For those that might have been engrossed in the football playoffs on Sunday, you missed another great playoff – this one on the PGA Tour. Jhonattan Vegas won a three-man playoff, including winning on the second playoff hole after hitting a ball into the water!
There’s obviously a great lesson in there about patience and persistence but this week’s lesson learned deals more with the Tour stop this week, not the end result. The Bob Hope Classic is one of the tournaments on the PGA Tour that incorporates four rounds of celebrities and amateurs being paired with the Touring professionals. (The final round of the five-round tournament is Tour players only.)
From having played in numerous pro-ams in my life, including playing in this very tournament (1997), I can tell you that part of the success you’ll find during the week is how you deal with the disruption of your ideal pace of play. When you are playing with players (or behind players) that have a large variance in ability, your pace of play is going to change – whether it’s a PGA Tour pro-am or your Saturday morning round at your club.
To paraphrase an old George Carlin line whenever people talk about pace of play, anyone who plays faster than you is a maniac and anyone who plays slower than you is an idiot. As ridiculous (and funny) as the notion is, I – and probably every Head Professional, Director of Golf in America – deal with this every day.
Every player has an “ideal pace” for them. And you are invariably going to be paired with players at times that are faster or slower than you, and we’ve all been behind groups that seem to take forever or on a course where it seems play backs up on every hole.
Does this mean your round is doomed? Absolutely not – unless you let it become that way.
When our ideal pace of play is interrupted, there are two things that I always stress: to myself, my students and/or the members at my club.
1.) Stick to your pre-shot routine. Whether you have to wait ten seconds or ten minutes, be going through your preshot routine, you’ll have focus and confidence in your shot. This keeps distractions and bad thoughts away. You’ll be surprised how effective a pre-shot routine is for keeping your game sharp in between swings.
2.) Keep your attitude and perspective positive. You’re on a golf course. You’re probably with friends. This is fun! Even when you’re not actually hitting a shot, you can find constructive ways to fill the time between shots. If you give in to impatience, anger or annoyance, the results will show in your hurried and angry swing. This rarely means something for your score.
So to the Tour players that had to alter their ideal pace to play with amateurs this week, thank you for showing us all how to excel when patience was at a premium. And for the amateur golfers that watched this week, I hope you were able to learn that great golf is still quite possible when patience is part of the round.
Chip Sullivan is the General Manager and PGA Director of Golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, Virginia. Sullivan has played on the PGA Tour and was the 2007 PGA Professional National Champion.