Family first was the theme at this year’s RBC Canadian Open. Hunter Mahan, the leader after two rounds, withdrew from the tournament when he discovered that his wife Kandi had gone into Labor. While many of the fathers on the PGA TOUR acknowledged and agreed with Hunter’s decision, Brandt Snedeker put it into perspective concerning how important family is to his game of golf.
Since his daughter was born two years ago, Brandt has won five times on the PGA TOUR. He said that before her birth, he would take his game far too serious and was all-consumed by his play. But being a father put it all into perspective for him. Now, he knows that hitting bad golf shots do not matter so much. As he puts it, golf is what I do -- not who I am. Being a father has helped him to keep his emotions under control during the ups and downs on the course. These key mental game ingredients led him to victory at Glenn Abbey and to his second win this year on the PGA TOUR.
Brandt is hitting upon what sports psychology researchers have discovered when it comes to success in golf. They found that the most successful young athletes played a variety of sports up until the age of 16, but then they focused on their primary sport. These athletes were much more successful than the athletes that focused primarily on only sport.
The premise of this finding is perspective and balance, as Brandt spoke about with his family. When a young golfer places all his self-esteem eggs in one basket (i.e., plays only one sport), there is a lot more pressure to perform well all the time on the golf course. However, if a young golfer has many hobbies and sports to build self-esteem, there is less pressure to perform well every time on the course. Consequentially, when there is less pressure, the likelihood of playing well increases.
My mental game recommendation to young golfers is to always spread the wealth and play a variety of sports and/or have additional hobbies. Here are the reasons for this recommendation:
1. When Michelangelo was working on the Sistine Chapel, he would switch hands to paint that famous ceiling. He believed in the importance of developing balance in his abilities. A young golfer playing a variety of sports will develop physical attributes that can contribute to better coordination, such as lower-body coordination if they play soccer along with golf.
2. There will be a decrease in injuries. When young athletes play a variety of sports, there is a less likelihood of an overuse injury. Also, participation in a variety of activities gives the body time to heal and rest certain muscles and tendons, decreasing injury.
3. Play a variety of sports including golf to spread the self-esteem points around. Then the young golfer can build self-worth from a variety of sources. When they step onto the golf course, there will be less pressure to perform.
Spread the wealth in activities, and you will see your game accrue in the long term.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the TOUR” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players as well as top collegiate and junior golfer. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at drgreggsteinberg.com.