Zach Johnson – Master’s

usgtf-thumbMost people are calling Zach Johnson – the everyday man. He seems to be just like you and me. I call Zach Johnson – the rocketman. He may seem like you and me, but he’s not. He has rocketed by most of his colleagues to the highest atmosphere on the PGA tour. He is in the rarified air of a major category.

Actually, Zach is quite unique because he has never reached a plateau. Rather he has continued to rocket past most of all his colleagues during his career. As reported after his win, Zach was not the best player on his high school team yet he continued to improve and was good enough to play college golf. Clearly, his college, Drake, is
not a golf powerhouse, yet he continued to improve enough to play on the mini-tours. There he honed his game enough to catapult himself onto the tour. Still, he continued to improve and won a PGA tournament. Again, his skills did not remain stagnant and he again skyrocketed by most of his colleagues to win a major. His pace of improvement has been phenomenal.

There are two important lessons we can take away from this years Masters’ winner. First, it shows that some people continue to improve. Young golfers should not be so concerned about how good they are at age 15 but rather at age 25. The goal is continual improvement, rather than a concern for how good you are at the present moment. Seek to improve and you may rocket yourself to stardom.

Unfortunately, the second lesson is that most of us do plat eau in our skills. Most golfers are not like Zach – we reach a certain level and usually stay there for awhile. Plateaus are inevitable on the learning trail. You will see vast improvement at first. Then, more likely than not, you will plateau for a period of time. After a while, you will
see a little more improvement before you will plateau again. Some times plateaus can last for weeks, months, and even years.

Understanding why we have plateaus in the learning cycle can shed insight to breaking free of a given plateau. The learning cycle, with its ups and downs, has many parallels to the principles of muscle building. As an overall picture, the human body is an amazingly adaptive mechanism. When we lift weights, we force our muscles beyond normal levels, or, in other words, we stress out our muscles. (This process is called overloading the muscle.) As an adaptive response to counteract this overload, muscles produce more protein stimulating an increase in muscle fibers.

Our muscles will stop growing unless they are continually overloaded. That is, we will have plateaus in muscle growth if the force placed upon the muscles does not change. To experience muscle growth, you can add more
weight to your routine, add more repetitions, and/or change your exercises. When you change these work-out variables, your body is designed to respond with more muscle growth.

You can help your students overload their game and break free of a plateau in a number of ways. First, suggest to your students to get new equipment. If they have been playing with the same equipment for too long, their game can go stale. Second, suggest to your students to try new golf courses. If they are playing the same course with the same friends, their game may become stagnated. Last, and probably most important, recommend that they add some competitive stress to their game. Suggest that they play some local events this summer or at least get more competitive with their friends.

If your students find that their golf game has lost its fuel for improvement, then help them overload their golf system and see them skyrocket to the next level.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the head sports psychologist for the USGTF. If you have any questions about the mental game, please contact Dr. Steinberg at 931-206-1328 or e-mail

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