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9 things that prevent top amateurs from realizing their pro golf dreams

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I’m sure we all know a top young amateur golfer with aspirations of turning pro. It may be the kid at your local club who hits the ball a country mile and has a short game that would make Seve proud. Or it might be a hot shot you’ve seen at a tournament, and followed his or her progress since they were knee high to a grasshopper.

You’ve watched them win local and even regional tournaments from high school into the top amateur ranks, and think they will be the next Rory McIlroy or Jason Day. So why do so few of these talented amateur golfers actually break through on the world stage? What is it about the transition from top amateur to professional golf that can act as a trap door for some, and a trampoline for others?

To find out, I spoke to Johnny Foster, who runs The Johnny Foster Golf Academy, a top Irish coaching academy targeting elite young players.

“Since 2004, my team and I have had the pleasure of coaching dozens of Ireland’s aspiring elite amateurs and professionals at our academy,” he said. “The walls have become decorated with pictures of players’ trophies and signed memorabilia. But for us, it’s the faces who aren’t there that raise our eyebrows. I often ask myself, ‘Do you remember this guy…where did he go? I was certain he’d make it.’

“On the other hand, I’ve scratched my head many more times when guys who were can’t-miss amateurs have been swallowed by the results-driven, unapologetic world of pro golf, seemingly unable to score as they did as amateurs just months before. Why is that? Did they lose their talent? Do pro golfers play to a smaller hole? I don’t think so. What I do know is that players who have made the successful transition have shared certain qualities.

With help from Foster, I created this list of the 9 things that can prevent top amateurs from realizing their pro golf dreams.

Desire

This is the biggest motivating factor in being successful in anything. Something has to drive golfers to want to be the best, and it has to be there at every point in their career. Complacency and lack of belief are desire’s biggest enemies, sapping drive and willpower.

Talent

We have all heard it said before: someone has a natural talent, or they were born with a club in their hands. Talent has to be grown and supported, however, for a golfer to reach the highest level. How many talented golfers have we heard of who never made it?

Ability

More precisely than just ability, professional golfers need the ability to score. All of the talent in the world doesn’t matter if you cannot simply get the golf ball in the hole. Scrambling, clutch putting and performance under pressure become extremely important when a career is on the line.

Johnny says: There’s only one common denominator among the players who are successful: their score. The top-25 on any given week will represent a variety of club manufacturers, listen to a multitude of coaches and probably be from a range of countries. In fact, on many occasions, the only thing they do have in common is that they have finished at the same score at the week’s end. So as much as myself or any other adviser tells you to “forget about the score and stick to the process,” you better have the potential to score at a tour standard or there’s not much point reading on. Your diet can be pure and you can surround yourself with the latest technology, which will make you feel better, but in my experience the most important number a player can produce is their stroke average in relation to par. If you have the rare ability to manipulate numbers, I’d stick to lowering that if you can, rather than fixating on your angle of attack. If you are an aspiring player, ask yourself, “Is everything I’m currently doing geared to helping me reduce my scoring average?” This is a constant pillar of our philosophy; we tirelessly work with our students to reduce their scoring average in relation to par.

Work Ethic

Along with having natural talent, there is no substitute for hard work and building a good routine. Fitness, practice, media/sponsor commitments, and travel all require hard work and good time management that needs to be engrained. Look at how seriously the modern-day players take their games these days: they train with fitness experts, work on technique with world-class coaches, and engrain their good habits with hundreds of balls almost every day. They say it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to be world class. You don’t do that without hard work and a solid routine.

Johnny says: Learning a trade or a set of skills is a process that takes time, usually years. So consider this when planning your assault on professional golf; “I’ll give it a go for a year” isn’t really a sound plan. How many surgeons or classic opera singers give it 12 months and eventually become successful? Remember, you’re attempting to reach the 0.01 percent of people in your chosen field. Your apprenticeship will take time, so make the financial and emotional provision for it. You’re attempting to hone a very specific set of skills. From reading grain on greens to working with a professional caddy, allow yourself time to adjust. And be realistic with your deadlines. Look at your rate of progression over the past few years. Fair chance this trend is going to continue. As the saying goes, “An overnight sensation usually takes about 10 years.” The fact is that in all of the wins and trophies achieved by our clients, the vast majority were done so by long-term students who really valued and benefited from a strong player-coach bond.

