Archive for June, 2016

Junior Golf: More Championship Thoughts

In this Wednesday Waggle let’s spend a little more time of the way champions think. These are valuable lessons from highly successful athletes.img_0102-1

The mental game or the mindset of a player, coach or team is critical to performing at a high level. In fact most elite athletes will tell you that they wish they had started working on their mental game earlier than they consciously did. The consensus is that the physical part of the game is easier to master than the mental part. We can all see this play out in every sport. (Dufner photo golfdigest.com)

Early in the UT/USC National Championship Game, UT’s Aaron Ross dropped a punt and USC recovered the ball on the Texas side of the field. To paraphrase UT head coach Mack Brown,
“Aaron was the only 1 mad on our sideline because all the rest of us knew what a great player Aaron was and that he wouldn’t do that again.” Wow, what great confidence by teammates and coaches! Having this level of confidence allows everyone involved to focus on what’s important, as in the next play and winning the game. It keeps everybody as calm as is possible in such circumstances. When your daughter hits a poor shot, how does she react? Please encourage her and help her build her confidence so that when she has an undesirable result on the golf course, she can recover and get back to playing her normal game.

As the halftime break was ending and UT was getting ready to go back out on the field, 1 of the offensive linemen gave a brief and enthusiastic rah rah speech. Then Coach Brown uttered his own final words to the team, and I’ll paraphrase his brief statement, “OK, let’s go win this game!” What a classic speech of confidence in his team! They were leading and had 30 minutes of football left and if they played as good as they were capable of they would be National Champions. The team and coaches knew they were good enough. This was the perfect time to reinforce their level of confidence with a few calm and choice words. If Mack had yelled and screamed at the team or thrown things, it would have appeared as as lack of confidence or panic to the players. (photo from google.com)image

Do you remain calm or do you show signs of stress or panic with your girl? Does your daughter believe that you have confidence in her and her abilities on the golf course? If not, Dad and Mom, it’s time to change your tune! Encourage her during practice with words like, “you can hit that shot, chip it in, make that putt, you know how to do that, you’re good enough and of course, I love you.” Our youngsters are fragile creatures who do not want to disappoint their parents. A smile, a thumbs up and an I love you are what your junior golfer needs more than anything else.

Calm and confidence are 2 traits that can vanish quickly during the heat of competition. A couple of bad holes and all of a sudden your daughter doesn’t even think she can hit her golf ball. Some days she’ll recover and sometimes she may not, but that’s golf and that’s life. It’s not how you react to something, it’s how you respond. There’s a big difference.

Tons of excellent golf books and sports psychology books are for sale all over the web. Or look up some world champions and see how they prepared for competition. I suggest you only look at players who finished 1st at least once at the highest level of competition in their sport. Read some of Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus’s quotes or any of the golf legends, male or female. Their insights are spectacular and immediately useful. Help your daughter build up her confidence and the calm that, hopefully, goes along with it.

See you on #1 tee looking calm and confident… Sam

Junior Golf: A Championship Mentality

In today’s Monday Mulligan we will take a look at how champions think and act. It is different from how 2nd place and below approach competition. ( image jennleforge.com)img_0135

As an alum of UT, The University of Texas at Austin, I enjoy following UT sports, especially football. So 1 of the most exhilarating times of my life was watching the 2005 National Championship game against USC, The University of Southern California. I just finished watching a most interesting and insightful show on The Longhorn Network, called Longhorn Legends on the Couch. It featured 6 prominent participants from this game: head football coach Mack Brown, quarterback Vince Young, tight end David Thomas, offensive lineman Kasey Studdard and defensive backs Michael Huff and Aaron Ross.

Let me briefly introduce to these guys. Mack Brown-UT head coach who had a bunch of winning teams, Vince Young-IMHO the most exciting player ever in college football with 837 yards of total offense in 2 consecutive Rose Bowl wins, David Thomas-UT all-time leader in catches for tight ends and a Super Bowl Champion with New Orleans, Kasey Studdard-a great offensive lineman in college and the NFL, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross-both Thorpe Award winners as the best defensive back in college football and Ross also has 2 Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. High achievers, no doubt!

