“Not a bad week for an unheralded player almost nobody wanted coming out of high school in Denton, Texas.”
That’s a quote from the Golf Channel article about Kelly Kraft winning the US Amateur over the weekend. I think that there is much more said here than one may first notice and there are several key lessons to be learned:
Lesson 1- never give up.
Golf is a game that is learned over time. You have to be patient when playing golf– not only during a single round or during a tournament but also throughout the entire learning process. Golfers develop at different rates. Arnold Palmer didn’t turn pro until after his US Amateur title at the age of 25.
Lesson 2- the key to success is to relax.
This is one of the fundamentals of peak performance. I teach my students what my “teacher” always told me: when you get completely relaxed, relax a little more. Of course, this is often easier said than done. But Kelly is an example of someone learning how to do this. Relaxing is something that can be learned. It goes hand in hand with being patient. If your child is wanting to play competitive golf, take him/her to see someone that can teach him/her to relax. No need for sports psychologists. Just learn to relax.
Lesson 3- The “raising a Tiger” model that has become popular really does not work.
This last lesson is perhaps the most important. This lesson is for junior golfers and especially THE PARENTS of junior golfers: champions are not MADE, they are nurtured. Juniors are being pressured at younger and younger ages to be elite athletes. Kids as young as 12 and 13 years old are feeling the stress to compete at tournaments to get “nationally ranked.” At a crucial age when they should be learning to have fun, learning the fundamentals a solid swing and game and simply developing a love for the game, they are being pressured to perform, something that is actually delaying their growth.
If you are a parent and you want your child to play golf through college and after college, look for programs where he/she can develop and grow. These programs are not always the top-ranked teams in the country. Each junior needs a unique environment. Find a school where the environment is focused on learning, both in the classroom and on the course. Also remember that most golfers’ games do not mature until the late 20′s or early 30′s. It is not realistic to expect a child of 14-15 years of age to be able to withstand the pressures that make grown men and women falter.
Simply because you are not “highly recruited” and a “Top-Ranked Junior” doesn’t mean that you have no chance. Just look at how Kelly Kraft has developed his game and is now the US Amateur Champion. The lessons he has learned will help him on and off the course.