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Cindy Miller's 'Own Your Game': Commit and then get out of the way

This is my last column for 2017. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. Please continue to send me your thoughts.
I want to inspire you to get better. The game of golf is one of the most difficult to master. In fact, no one ever does. I think that’s why it lures us into what can sometimes be considered an addiction.

There is a definite progression when learning to play. What level you strive for is up to you. The more you want from this game, the bigger the lesson. If you love solving puzzles, this is the game for you.

My husband Allen and I teach lots of people. Some only want to enjoy themselves and may not even keep score. Others play with friends and might participate in a weekly league. Some play only for business reasons and use the game as a networking opportunity. And some play to earn a college scholarship, win the club championship, win a state, regional or national championship, or even to qualify to play on the PGA Tour or LPGA Tour. The better you want to be, the more you need to work. The want needs to equal the work ethic. The goal needs to be worth your time, money, and investment.

Let’s say you want to break 100. If you can hit the golf ball 180 yards straight, you can do it. The catch is straight. If you hit your driver 200 yards in the right rough, I would surrender the ego, and choose to tee off with your 3-wood, 5-wood, or even a hybrid. If you are able to get on each green in one over regulation and two putt, you can shoot 90 easily.

What if you want to win the club championship? I would evaluate my competition. What do they shoot? How many times has the same person at your club won? Is it time to dethrone them? Depending on the amount of shots you need to cut out of your game, you will need to make a plan for continued improvement. If you need to knock four shots off per round, where can you find them? How many putts do you average? If your putts over 36, you should be able to find at least two or three per round there. How many fairways do you hit? There are typically 14 fairways in 18 holes, with two par threes on each side. Can you find one more fairway? Maybe two?

What if you want to play college golf? Are you looking at D1, D2, D3 or NAIA? What do you need to shoot? Let’s say you have a child who is 12 and is showing some potential. They really like playing and competing, but need to lower their scoring average. What should you invest in their development?

I asked a parent of one of our students who is currently playing D1 golf the investment/dividend ratio. This father said they have invested approximately $2,000-3,000 in golf lessons per year for six years from seventh grade through senior year (Let’s round it off to $20,000). They are saving $122,000 in college tuition. Worth the effort? I would say yes. Allen and I saved about $80,000 with our own son, Jamie.

As an alumna of The University of Miami and former walk-on, I spoke to Patti Rizzo, the women’s head golf coach recently. I asked her what the value of a golf scholarship is now. She told me a full ride is worth $65,000 per year. Students do not pay for anything. They get food, clothing, equipment, and travel for free. They even receive a check for $1,500 per month to use any way they see fit. They can buy food, clothes, a car, or a plane ticket home at Christmas. I asked her what happens if they move off campus. She said they get paid an additional $1200 per month for rent, and the $1500 per month mad money. That adds up to $308,000 in four years. Is that worth a few golf lessons and range balls?

No matter what your age, the lessons are the same. Trust, belief, focus, determination, patience, and commitment are all imperative. The game has no favorites. The lessons are always repeated until they are learned. Fortunately for all of us, as long as we keep trying, have an open mind, are willing to look in the mirror and seek truth, we can always improve.

A missed short putt on the final hole of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship forced I.K. Kim to examine her game from inside out. (Getty Images)

As I sit here writing this, I am watching the Ricoh Women’s British Open. The leader is In-Kyung Kim. Five years ago, she missed a 14-inch putt on the 18th hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. It was the shortest missed putt that would have won a major in the history of the game. The failure has followed her everywhere.

“All I have to say, it’s been quite tough, but I started to work on myself, not only on the golf course, but off the golf course,” Kim said. “Just be nice to myself, and able to have some kind of compassion and gentleness with myself. I think it’s really helping me to play better.”

On this day, however, she defeated her personal demons, and won her first major.

Whatever your level, please remind yourself that no one tries to miss on purpose.

Sometimes the lessons are not as obvious to us. Sergio Garcia wasn’t aware that he might be sabotaging himself. As Jaime Diaz wrote about in Golf World April 10, 2017: “The reason was more centrally human, the vicarious fulfillment that comes from seeing a person who has spent years getting in his own way finally triumph over himself. ... Few players are perfect mentally, but Garcia as a golfer was seriously flawed. Over nearly two decades, he trafficked in all manner of negativity: excuse-making, whining, blaming and defeatism. All while stubbornly refusing to see how he was sabotaging his extraordinary ability.”

To sum all this up, ask yourself, Why do I play? What do I want? Is it realistic? Am I willing to work to get it?

Please stop whining about your game. If it doesn’t hurt bad enough to do something about it, live with it. If it does hurt bad enough to do something about it, you must be wiling to look in the mirror. Only when you reveal the truth can you truly create solutions. The last step is to plant a seed. Give yourself time to get “it.”

Remember, golf is a game. It should be fun. No matter how long you have played, you can always get better, even if you have given up hope and think you cannot improve. I dare you to take another shot.

Cindy Miller is a former LPGA Tour Player who currently competes on the Legends Tour of the LPGA. She is a Certified Behavior, Motivation, and Judgment Professional who is sought after as a speaker, coach, and corporate trainer. Please reach out to her at cindy@cindymillergolf.com

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