As I thoroughly listened and enjoyed the nearly 3-hour commentary along with the broadcast of every play in the game, several recurring themes appeared. In no particular order: David Thomas 1st brought up how Mad Dog (UT strength & conditioning coach Jeff Madden) always had them running the stadium, running for the 4th quarter. The result in Thomas’ own words, “We never got tired during a game!” Later it was reinforced more than once, that Vince Young never got tired and rarely broke out in a sweat during a game. He was always faster than everybody else at the end of the game! Please note he was pretty much faster than everyone else during the whole game. FYI being in great shape is as important at the end of a golf game as it is in football! Conditioning counts!

2nd thought: everyone knew it was a National Championship game, but they refused to obsess over that, instead focusing on it’s still just a football game and let’s just play the way we know we can play. We’re good enough to win this game, so let’s go do it! Again, focusing on process rather than outcome. If the process is good, the desired outcome will follow. Same with golf!

Coach Brown mentioned about VY: “Vince, 1 of the best things about your game was your ability to keep your eyes downfield while you were moving around, looking for a receiver or where to run.” This is extremely tough folks and only the most gifted players can pull this off because to look downfield means you also must be aware of what’s coming at you that you can’t see. Scary stuff! In golf the equivalent is looking for the safe zone where you want your next shot to end up, seeing the whole picture then focusing only on the safe zone when you visualize the shot.

Last, for today at least, let’s talk about confidence. Both teams were undefeated and were accustomed to winning. Both were loaded with great athletes. Here’s where great coaching showed up. In the pre-game preparation, the Longhorn coaches knew this would be a tough game and they told the defense that they would have to make a big stop late in the game in order for UT to win. When you initiate that mindset in advance, it prepares the player for a positive result. Texas scored to make it within 5 points, trailing 38-33 with 3:58 on the clock. As UT kicked off, Vince Young was going to each defensive player telling them, “1stop, just 1 stop and we’ll win the game!” You see VY believed he could score on every play from anywhere on the field. He was always calm and unflappable, a very desirable leadership skill.

On a 4th down with 2 yards to go, USC gave the ball to the previously unstoppable LenDale White and yes UT’s defense rose to their expectation of making a big stop and tackled him short of the 1st down. UT got ball on their own 44-yard line with 2:09 to play. You could see it on the coaches, players and fans of USC, they knew they had lost the game. They had not stopped Vince Young to this point and could not stop him now. On a 4th down and 5 from the 9-yard line, VY ran the ball in, untouched, to take a 1-point lead. UT went for a 2-point conversion and made it. Final score UT 41 USC 38. Vince Young scoring the winning touchdown, photo courtesy of thecomeback.com.image

So where is your junior golfer’s mind? Is he calm and unflappable? Well that’s tough at any age. Does he see the safe zone or the unsafe zones? Please help him see only the safe zones. What are his expectations? Does he expect to win? Does he expect to have a few big numbers on his scorecard? Does he have enough golf conditioning to be able to perform well the last few holes of a tournament? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I hope you will have them soon. Your junior golfer’s expectations may be very different from yours. Getting together on the same page is important.

