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Cindy Miller: Candid assessment key to developing your golf game

I was recently asked. “What do you believe the difference is between someone who ‘makes it’ and someone who doesn’t?” My first response would be: makes what?

When we try to define “making it,” for some golfers it could mean being comfortable on the first tee. For others, it might mean hitting it farther, winning the club championship or breaking 100.

If you are asking me why some tour players make it big and win major championships while others don’t, I would tell you there is a lot that goes into being the best.

Dr. Deborah Graham, a licensed counseling psychologist specializing in golf performance, did her doctoral thesis on researching LPGA and PGA Tour Players. Her client list includes over 380 players on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours, 21 of whom she helped guide to 31 major championships.

The project included three sets of tour players: anyone on tour who had never won a tournament; anyone on tour who had won once or twice, and multiple tour winners. Each group was given the same profile exam, the Cattell 16PF. She wanted to see if multiple tour winners possessed any character traits that were different from the rest. The answer was “yes.” Multiple tour winners had eight character traits that were above and beyond the others. What were the traits?

• Able to narrowly focus when needed.

• Able to abstract think and adapt to changing situations.

• Emotional stability.

• A tendency toward dominance.

• Tough-minded.

• More self-assured.

• Able to be self-sufficient on the course.

• Able to regulate tension levels.

Do all tour players possess these eight traits? Yes. Some rank better than others.

In my lifelong pursuit of my personal potential, I happen to be a seeker of knowledge and have always wondered “why?” Why do I miss shots? Why do I not perform better under pressure? Why do I try so hard? When I went to get certified in Golf Psych, I wanted to discover what was wrong with me.

What I found is that we all have weaknesses. Some are better at focusing, while others are more emotionally stable. I learned that if you truly seek to improve your performance and unlock your personal potential, you must be willing to expose all elephants, look in the mirror and see where your weaknesses are. Only then can you truly find the answer.

When Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open, Bob Costas interviewed him and asked, “Rory, what was different about today from the last round at Augusta, where you shot 80?” Rory said, “I learned some things about myself and my game. I put them into practice today, and they worked.” Bob asked Rory, “Anything you want to share?” Rory said, “No.”

What did Rory learn that he didn’t want to share? Was it so personal that he didn’t want to reveal it to the world? We all have personal demons. Those little voices in your head that create apprehension, doubt, fear and possibly anger. Learning to defeat those demons will give you the peace of mind you are seeking.

Dr. Bhrett McCabe, a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of The MindSide, LLC. (, says this about peak performance:

“What I see as a clinical and sports psychologist is that those players that take ownership of their game, learn how to engage their teacher to helping them reach their goals, and learn to develop their resiliency will be most successful.”

How do they do that? It all starts with acceptance and self-appraisal.

One of the hardest things we have to do is look in the mirror because we are forced to see what we are, not what we once were or what we believe we will become, but what we are right now. Only when we learn to accept ourselves as we are, are we able to grow through our abilities now and into what we believe we can become in the near future.

This is very teachable trait. It is the shift to becoming comfortable with what each of us has within us − the ability to learn and grow ourselves. That takes the willingness to become vulnerable and see ourselves for what we truly are − a growing, developing person.

How can you learn to measure up against multiple tour winners? It starts with looking in the mirror. For more information on what it takes to “Own Your Game” and view the Golf Psych assessment report go to:


Silver Creek native Cindy Miller, who counts the 2010 LPGA National Teacher of the Year award among her many golf accomplishments, will be writing an “Own Your Game,” column for The News every other week beginning in May.