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Passion for the game

To what lengths are you willing to go to be great?

by Jamie Mulligan, PGAPublished: May, 2012

To be great at anything there has to be passion at the core.

It’s tough to make someone love something. Trying to make someone be in love with the game when there is no passion is impossible. If there is no spark, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Substitute any activity and the results will be the same. You can plant a kid in front of a piano, but if he doesn’t love it, he is never going going to play well.

It’s no different with golf. You can’t make someone love the game.

We have a mantra that we repeat with all of our players: If you love the game, you have a chance to be great at it. If you like the game, you have a chance to be pretty good at it, and if you feel fair-to-middling about the game, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. We have seen talented players elevate their success, their game, by merely being passionate about the pursuit of excellence.

It’s easy for golf coaches to lose sight of the fact that we too have to be in love with the game to do our jobs well.

Early in my career, I took 10 years to follow the tour and watch the best players in the world. Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Amy Alcott, Nick Faldo - I watched them all in the prime of their careers. I refer to the time as earning my graduate degree in advanced golf. It was a conscious decision to do that to understand how they worked, what the very best players do in order to be great.

Through the process, I learned that I had a passion for teaching. I wanted to use every ounce of information I gathered during that time to help the players I was working with improve.

Unfortunately in the “real” world, everything is about business, and business tends to be about money. Money can kill the love part of any pursuit whether it’s of music, art, architecture or athletics. 

Sure, players can stress over missed cuts and lost opportunities. Worse, the pressure to perform and any failure to meet expectations can drain the passion from (and for) the game. It’s no different for instructors.

The desire to stand out and be recognized as a teacher or coach can be overwhelming. Countless television shows, magazines, websites and blog outlets are looking for any interesting take and or controversial comment to fill the never-ending need for content. With so many temptations and potential distractions, instructors have to decide whether they are in the game to make players better or simply to gain fame or notoriety from the players with whom they share a coaching relationship.

When you break it down to its essence, the game is about a square club and a round ball, and that’s it.

Understanding what makes each player tick in order to get that player to play at his or her optimum level takes dedication and commitment on behalf of both player and coach.


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