Tim O’Connor: What is your golf game grounded on?

The most resilient golfers are firmly grounded with a sense of purpose.

As of this writing, Scottie Scheffler has just won his second Masters in three years, and four of his last five tournaments. While Scheffler talks about how much he cares about winning, the foundations of his life are his family and his faith. That has been part of his belief system since he was a child. With that solid grounding, I believe that he’s not as prone to a racing mind or roller-coaster emotions.

It’s also my belief that Jordan Spieth survives the mercurial ups and downs of professional golf because of his family’s focus on his sister Ellie. When Jordan was growing up, the family rallied around taking care of his special needs sister. “Ellie keeps things normal,” Rosalind Funderburgh, the founder of Ellie’s school, told Golf Digest. This speaks to being part of something bigger than ourselves.

One of my most memorable interviews as a golfer writer was with the late Bruce Lietzke, who won 13 events on the PGA Tour, and seven on the Champions Tour. He was not colourful or charismatic, the average fan was barely aware of him, and he didn’t have a swing that anyone would emulate—he played a plodding game with his slightly over-the-top swing that hit a fade that was as reliable as the sun coming up every morning.

He told me that his reason for playing professional golf was simple: it allowed him the freedom to be an attentive father and spouse, coach his son and daughter in baseball, fish and renovate cars. His dedication to his family was his ‘why’ for playing golf. He found meaning and purpose in his family that put golf clearly in its place.

That commitment also kept him from experimenting with his one-dimensional swing. He saw no reason to tinker with his swing in an attempt to ‘take his game to the next level’ or, say, draw the ball right to left to make him better suited to Augusta National.

Leitzke’s commitment to his vision gave him a ‘What? Me worry?’ vibe and humbleness that I found endearing. He struck me as a grounded man who lived according to strong values and principles.

When I think about people to emulate in the world, Bruce Lietzke has always been near the top of my list.

Every golf nerd that I have ever met wants to hit better shots; we seek mastery, to find out what’s possible for us, and see how capable we really are. We want to shoot lower scores, decrease our index, become grittier in competition, and win. It’s built-in for being a golfer.

However, the question to ask is: What’s the motivation? Is it to look good, be recognized, and validated? Or feel self-satisfaction, do some self-exploration, and feel joy? The former is extrinsic, about how others see and judge us; the latter is intrinsic.

When we’re guided extrinsically, we’re prone to being pulled and shoved around by our compulsions, feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and often helplessness.

We all seek to feel good and know that we’re going to be OK no matter how dark it may get. That’s an inside job. It’s not easy, but it’s possible when your reasons for playing the game are grounded on things that are intrinsic and bigger than yourself.

Read more from Tim O’Connor here: https://substack.com/@toconnor

Tim O'Connor
Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID — a Guelph punk band!

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