Picture: 123RF/DEKLOFENAK
Picture: 123RF/DEKLOFENAK

In my 20-plus years on the golf circuit, I have noticed that golfers — professional and amateur — often get down on themselves on the golf course. And if I had banked five bucks every time I heard a pro say he was packing it in after a poor round during my decade on the Sunshine Tour, I’d be writing this week’s blog from a lounger on a beach in the Caribbean.

The reality is all golfers get bad breaks — some simply choose to complain about them more than others. In my observation, it’s those who ask “what now” as opposed to “why me” that seem to bounce back time and time again.

Sometimes, all it takes is the man on the bag.

One of SA’s former greats, Fulton Allem, was playing in a PGA Tour event in the US and things were not going his way. After one particular bad shot, Allem turned to his caddie and said: “Give me something to break.” The caddie responded: “How about we start with par …”

Allem cracked up, laughed himself into a better mood and that was all it took to turn his game around.

For most golfers, a post-mortem at the 19th hole does the trick. Venting their disappointment or disgust with fellow players or partners does the trick. They push past the bad breaks and are ready to tee off the next day.

But it’s those guys who just cannot let go of that one bad drive or that unfortunate lip-out on 18 that cost them a cut that the game ends up losing to the “bad-luck cycle”.

Guys who don’t understand that when you constantly think you’re unlucky, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the question begs, how do we obliterate the “bad-luck cycle”?

For those athletes already at an advanced level of the game, we are fortunate that SA is blessed with an abundance of talented and gifted sports psychologists who have guided athletes across all sporting codes to the top echelons of sport.

More importantly, there is thankfully no longer any kind of stigma attached to consulting a sports psychologist … in fact, these head doctors are now in high demand. And that’s great news for the older members of the “bad-luck crew” who want to turn the tide.

I believe we need to start by perpetuating a culture of personal responsibility with the youth. Parents have the most profound influence on their kids. The majority of parents are well-intentioned and do right by their kids, but, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise kids. I believe everyone involved — parents, coaches, unions, federations — all have to hold hands and sing from the same hymn sheet to eradicate the bad-luck excuse.

When you take personal responsibility, the ball is in your court, and this mantra needs to become entrenched as the driving force in the sport arena.

Teach kids to look at their own performances for insight and a chance to improve, and they will stop blaming their performances on bad luck.

Owning it has an immense knock-on effect.

Taking responsibility focuses you on your strengths, rather than misfortune. Focusing on your strengths keeps you motivated to make your own breaks rather than passively waiting for an opportunity to come your way.

It helps to see what you can do right now to turn things around, instead of getting stuck on what has already happened.

Taking responsibility helps you to prepare for all eventualities. When you take responsibility for your level of performance, you have the power to influence and improve your future performances, and that helps you develop the physical and mental tools to meet challenges.

Sport is universally proven as an amazing environment to help children advance.

On a physical level, it positively influences important motor functions such as fine and gross motor skills, co-ordination and balance. It strengthens muscles and builds stamina. On a mental level, sport teaches life skills and social interaction, sportsmanship, a positive body image and a sense of belonging.

Golf, in particular, inspires values such as integrity, etiquette, composure and honesty.

We live in a world where we are bombarded daily by much negativity — where children are constantly seduced to rather partake in sedentary indoor activities such as computers, online games and television. So we should all be doing our level best to lure our children outdoors and to make sure sport is a positive experience for them. And when that fire starts burning, fuel the passion by turning “bad breaks” into positive, learning experiences. 

• Stander has been involved in the golf industry from grassroots to professional level for the past 23 years and is media manager of GolfRSA.

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