See you on #1 tee expecting to play well… Sam

Junior Golf: Sometimes It’s Tough

In this Friday Flop Shot we will look at the times it is tough being the parent of an athlete, particularly the parent of a junior golfer. There are an infinite number of ways to deal with your own emotions when you are watching your son during a tournament. Let’s talk about some things for parents to do that are helpful to your child’s success.img_0106-1

It’s easy when your son is playing well. We, parents, are all smiles and thumbs up. But what is your reaction when he triple-bogies the 1st hole? Do you show some negative body language, turn away, drop your head, throw your hands up or mutter something uncomplimentary? Here’s where it is particularly tough for parents because we are human and we want our kids to do well. Your son sees and hears everything you do. The last thing he wants is to disappoint you and he will surely glance your way after a good shot as well as after a poor shot. Parents, we must BE the parents and in spite of how our heartstrings are being shredded by a bad hole or 2 we must be the ones who continue to smile and give a thumbs up to our youngsters who are in the midst of some poor shots. Whatever it takes, laser this into your brain! Folks, we are our kiddos #1 fans and support system. Act like it! (photo offcoursegolf.com)

This isn’t his last golf tournament so he will have plenty of chances to shoot some good scores. Relax and enjoy the time you have been given to be with your young golfer on a beautiful golf course. Set the example for other parents and fans. As you attend more and more tournaments, you will see shocking behavior from other parents, not in every event, but a few times each year. Frankly, once S3 started playing in college tournaments, I thought that the college parents we were around for 4 enjoyable years were the most pleasant, relaxed, knowledgeable and respectful parents and fans we had ever seen. Great atmosphere and met some super people!image

Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes seeing someone else act up to perhaps enable us to see what we might look like when we exhibit an undesirable act during a round. I’ll always remember when S3 was dealing with some intermittent anger issues. Then in a tournament he watched another guy go ballistic with his anger, I’m talking scary crazy here, and S3 said, “Wow, Dad, that was horrible! Is that how I look? I don’t want to be like that.” That 1 example from a peer made the point that all my words could not. Amazing! Here I am with S3 on #15 on the beautiful Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida.

See you on #1 tee in a good mood… Sam

Junior Golf: Overcoming Adversity

In today’s Wednesday Waggle we will take a look at several of the unexpected challenges that can appear during a golf tournament. Your daughter will undoubtedly face some of these issues during her junior golf career and the sooner you prepare her for them, the better. (Dufner photo golfdigest.com)img_0102-1

Let’s use Dustin Johnson for a great example. It is generally recognized among the PGA Tour players that Dustin is 1 of the most talented athletes, if not the most gifted athletically, among them and it was only a matter of when, not if, he won his 1st major. And Dustin did just that by winning the men’s U.S. Open Championship this past week at Oakmont Country Club, regarded by some folks as the hardest golf course in the world.

His path in majors has been very rough. In 2010 he had the 3rd round lead in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and shot a final round 82. In the 2010 PGA Championship he appeared to have tied for 1st but was assessed a 2-stroke penalty after completing his round and before the playoff, for grounding his club in a bunker, and was knocked out of contention. In the 2015 U.S. Open he 3-putted the final hole to lose to Jordan Spieth by 1 stroke. Even in his round last Sunday he was penalized after the round for causing his ball to move, but he had a big enough lead over 2nd place that this penalty did not affect his position. Additionally, Dustin took some time off from the tour in 2014 for personal reasons, to get his life back on track.

Theses are tough situations, they are part of life. DJ has showed wonderful resiliency in overcoming these situations. Great stuff! (DJ photo ftw.usatoday.com)

USP PGA: THE MASTERS - PAR 3 CONTEST S GLF USA GA

Apr 6, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Dustin Johnson with Paulina Gretzky on the 4th green during the Par 3 Contest prior to the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-265174 ORIG FILE ID: 20160406_jla_mm1_216.jpg

Your daughter will have some penalty strokes, 3-putts and horrible rounds, including horrible final rounds after being in the lead. How on earth do you help prepare her for this? 1st, make sure you tell her your love for her is unconditional, it is not based on her scorecard. 2nd, help her get familiar with the rules. And encourage her to pay strict attention to the announcing of local rules/conditions at the player’s gathering before the start of a tournament. Remind her that it is, more often than not, allowable to play 2 balls when you cannot find a rules official. Tell her that there will be days when her best golf game disappears and cannot be found. It’s OK. Tell her, “I love you very much!”

