July 4, 2017
The Stockton Attitude
There are few things that are under your control when you are playing golf. You have no control over the weather; you can choose the golf course, but not your lies or the bounces that your golf ball will find. You have control over your equipment, but not your swing or coordination on a given day. What you do have control over is your attitude! Your attitude will determine your enjoyment of your round and have a direct relationship on your score.
In the early 60's Maxwell Maltz wrote "Psycho-Cybernetics", a book that promoted nurturing one's self-image which in turn you would gain confidence and strength to follow your dreams. Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon, who performed procedures to make people more beautiful and make them feel better about their looks. What he found was, if you didn't have a positive self-image of yourself even the surgery wouldn't satisfy your needs. The book delved into many areas of the brains importance in affecting your happiness and outlook. Many of his findings and theories have been expanded upon by sports psychologies and self-help gurus. In the golf community, the book was revolutionary for its time.
When I read the book, I was eighteen years old and in my first year of my golf scholarship at USC. Dave Stockton was finishing up his degree at SC and would play with the freshmen team before starting his career on the PGA Tour. Dave recommended that everyone on the team should read the book. Since Dave endorsed it, I immediately bought it and read it. Even though I was a very confident golfer, I saw weaknesses that I would fall into and get negative or discouraged. When I saw Dave on campus the next week, I was excited to tell him about what I have learned. I also asked him what he learned from the book. His answer was very revealing. He said that it confirmed what he was doing was correct and just solidified that his mental approach was sound.
In my freshman year, I got to play maybe a dozen times with Dave. He had an All-American career at USC and was getting ready for the Tour. Each time we played, I thought that I played better then him, but he always had a better score. After a few times of losing, I really set my mind on beating him. Best I did was tie him once. There were days that his ball striking was very poor, but his attitude never changed. He saw a bad result as a challenge and somehow found a way to make a par. Of course what I didn't realize then was that I was playing with one of the all-time best putters and wedge players ever to play on the PGA Tour. He is a two time major winner on the PGA Tour and three time major winner on the Championship Tour.
I have had a good fortune to play and be around some of the best players in the world, both men and women. There is a common thread that a binds them together. All are confident, some to a fault. But all have an attitude that nurtures that confidence. Dave was so positive that a good result was going to happen. He was positive for himself, but also everyone around him felt his positive vibes. His belief and positive attitude, I am sure, was one of the main reasons for American's Ryder Cup victory at Kiawah Island when he was the captain.
Maxwell Maltz stressed a positive self-image, which results in confidence, but first you must have the attitude. Attitude is one thing that you can control on the golf course. Start your round with a pledge to monitor your attitude. Look at the positives and focus on the challenges and not the negatives that certainly will crop up. Your attitude will determine if at the end of the round it was a success.