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May 18 2012

1:45 AM

On the Mark: Lessons from Lord Byron

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

The HP Byron Nelson Championship is a preferred stop for many members of the PGA TOUR for various reasons, the biggest of which being a desire to pay tribute to the great man, Byron Nelson.

A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame for his achievements with a golf club in his hands, I have no doubt that if there was a “Good People of Sport Hall of Fame”, Byron Nelson would be a shoo-in for selection. Truly one of the nicest men in golf, and sport, stories of his goodness and kindness abound. An account that best illustrates the caliber of the man goes as follows:

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When he arrived at a course he had not played before, Byron Nelson always inquired what the course record was and who held it. Not because he was arrogant and wanted to break the record but because he believed it would be poor form for him to wrest that honor away from the local professional or a club member.

When out on TOUR, Lord Byron was a fierce competitor, as his unparalleled record proves, while being a considerate gentleman who always made time for people and young players on the TOUR. He took a few young players under his wing, most notably Ken Venturi and Tom Watson, and mentored them as he passed on the keys to success in tournament golf.

It is my honor to share a couple of Byron Nelson’s quotable tips with you and I respectfully intend to add my take to the quotes, which are timeless and thought-provoking:

“Golf is a lot like life. When you make a decision, stick with it.”

As Lord Byron recommended, commitment and conviction are crucial to success on the course and in competition. The quickest way to scupper your talent and wreck your game is to approach a shot with a doubtful or hesitant mindset. Indeed, I would rather you be convinced and incorrect than unconvinced and correct. The reason being is that doubt has its terminus in fear or apprehension, and those two emotions result in tension. And in my opinion, tension is the single biggest reason for failed golf swings and golf shots. So, make a decision, back yourself, be single-minded and stick with your decision.

“It shows you how important one stroke really is in golf ... One shot doesn't sound like much, but I won eight times in 1944, improved one-third of a shot in '45 and won 18 times.”

It is a cliché, but golf truly is a game that is played one shot at a time and any shot at any time can be the shot that makes or breaks your round and perhaps your tournament. When you come to grips with that truism, I am confident that you will become a better all-round player and competitor. So, as referenced by Lord Byron and as recommended by one of my mentors, Gary Player, each shot should be approached with the mindset that it is the most important shot in the world – it is that important. Once you have considered all of the ground and atmospheric conditions, the state of your swing and ballstriking at that given time, and the risk and reward ratio related to the shot, take dead aim and then make a confident, free swing with no regard for the result. Allow the result to be a product of the complete process you performed and I am confident that you will improve that shot’s probability for success.

Good luck.

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team.  For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution available on iTunes/iBooks. 

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