Understanding how tough it is to play well all the time, avoid 3-putts and know the rules will help your girl be able to deal with the rough spots as they occur. Oh, they will still be difficult, but they are a reflection of life. And it’s her proper response that defines her, not the 3-putt. Please remember that Linda and I are not sports psychologists. We are parents passing along things we have learned from our son’s successful junior golf and college golf experiences.

See you on #1 tee looking resilient… Sam

Junior Golf: Patience And Safety

In this Friday Flop Shot we’re looking at 2 words that are critical to our junior golfer’s enjoyment of this wonderful game, but we don’t often hear very much about them.image

Yesterday’s 1st round of the U.S.Open provided the pros with multiple opportunities to refamiliarize themselves with these words, patience and safety. Patience is a great attribute for all aspects of life and sports is included. When does your son need to be patient? There are several scenarios common to golf tournaments. Let’s look at 1. (photo offcoursegolf.com)

S3 played some junior events on a course here in San Antonio that had a tough par 3 with heavy woods on both sides of the fairway and around the green. So what, you say? Well it was common to have 3 or 4 groups stacked up on this tee box because so many kids were searching everywhere for balls plus par 3’s are notorious for getting backed up in certain situations and this is 1 of them. So your son must find his best way to deal with long delays. We always encouraged S3 to relax, hydrate and eat a few bites while staying somewhat in the reality that he was still playing in a golf tournament. And he was to loosen up after sitting around for sometimes 30 minutes. It doesn’t take long for your youngster’s muscles to stiffen up.

Patience is tough even for the pros. Once they get in their game groove they like to keep it going, particularly if they are playing well. And your son likely feels the same way. Stretching and warming up again, after a delay, are important for your son to resume play and to play well.

So yesterday was a tough day at Oakmont as there were 3 rain delays. Dangerous storms with lightning kept forming and passing through. Even though pros are pros and they are used to these things, they are still an additional mental and physical test. Lightning is serious and golfers, spectators and staff need to quickly get to shelter. Safety is #1 and Paul Azinger and Brad Faxon strongly stressed this point a lot during the Fox TV coverage. Please make your son aware that lightning is his enemy on the golf course and instruct him on proper ways to keep himself safe. (pgatour.com)img_0369

Combining patience and safety would be when the pros got off the course, because of lightning in the area, after marking their ball and then once the storm had passed, maybe after as much as a couple of hours, they went back out to resume play. Both announcers agreed that the last shot they wanted upon resuming play was a 5-foot putt. A full swing shot was much preferred, just to release some of the pent up anxiety and get back in their groove. So you see how the anxiety level is increased or decreased by the 1st shot the pro is facing after a delay, wow!

See you on #1 tee looking patient and no storms around… Sam

Junior Golf: The U. S. Open

In today’s Wednesday Waggle we will look at the 2nd men’s major tournament of 2016 which starts tomorrow. This is often referred to as The United States National Championship. We are talking about, of course, the men’s U.S. Open Golf Championship. (photo golfdigest.com)img_0102

Oakmont Country Club Western Pennsylvania is the site and this course is regarded as the toughest course that PGA players have ever competed on. So what is an Open event? It’s pretty straightforward as the event is open to professionals and amateurs as long as they meet the requirements. Playing in a U.S. Open is a big deal, a dream for any serious golfer. Ways to qualify include various rankings in the PGA Tour, special amateur wins and certain international wins. There are also qualifiers where a GHIN (golf handicap index) of 1.4 or less enables you to submit your entry a. The good news is that this largest field in golf, 156 entries, has 80 players from sectional qualifiers. This is great stuff, but keep in mind that more than 10,000 guys enter the sectionals to go after these 80 available spots. You must play great to earn a spot in the qualifiers.

