental toughness, still are impacted by who is in their group during tournament play.

Parents, please remember that golf has all types of boys and girls playing the sport. Your junior golfer will play with kids who are: nice but not really talkative, nice and talk just the right amount for your golfer, barely tolerable to the point of unpleasant, those who have no clue about golf rules and etiquette or choose to ignore them and just plain jerks. Do not be surprised when your son is in a group with someone who is basically uncomfortable to be around. It’s going to happen, more than once, at every age and skill level.

So how does your son deal with this? It’s tough. Frankly, brutally, the only obligation, in addition to obeying the rules and etiquette, that your son has is to accurately keep 1other group member’s score and go take a look when someone hits a shot that ends up in or near a hazard, out of bounds or in a situation that may require a ruling.

Your son has no requirement to make friends during a tournament or even talk more than the minimal amount necessary for play. Our family talks. We are communicators me, Linda, S3 and our other kids too. Even in college S3 is more comfortable playing with someone who will carry on a little conversation. And sometimes he is paired with someone he already knows and it tends to relax him a bit on #1 tee. 1of S3’s teammate’s, who is a very nice and polite young man, says he is enjoys his golf the most when nobody is his group says a word, for the whole round. Well, that would drive our family crazy! Chocolate and vanilla!

So, it’s different when your son is playing with friends or family members and shoots a very nice score. Then when the “P”, Pressure switch is turned on in a tournament, it’s all more difficult.image

Reinforce in your son that the personalities of those in his group are there to help him remember to stay focused on his game and his shots. Being mentally tough is a big deal and something that he will have to cope with in every tournament. Help him learn to stay in his game and reduce the influence of distractions. It’s necessary, it’s difficult and it’s an ongoing part of improving his ability to play winning golf at the higher skill levels. ¬†( photo sports.cbsimg.net)

See you on #1 tee…with some focus… Sam

Junior Golf: An Advanced Routine

imageIn this Friday Flop Shot we will look at an example of an advanced pre-shot routine for junior golfers of medium to high skill levels. With the men’s FedEx Cup resuming this week and the women’s Solheim Cup playing in Germany this week, there is a ton of great golf to watch. So get with your daughter and make a conscious decision to pay particular attention to the player’s pre-shot routines during these 2 high profile events. (photo offcoursegolf.com)

Jason Day is great for this lesson. His pre-shot routine is very well-defined, easy to see what he is doing and he does it on every shot. A great example! As you watch your favorite players, you will see that they all have a specific pre-shot routine. Some are more subtle and some like JD’s are very easy to identify.

Things to watch: each player will look down the course to where he wants the ball to land and then stop. Some will stand directly behind their ball for this and others may be slightly off to one side or the other. The point is the same. They are visualizing, seeing the shot in their own mind. Visualization is a key to many things in life and in this case it’s a key to playing winning golf. (Justin Leonard photo newsfeed.org)image

Next they will address the ball, in other words, take their stance and place the club behind the ball as the golfer gets to the final stage of the pre-shot routine. Here you will see dramatically different styles. Jason Duffner does his famous waggles. Justin Leonard, among others, will take the club back a couple of feet to make sure his takeaway is the way it needs to be. Some guys will take a practice swing. Rory just usually addresses the ball and swings, no extra pre-shot movement.

The pros are repeating a routine which they have developed over the years to get them into their own unique and desired state of mind to have a pre-shot routine which puts their body and mind into the place where they have a high probability of hitting the desired golf shot. They are putting the odds of success in their favor.

Dads and Moms, sons and daughters, look at these professional golfers and try some of their routines. They work for pros and can work for junior golfers as well. Just try some things on the driving range: waggles, shortened takeaways, a shoulder shake/shrug to relax shoulders, arms and hands or create your own unique drill. Maybe just slightly pick each foot up separately to relax your feet and let them better feel the weight distribution and ground underneath.

This is great fun. Set the DVR. See you on #1 tee… Sam

Junior Golf: Start A Routine

imageIn this Wednesday Waggle we are considering starting a routine. Depending on the skill level of your junior golfer, this routine can be very simple or a little bit more sophisticated. (Jason Duffner photo golfdigest.com)

What is a routine? What is it composed of? Why is it important? Great Questions! A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed, a fixed program. A routine can have few or many parts, depending on the situation. A routine is important because it gives structure, discipline and confidence to our endeavors. A routine is part of and also a result of our training. It helps athletes perform well during competition and is a major aide for taking the game to a winning level. It is absolutely essential. Good routines help lead toward small wins, which lead to more small wins which ultimately lead to the belief that bigger wins are possible.

Every professional golfer has routines, all-day routines, pre-shot routines, driving range routines and more. For now, let’s keep it simple.

Pre-shot routines: this is perhaps the most-used routine since it occurs every time your son swings a golf club. Higher skill levels will have a more detailed pre-shot routine than beginners. An easy to remember pre-shot routine for beginner level junior golfers might be: stand behind the ball and see/imagine/visualize where you want it to stop. If you are putting, it would be stopping in the hole, for instance. Then have your son address the ball, exhale about half of his breath, and swing. This is simple. Nothing to think about. Just let some air out and swing the club after you “see” where you want it to stop.image

You will see a fan make a noise as a pro golfer is getting ready to hit a shot or putt. The golfer, if he is not beyond the stopping point of his stroke/swing, will stop in mid-swing, walk away, reset and begin his pre-shot routine all over again, yes, from the start. That’s how important it is. (photo peerlessgolf.ca)

Get a routine going for your son. Make sure he repeats the routine on every shot, on the range, putting green and during a round. It will lead to lower scores.

See you on #1 tee…with a great pre-shot routine… Sam

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