Golf is a Journey – be patient (part 3.)

I admit – I’m impatient.

That doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me. It’s a personality trait that I’ve learned to temper. There were numerous experiences that taught me the importance of patience. The Colorado Open in 2000 was one of those experiences.

I held a one-shot lead going into the final round. I was in the lead group with Brian Guetz, a good player who I had played against before. I knew that he wouldn’t be easy to beat. The first hole was a medium length par 5 – not a difficult hole but that was part of the challenge.  I needed to get off to a good start to set the pace for the round. I was nervous and impatient to get the round started.

After a precarious tee shot, poor approach shot and two shaky putts which resulted in a bogey, Brian rolls in a ten footer for birdie. After holding the lead for 24 hours, in one hole, the very first hole, I find myself one shot behind.

On the second tee, my caddy Tom Tann handed me a bottle of water: “It’s ok. Take a drink. Take a breath. One shot at a time, we have a lot of golf to play”.

Tom was right. A lot can happen in a round of golf. The key is to do your best on each shot and breathe. Remember what Moe said – be imperturbable.

The underlying anecdote to impatience is trust. Trust is that place where no matter how crazy things become, you know everything is going to be ok. This can be a hard place to find. One way that I see this trust is to have a process that stabilizes my thoughts. I call it “reset.” Reset is a process I use to settle my mind down. Here is my reset process:

  1. Go to my bag – and arrange my clubs / organize myself.
  2. Take a drink of water.
  3. Breathe.
  4. Appreciate the moment.

After making a bogey on the first hole in the Colorado Open, I started appreciating the experience. I said to myself, “There is no place I would rather be than right here.” This statement made me present. It brought me into the moment.

Todd Graves Single Plane Swing
One shot at a time

I soon realized how much fun I was having. By appreciating the experience, my focus went from “What if I lose” to “This is as good as it gets.” Leading the Colorado Open in the final round was one of my greatest professional golf memories.

I loved every second of it.

This was an incredible life lesson. Our moments are precious. Now is the only moment we have. We must appreciate it because Now is as good as it gets – always.

With reluctance, I admit that I sometimes look back at my past and think “Wow, those were the good old days.” Then I realize that this moment IS the good old days too. It comes back to appreciation.

We must learn to appreciate the bad stuff too. I know this is difficult, but some of the highest lessons are the bad stuff even though at the time it seems painful. This is what happened in the final round of the Colorado Open.

I moved into a tie for the lead with Brian on the 9th hole. He hit his approach into the water. I flagged an eight iron and made birdie. We were tied for the lead until I hit my approach to twelve feet on the 15th green.

This time my mind went into the future.  Instead of staying in the moment – playing one shot at a time, I mind drifted ahead into the future. I started counting the first place check. I remember thinking about what it would feel like to hold the trophy. With my mind so far into the future, I rammed the putt 3 feet past the hole and missed the return putt coming back, three-putting for bogey.

We are all time travelers in our minds. We travel from past to future regularly. The problem is that a memory looking into the future is as miss-directed as a fast-thinking mind. Both are projecting themselves into scenarios that don’t exist. We are creating illusions producing fear and anxiety in the present moment.

The present moment is all that is relevant – always.

Moe once told me “I don’t know how to hit it badly.” What if you didn’t know how to think into the future or past? What if you could only be present? What would your experience be then?

Let’s explore that thought. (to be continued)







2 comments on “Golf is a Journey – be patient (part 3.)”
  1. Bruce Kelso says:

    We spend so much time with the physical side of the game, we can forget about the mental side, which is a huge advantage on the course. When I have a positive mental attitude with focus, I can really play. But turning it on is difficult. I’m really interested in where you’re going with this. It’s another part of the total package of long game, short game, mental game.


  2. Great article. Thanks for the reminder to remain in the moment on and off the course.



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