Beautiful Day at Pebble Beach
Out of sheer desperation, I decided to go on a solo quest to find out if there was one common denominator for my radical performance record as it relates to the game of golf. I discovered the mental side of the game has as much bearing on a golfers’ success as their physical performance. I also discovered that all players that experience failure have one thing in common–they have all visited the “MumbleShed”. It’s the place where fear, doubt, indecision, anxiety, and pending desperation flourish to negatively effect one’s physical performance. You can be in it in the blink of a single swing or thought. No one is immune from the “Shed”.
It’s amazing how everyone on the planet has an intimate relationship with failure. People can immediately relate to unanticipated poor results, and even flat out failure, in all sorts of circumstances that occur on a daily basis. But as a rule, most people do not like to discuss their failures in public or in private, and some even try to convince themselves that they never happened. Golfers are no different. But I learned that to run and hide from these negative circumstances is not the way to improve your golf game. I realized that being in the MumbleShed by yourself is a hellish place, but being in there with others that recognize the importance of acknowledging failure in order to improve is a much more positive place. So think of it as a therapeutic clubhouse where you can have some fun sharing your insecurities about your golf game with friends that are right there with you. You will be surprised how sharing your MumbleShed moments will get that gorilla off your back, and get you back on the road to game improvement.
As the architect of the MumbleShed, I have a few thousand pages documenting my time there. I wanted to share one of my darkest moments which occurred at the WalMart Pebble Beach Pro-Am. I received a sponsor’s exemption from WalMart as they sold my instructional dvds in their stores. It was important that I played well. Naturally, I was quite nervous but trying hard to have a super positive mindset.
I went off on the back nine with former PGA Champion John Mahaffe and two other tour professionals on the 10th hole, a 460 yard par 4 with the Pacific ocean running the entire right side. My normal shot pattern is straight or left to right, so I was a little concerned about going right. All three pro’s in my group hit nice drives, and I was last to hit. Deep breath, thousand one, thousand two. I nuked it about 350 yards right down the left side of the fairway.
Feeling relieved and confident, I couldn’t wait to get to my ball, which was 80 yards ahead of the group, and knock it close for birdie. I had a perfect lie, about 120 yards into a slight right to left breeze coming off the ocean. Perfect knock down pitching wedge, I thought. Great lie, perfect yardage, great visual image of the shot. Thousand one, thousand two, and I proceed to shank it over the cliff down on the beach by the ocean. In the last 20 years, I do not ever remember shanking a ball. As I was scaling down the cliff to try and find my ball, I was frozen in fear wondering what was going to happen the rest of my round. I told my caddie, Pat Kennedy, “I don’t know if I can break 100.” I was locked in the shed, in the blink of one swing.
It was a pathetic, seemingly helpless situation that felt like I was naked at the 50 yard line of the Super Bowl and everyone was laughing at me. As I was floundering around on the beach, all of a sudden my real-life personal problems flooded my mind. “What was I doing playing in this major tour event?” I had not played in a tournament in 4 years, I was right in the middle of going through a divorce after 17 years of marriage, I had to borrow money to play in the tournament, I am a Type II diabetic with my blood sugars running 320-400, and worst of all, I could feel the tournament experience my playing partners possessed….and I did not. Not only was I in the MumbleShed, I qualified for permanent residency in the basement wearing a straight jacket.
My accomplishments for the week included the scoring record for the event (the highest), and only losing to Arnold Palmer by one stroke even though he was 78 and learned he had prostate cancer a couple of weeks later. No matter how good or how bad, you have to learn from every life experience. I learned that it takes a special person to keep score for a living, so be patient with yourself if you have an interest in competing in tournament golf. I made it to the banquet and finished the event and did not WD, as I had great appreciation for my sponsors and tournament host. I also realized the importance of both mental and physical preparation. This great game is hard enough when we are in the finest of form, so set reasonable expectations in light of your current practice and personal schedules.
Most of all, I always remind myself to enjoy every second I get to spend of the golf course.