Now, if your young man makes it to the actual tournament the fun really begins. Phil Mickelson said that Oakmont is probably the toughest course the PGA has ever played. Folks, that’s an intimidating statement! The greens are faster than any the pros have seen. The fairways have a bunch of slope, so keeping a tee shot in play is very difficult. The 1st cut of the rough is moderate, read-perhaps a chance to hit the green and the 2nd cut is just brutal leaving the bat players in the world virtually no chance of getting on the green. The traps have a huge amount of new soft sand added to them, so hitting the ball from a trap is more of an advancing shot, rather than potential scoring shot. Oh, and the greens have tremendous undulations. (photo ococean.com)image

To be fair, the USGA intends for this event to be the most mentally and physically demanding golf event anywhere. And they accomplish it! It is certainly possible for them to set up the course as a fair, albeit very tough test and hopefully this is what is done. For example, have you ever heard the term, U. S. Open rough? Usually this refers to long, deep and difficult to sometimes find and play the ball out of and it’s a tradition at this tournament. Well, that’s what you’ll see if a ball gets into the 2nd cut this week at Oakmont.

TV coverage is on Fox and after their disastrous broadcasting last year, they have upped their announcing crew by adding Paul Azinger, who has a great golf IQ and is quite knowledgeable and interesting to listen to. I’m excited to hear him as Paul always gives genuine golf nuggets that should be written down or at least noted. So tomorrow’s TV runs from 9am-4pm, central time on FS1, same on Friday, then at 4pm those days it switches to regular Fox until 7pm. Saturday and Sunday it’s 10am-6pm, central time, all on your regular Fox channel. Set those Tivos because this will be great stuff! And playoffs in the U. S. Open are 18-holes played the next day following completion of the standard 72-holes, Monday.

See you on #1 tee looking ready for tough rough… Sam

Junior Golf: Let’s Sweat

In this Monday Mulligan we are going to embrace summer and the heat and humidity that many of us will be enjoying for the next few months. Being an athlete means playing your sport in the conditions at hand as long as the game can be properly played and participants and spectators are safe.”

If you or your daughter tends to make statements like, “Wow, it’s going to be hot today!”, or something similar, Linda and I recommend you engage in a change of attitude. Your daughter will play in many more events that are too hot, too cold or too rainy, than she will when it’s 75 degrees and low humidity. Accept it and learn how to deal with it, sooner, rather than later. (photo jennleforge.com)

Today we’re talking about sweat, the act of sweating. This is a healthy function helping with the body’s temperature regulation, the elimination of toxins and pollutants and removing the grit and grime that causes pimples. Hey is your junior golfer ready to go sweat now? Funny stuff!

You can surely see the LPGA and PGA players with wet shirts, skirts and pants. They sweat just like your junior golfer. But they know how to deal with all that moisture.

How does sweat impact you daughter’s ability to play well? 2 things come immediately to mind: 1st, she must have dry hands to properly grip and swing the club. Have at least 2 dry towels for wiping off hands, arms and face.And wear a glove on the weak hand-read right handed golfers wear a glove on the left hand. Take the glove off in between shots and when putting. Keep at least 2 spare dry gloves in the golf bag and again have 2 or more dry towels to wipe off with. 2nd, sweat must be kept from running down her forehead into her eyes. Did you ever wonder why so many pros wear visors, caps or hats? Sure fashion and endorsements are a part of it, but keeping the sweat and sun out of their eyes is the real reason, oh yeah and the endorsement money haha! (Tiger photo free republic.com)image

S3 has always had a slight nervousness about sweaty-butt syndrome. This is, of course, when his backside is particularly wet on a hot and humid day. I think he quit thinking about it as much once it became clear to him that white underwear was the only option when wearing those beautiful white golf pants!

Your daughter is going to get sweaty on the golf course. Plan ahead with her clothing choices. The new breathable and wicking fabrics are wonderful. We no longer buy cotton golf shirts or underwear. Please educate yourself and your girl on the advances in sports clothing and the new fabrics that provide for a very comfortable time on the golf course.

See you on #1 tee, no sweat… Sam

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