All truth passes through three stages. First, it ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident
– Arthur Schopenhauer
One of my New Year’s resolutions (that I didn’t mention in my recent post) was to de-clutter my life. You know, get rid of 50 years of “stuff” that has accumulated in my closets, under my bed and in the file drawers of my office. Sometimes I feel like the clutter in my personal life reflects the buildup of junk in my mind. It feels good to start the year with a clean slate – and some clarity.
In one of my closets, I found four boxes full of VHS tapes dating back to 1985, my freshman year in college, nine years before I met Moe. I didn’t want to lose the memories, so I decided to digitize all of the videos and make computer files out of them. This means I had to go through the videos and watch them, or at least scan the content, before copying them.
I found a video of golf team parties from my college days at the University of Oklahoma where we were auctioned by the senior players on the team and forced to sleep-walk through 36 holes the next day after an all-nighter. I found myself laughing at the videos and calling my wife into my office every 5 minutes to see if she could recognize the 135-pound version of me.
Most of the tapes were recordings of practice sessions, many of them with my coaches and teammates. In 1991, the year I turned pro and played on the Asian PGA Tour, I moved to Dallas Texas and started working with Hank Haney who I still consider one of the best teachers in the game. I had dozens of videos of Hank’s instruction. I even have a video of the very first lesson he gave me. At the time Hank was teaching quite a few well-known players including Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Tommy Armour III and dozens of other notable tour winners.
I remember the first lesson well. It was my first “real” instruction from an excellent teacher. The experience lasted almost two hours. Hank was patient for most of the video but after a while, he became frustrated that I couldn’t do what he was asking me to do. To be honest, by the end of the video I was frustrated with me too. I kept telling my wife is calling her into my office for the tenth time, “Look at Hank, he’s doing his best to teach me, but I just can’t-do what he’s telling me – geez, what the heck is wrong with me?”
This lesson was the beginning of a three-year “build a swing” odyssey with Hank. Three years of sometimes hitting 1000 balls per day for weeks straight. I was determined to make a great swing. These were twenty-four hours, hands bleeding, eat, drink, sleep and dream about my golf swing days and nights. Here is a picture of Hank working on my downswing. It’s hard not to laugh at my Beatles haircut.
I watched and recorded at least 100 videos of my practice sessions. Each video is chronologically detailing Hank’s instruction and my “new” swing moves and techniques. Every other day for three years was a new swing thought or idea. One day it was lower my hands. The next day stands closer to the ball, then the next day lift my hands and stand farther from the ball. If I hooked it, I was told to move the trail hand more on top to open the face. If I sliced it, move the hand more to the right and close the face.
In three years I had built a swing that, on the one hand, was “technically right” according to Hank, was completely ineffective. I had a swing that “looked good on video” but was so difficult to repeat and maintain it lacked the most important quality of all – consistency.
In 1993 after hitting hundreds of thousands of golf balls and countless dollars of instruction I was frustrated and confused and completely out of money. My pro sponsors had long since bailed out. I was now 27 years old and broke. My obsession with building a perfect golf swing had failed. I had crapped out rolling the dice on the best instructor on the PGA Tour.
I had no idea what I was going to do. All I knew was that I couldn’t play golf anymore. It was too frustrating and too confusing. I am emotionally broken as well. I didn’t understand how I could work so hard at something and do “all of the right things” and end up in the common water hazard.
So with nowhere to turn, I did what any 27-year-old college educated golf professional would do. I quit golf and took a bartending job at Big Fat Mikes bar near downtown Dallas to make ends meet while I contemplated my next move.
(continued on next blog)