Archive for the ‘life lessons’ Category

As with the previously mentioned monkey traps of South America, where monkeys trap themselves by holding on to the food in a simple gourd hung from a tree, only having to let go the food and go free, many golfers are like those monkeys and hold on too tight to the club, from address on through the critical impact zone. By clutching the grip like a splitting maul, tension builds up throughout the swing, and when the first significant resistance is encountered, at impact, the likelihood of letting go the club is great.

Tension is the archenemy of the golf swing, be it mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual. And tension starts with the grip. The hands are so sensitive that they translate any tension generated by the above factors. And that translation is usually one of tightness. We think the tighter the better, but golf is often counter-intuitive. Unfortunately most instructors emphasize holding the club tightly with the last three fingers of the non-dominant hand. The brain often interprets that as a kind of death grip that also affects the other fingers. And it’s there we monkeys are caught in the trap of no return. For with a grip of such intensity, there’s only one way to go: (more…)

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First, congratulations to Phil Mickelson on winning the Masters. He showed true grit coming down the stretch, a champion’s disposition, the heart of a samurai, a deep meditator without even knowing he was meditating, focused and flexible, a Light Brigade in the form of a golfer. I had advised in a previous post that he go home and be with his wife, that she was too much on his mind to concentrate on golf. I was wrong. Instead, he dedicated his performance to his wife, thereby remaining a man fully in the moment, for the moment was a representation of her and his family. And she came to him, which I didn’t anticipate since I didn’t know her ability to do so. It was one of the great inspirational performances in the history of sport. His approach shot through the trees on 13 from the pine straw, over Rae’s Creek, hitting the green and making birdie was a golfer acting at the very highest levels of skill and courage. I would include it with the best of any shot I’ve ever seen, and will heretofore use it as a model for all the golf I have left to play. Phil, his caddie, Bones, and his wife Amy are true class acts.

Next, Tiger. He impressed me with his golf, of course, but also with his humanness: his connection with the fans, his giving out autographs, his warm relationship with K.J. Choi whom he chatted with and put his hand on his shoulder, his relative restraint around fist pumps and profanity. There’s no quit to this guy, and that too is a trait I highly admire. Given the scandal, (more…)

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At Tiger’s news conference Monday, the most significant revelation was that his troubles started when he stopped meditating, when he stopped practicing the Buddhist religion which he shares with his mother. That’s when he lost his moral compass.Being a Buddhist, Tiger is involved with more than a religion. In fact, Buddhism, at its core, is more a spiritual practice than a set of beliefs that make up most religions. As the late philosopher Alan Watts once said, “Buddhism never uttered its final doctrine.” Essentially, through trial and error, the practitioner finds out what is the truth for himself. It’s a path that requires taking total responsibility. You can’t retreat to God or a set of truths to guide you: You are the captain of your own ship. It’s why monotheistic religions often don’t buy into Buddhism: There’s a basic belief human beings need help, and that help comes from a higher power. These other religions involve prayer and meditation just like Buddhism, but with Buddhism  the higher power is essentially called your True Self, or that which is always in the present and not subject to birth or death (more on this in another post). It’s a part of you that is always there, if you can get in touch with it. When you meditate according to Buddhist instructions, you simply stay with your own body and mind and breath in the present moment. When Tiger stopped meditating, (more…)

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Phil Mickelson is struggling some this year. Without Tiger on the card up to now, he should have won a couple, leaving the spotlight to Ernie Els. Both his driving and putting are off, the double dip death for the touring pro. What’s going on?

Golf is an extraordinary game. One stray thought that enters the mind while swinging interrupts the flow and throws off the timing, usually ruining any chance of hitting the kind of shots needed to win tournaments. Phil’s wife, Amy, is being treated for cancer and therein lies the answer to the conundrum. She is on his mind and his heart. He’s worried and concerned,  and can’t concentrate fully on his golf. You can see it in his face, his posture, his demeanor. He is bravely putting on a good show but his swing is just a bit loose, his putting stroke a bit hesitant, his moxie a bit lacking. It all sort of came to a head yesterday when his drive landed in a bush, (more…)

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Ernie Els is a man of high integrity. The Big Easy is also a fabulous golfer. But he will be just as remembered for bringing to the public’s attention the plight of autism. His seven-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and Ernie and his wife Lisl bravely chose to reveal this and form a foundation educating the public about this tragic and debilitating illness. As a social worker and counselor with over 30 years in the field, I’ve worked with people with autism and related Asperger’s syndrome, and can tell you it adversely affects every aspect of life, both the individual’s and their family’s. There are different levels of autism, ranging from complete separation from others, such as rocking and obsessing on their fingers, to a social disorder, of varying degree, where the person is of normal or higher intelligence but has difficulty  communicating and making friends and relationships. I’ve worked with autistic kids who can only rock in a chair all day and night, absorbed totally with themselves, and others who’ve gone on to college and work. The entire illness is now known in the DSM-IV as the Autism Spectrum, with a wide range of functionality.

There’s been much misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice around autism over the years, (more…)

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Tiger Woods is like this little kid who nobody wants to play with because he has goo all over his hands. A little like Pigpen in Peanuts who has a swirl of dirt and dust constantly around him but who bats .714 for the season. So now Tiger spreads his goo on the Masters, and I, for one, am pissed off. There is no need to taint the greatest tournament of them all. All he needs/needed to do is/was to sit down with the press and answer any questions that come his way. No holds barred. No time limit. Everything answered. Personal. Public. Everything. And do this before the Masters. What’s he trying to do–win the thing before it starts by psyching out all his competitors? Tiger Woods got himself into this mess. Now he’s trying to drag everyone else in and make the Masters into a mess, having his personal enforcer on his bag.

Playing the Masters requires the height of concentration for all competitors. Any unnecessary distractions rob them of the ability to focus on their golf challenges. Tiger shows again how self centered and insensitive he is when it comes to golf and his colleagues. This is not what Buddhism, his mother’s religion and what he was brought up with, is all about. It’s about consideration and compassion and personal responsibility.

Very simply, I appeal to Tiger Woods to spare making the Masters into a media circus, with reporters busting at the seams to get some questions answered. Have a full disclosure, question/answer press conference before the Masters at a neutral location, open to all bona fide press members. Only then can we put this sorry episode behind us and get on with the greatest golf tournament in the world.

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