Learning. The Art of Improvement
We first met Sandy Cable five years ago. She had, for almost 20 years, labored, at trying to play golf. The lowest score that Sandy had ever shot was 128. Our school was going to be her last attempt at improving. Sandy had enjoyed a very successful business career in real estate and at 55 had everything, material, that one could want in life. With her son grown up and living in California, Sandy was looking for something that she could be passionate about. Given her golfing history to date, however, the chances that that would be golf; were remote, at best.
Sandy's goal was just to be able to hit the ball further and establish some fundamentals with which she could continue to improve. Sandy's teacher was Jim Samsing, Bird Golf's West Coast Director of Instruction. Jim has been a PGA professional for 30 years and although he may not be a household name, he is without peer as a teacher. One of Jim's great skills as a teacher is that he works with his students on one thing at a time. One thing. This simplistic approach is the only way that someone can genuinely improve.
Easier said than done. Human beings want it all, and they want it; now. We frequently have the opportunity to work with CEO's and major business leaders, people who are used to getting whatever they want, when they want it. They come to us to improve their game with the expectation that after a few days they will be playing at another level. For that to happen, they must understand that the golf swing is like a set of dominoes. Once one goes down they all come crashing down. As that relates to golf, one must first build a good "foundation" (grip, stance, alignment and posture). If those things are not right, then the swing will become a series of compensations to make up for the flawed fundamental.
They may spend an entire day changing a bad grip and never see the ball go where they want to. There is an art to getting that person to buy into that and to understand that they are actually improving (because their grip is now correct) when all they do is hit the ball, sideways! Great teachers are able to impart to this person that even though they are not seeing a physical result (the ball is still going sideways), they have made progress. An important simile to remind them is with a question: "Did it take more than a day for you to become the CEO?" Of course, it did, so don't expect that you will climb to the same heights in golf that you have in business, in one day.
Sandy's first school was in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the weather (it was in January) was a hurdle. With gusting 40 mph winds and temperatures in the 50's, she braved the elements and kept a great attitude. By the third day, she was hitting the ball 120 yards which was fully 25 yards further than she had ever hit the ball before. Not all the time and not always straight but there was "light at the end of the tunnel". After her first five day school, she and Jim had established not only an understandable model on which she could build her swing, but a trust and friendship.
Armed with her model, Sandy went back to her home in northern Nevada and began the process of practicing what she had learned. No "quick fixes", gadgets that are "guaranteed to improve your game by 10 strokes", not trying to "fix her slice" by picking up the latest copy of Golf Digest magazine which routinely has that on the cover 2 or 3 times a year, but a model. One that she would practice regularly and not deviate from. Over the course of the next months, we would hear from Sandy regularly. Jim was able to help her "long distance", so that the model that they were creating would become permanent. A habit.
Despite good days and bad days (such is the nature of this grand pursuit), Sandy stayed her course. By the end of summer, she was shooting in the low 100's and had enjoyed some success (a first) in her Ladies group at her club. Sandy was in the embryonic stages of a love affair. She had a new goal. To break 100. She and Jim worked together again in December. Much to Jim's delight, Sandy had truly incorporated what they had done together, so that they could now move on to new additions to their model. Later that month, Sandy called to say that she had broken 100, and broke down that barrier, with a bang. She shot a 96.
In the ensuing years, we saw Sandy once or twice a year, for a couple of days, each time. As she improved and broke more barriers and realized more goals, the improvement became more finite. It is harder for a golfer to go from a 3 handicap to a 1 handicap than it is for one to go from a 30 to a 15. Nonetheless, Sandy was the very embodiment of a superb student. She met "with triumph and disaster, and treated both those impostors just the same". She understood that golf, which in so many ways mirrors life, is a journey. Sandy relishes the journey and rather than being obsessed with the destination, she remembers to savor the moment. Sandy walks a path less traveled.
Sandy would tell you that golf has become her passion. She plays all over the country and is entirely comfortable being paired as a single with three strange men on any golf course. In most cases, she will then beat those same men, a feat which leaves them awed and amazed. Sandy lives, eats and sleeps; golf. It has become the barometer upon which she assuages the temperature of her world. This maddeningly magnificent pursuit, which embraces all of us, is waiting to be embraced by you.
Sandy called us last week to tell us that she had just accomplished another of her goals. She shot 79.
Jay A. Ewing is the Director of Instruction for the Bird Golf Academy - the ultimate golf learning experience®. Visit www.birdgolf.com for additional information or phone: 623 882-2054 or fax: 623 321-1823.
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