Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Golfing Epistle - Keep It Simple


There is an old adage "Keep It Simple" and I can't help but think that the life of a professional woman golfer gets more complicated by the minute.  This complexity has to have an impact on their game.

Take the example of our New Zealand golfing prodigy Lydia Ko.  Her great gift was apparent at a young age and she has not disappointed with her rise in the women's game -  even reaching number one in just her second year on the LPGA circuit.

Being number one in anything, particularly sport, is both a blessing and a curse.  The positive side is the increasing queue of prospective sponsors & product endorsements. The negative being the increase demands on time and pressure to maintain the top spot.

When Lydia reached the pinnacle of her sport former World #1 Stacy Lewis sent a warning about the pressure that comes with the ranking.  Lewis should know as she too faced the challenge.  


In a 2013 Golf Channel article she is quoted as saying “I love having that pressure.”  As the writer wisely noted at the time, "Others have made similar brash statements, only to find later that the love doesn’t continue as the pressure grows. Now it’s her turn."

It is no coincidence that much as Lydia and we all reveled in her ascension, her game eventually started to falter.  I suspect even her very supportive parents would have wished that this particular No.1 accolade arrived a little later in her career.  But winning tournaments means an inevitable rise up the Rolex Rankings and successful Lydia Ko has certainly been.

On top of the above are other factors that influence how any professional golfer plays on the day.


Leaving well alone

Take for example coaching, or coach swapping to be more precise.  Some LPGA players have had more coaches than I've had hot dinners!  A slight exaggeration perhaps but you get my drift.

The swing may well be 'the thing' but constant tinkering does not necessarily yield results.  You don't have to look to far to see players who have suffered from over-coaching and have lost confidence in their own natural abilities.

Not that coaches are bad news; they are important to the game.  But sometimes I suspect that coaches need players more than players need coaches.  A good sport coach in any code provides an impartial and critical pair of eyes.

Sports psychologists are another species that I would give a wide berth unless 'needs must'.


Injuries

While not officially a contact sport, a golfer's body goes through stresses and strains that we mere mortals have never had to endure. Those tall in stature may have an advantage in swinging their clubs but conversely they also place greater pressure on their joints and muscles.

While rugby players often retire as beat-up crocks, golfers can also suffer long term medical problems; while they are playing and in their sporting afterlife. One need look no further than the elegant play of Michelle Wie who has battled on through the 2015 season despite a rash of injuries that have thwarted any serious comeback.


The joy of travel

I choose this sub heading advisedly.  As one who did a lot of long haul travel in his career I know the frustrations of constant travel and hotel accommodation.  Lost luggage and (worse still) severely damaged gear arriving on the conveyor belt are constant threats.

Jet lag and congested airport concourses don't help much either.  On the plus side there is the joy of discovering a new culture; the people, food and customs.  But after visiting the same countries each year this thrill of discovery soon palls.  The way around it I found was to take a camera and record experiences in a blog.


Major focus

Why is people keeping saying that a golfer hasn't really succeeded in the sport if they haven't won a Major?  In my book a player has succeeded if they win any tournaments and are constantly in the top ten rankings.

The preoccupation with 'winning majors' is really a sideshow in a sportsperson's career.  It will happen when it happens, and I suspect that young Lydia Ko is finally coming to that realisation. At least I certainly hope she is.

Media Mayhem

And finally I would suggest that the most successful golfers are ones who disregard what the media says about them.  The media never give up.  They have column centimeters and webpages to fill.   Reading stuff others write about you can add extra pressure that no player needs.

Even as I write this columnists are delivering their player expectations.  For example:

"A victory at Turnberry or in the Evian Championship next month would make Ko the youngest winner of an LPGA major, which would be fitting given her teenage success"

My advice to Lydia. Do your own thing.  You are at your best when you enjoy what you do without the expectations of others.  In fact  this advice could apply to anyone on the LPGA circuit and good luck to them all.

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