Can Teaching Pros Play Competitive Golf and Still Remain Sociable?
One of the pleasant diversions some of us indulge in is playing competitive golf. At least, the experience is supposed to be pleasurable – not only for us, but also for our fellow-competitors. Yet, too often I hear how so-and-so was miserable to play with, because so-and-so wouldn’t shut up, wouldn’t stand still, wouldn’t stop walking in everyone’s putting lines, etc.
Before anyone misunderstands, I’m not targeting USGTF professionals exclusively. I’ve seen and heard of other teaching professionals, as well as experienced professional competitors (who really should know better). In fact, the decorum and etiquette that USGTF members display is normally outstanding at our main events, such as the United States and World Golf Teachers Cups. Nevertheless, I hope this article serves as an important reminder of our obligations in the realm of competition.
During the week, we strive to maintain a friendly disposition and attitude towards our students and clients. We realize that this is vital to obtaining and retaining students. After all, who wants to be taught by a grouch? USGTF President Geoff Bryant is always stressing to us on the examining staff that the most important thing for the certification week is that the candidates enjoy themselves.
Sure, it’s important to learn how to teach golf, and that’s the main focus of the week, of course. However, the aspects of enjoyment and learning are deeply intertwined. After all, if a pro comes across as unenthusiastic, bored, condescending, or unhappy, that negatively affects the learning experience. The information might be great, but in the student’s mind, that would be overcome by the negative vibes and poor attitude of the teacher. Likely, the student won’t come back.
Most of us don’t have to fake it. We love our jobs, and a sunny disposition comes easily. On those days we don’t feel our most enthusiastic, we still put a smile on our face and adopt an air of friendliness, caring, and concern.
But now, we have that big weekend tournament we’ve been looking forward to, or maybe a major event such as the United States Golf Teachers Cup. We look forward to letting our hair down (so to speak), and getting away from our normal routine.
However, too many of us take golf, even competitive golf, way too seriously. We might get angry and shout at ourselves, bang or throw clubs, and make ourselves and those we’re playing with generally miserable. Some, perhaps being nervous, might talk incessantly to the point of driving others to distraction. Then again, a person might be into his “Ben Hogan” persona, adopting a serious look and refusing to speak to anyone, even to acknowledge a good shot. The people playing with such a person feel they are walking on eggshells around him, afraid to say anything that will set him off.
There’s nothing wrong with being quiet. USGTF professional and frequent competitor Bill Picca rarely says anything in tournaments, but he does acknowledge good shots, is respectful to the other players, and he is a pleasure to play competitive golf with. And there’s nothing wrong with talking, either. With only 20 minutes per player spent, on average, planning or playing a shot during a typical round, there’s a lot of downtime. So, many of us engage in conversation.
And really, there’s nothing wrong with getting upset with ourselves when we play some bad shots. Even USGTF professional Steve Williams, normally a mild-mannered guy, is known to let loose with a “dag-nabbit” here and there.
Of course, what does become unacceptable is when we start negatively affecting our fellow-competitors. No one cares if you get upset with yourself – until your histrionics get out of control. No one cares if you converse with them – until you don’t let them get a word in edgewise. No one cares if you are quiet or keep to yourself – until you snap at people for the slightest little thing.
To a certain extent, it doesn’t really matter what you shoot, or whether you finish first or last. No significant changes to your life will occur. Let the guys at Q-School live and die with every shot – it’s their job. Our “job” is to enjoy the competitive experience, learn a thing or two, and forge some great camaraderie with our fellow-competitors. If we do that, we all win.