Focus

Being able to multitask, prioritize and make key decisions takes a very driven and focused person. While I don’t have any experience playing golf at an elite level, I do travel a lot in my job and spend a lot of time in airports and hotel rooms. There’s stress involved: delays, missed connections, lost luggage, late nights, preparing for meetings, and a lot of lonely nights sitting on the bed of your hotel room flicking the remote. I have to interact with customers all the time in some mundanely boring meetings, but I need to be focused and at the top of my game for every meeting. Staying focused, patient and realizing that it’s part of the process — there is a routine involved.

Personality/Temperament/Attitude

This is the most often overlooked quality on this list. Some guys are well suited to the professional golfer’s life, and some aren’t. Frustration, boredom, loneliness, patience and anxiety are all hurdles to overcome. Remember, to get to the level of playing on the tour, one can assume that the golfer has talent and a track record. But to live the life week in, week out and put up with all the distractions and stress is a balance to the rewards on offer. Getting to the PGA Tour is one thing; staying there is just as much of a challenge.

Johnny says: A common thread I see among the players who seem to move seamlessly into the world of professional golf is that they continue to treat it as a game, even though it’s their “job.” It’s a bit of a contradiction this one, but the best seem to retain their sense of humour about events on the golf course and crucially don’t beat themselves up over a bad shot they hit every so often. Ideally, I’d suggest you adopt an attitude that all the hard work you do actually entitles you to the odd mistake, rather than raises the expectations that they shouldn’t happen.

Being professional

This is possibly the most wide ranging and important for those that actually do possess the potential. Do you really understand the meaning of the words “being professional?” The answer isn’t on Google. It covers everything from investing heavily in your future, traveling extensively in a very competitive atmosphere and a love of the routine.

Johnny says: To really encourage the best students to think professionally, one of the many exercises we ask them to do is take 10 minutes to either write down or imagine what being really professional and effective with their time would look like, every day. That includes rest and balance in their life — very important pillars. How close or “congruent” are they in reality with this vision? If there is a gap between their vision and reality, then the size of that gap may just determine if they reach their vision of making it.

A good team

This includes a good manager, coach, fitness instructor, friends and family. Being on the road most weeks is tough on anyone. Emotional support is important, as well as a team that can prepare the player to optimize their performance. It’s also an expensive business playing tournament golf, so having financial backing is important.

Luck

In any sport, luck always plays a role: avoidance of injury, being in the right place at the right time, hitting a shot at a key moment, getting a break with a bounce. Many talented players could have gone a lot further with a lucky break. Gary Player’s famous quote, “The more I practice the luckier I get,” has a grain of truth, but Lady Luck certainly helps.

Johnny says: “We have a mantra at our academy: L.U.C.K. stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. In other words, if you work at the right stuff, you’ll be lucky!”

So, you think you have what it takes?

Tour golfers play nearly every week at a different course. They deal with travel, media and sponsor commitments, and compete on courses from the tips with the rough thickened up and the greens shaved. Still, the average weekly winning score is 16-under par. To make the cut is 4-under, which means to get a pay check you cannot afford big mistakes or you are packing up in the parking lot on a Friday night. A lot of poor shots and rounds are induced by fatigue, lack of preparation, low confidence and stress.

And it’s an expensive business. The running costs of playing tournament golf is high. Travel and accommodation, entry fees, and caddie fees will run into tens of thousands of dollars each year. Even as an amateur, competing relies on funding from scholarships, grants and benefactors. Most of these guys will have managers who treat their players like brands, securing sponsorships, managing their time, and deciding where and when to play. But the players need to be returning on the investment, or they find themselves quickly dropped.

The reality is that very few make it to the top tier. A lot drop out along the way to take jobs in the golf industry, or even get so disillusioned they turn their backs on golf, their dreams shattered or reconfigured to reality.

Johnny says: I’ve known several very talented amateur golfers who were unable to make a successful and sustainable transition into the professional ranks. Lack of motivation, money, personality or injury had gotten in the way of their obvious talent. And by the way, it’s tough to make it, but even tougher to stay there. As coaches, we do our very upmost to educate ourselves and really try our best to support and nurture these boys and girls, but ultimately it comes down to them.

Author’s Note: Johnny Foster is an engaging guy, full of enthusiasm and ideas for players attempting to transition into the game. He can be contacted here.

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Mark Donaghy is a writer and author from Northern Ireland, living in the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart. He is married to Christine and they have three boys. Mark is a "golf nut," and is lucky to be a member of a classic links, Portstewart Golf Club. At college he played for the Irish Universities golf team, and today he still deludes himself that he can play to that standard. He recently released Caddy Attitudes: 'Looping' for the Rich and Famous in New York. It recounts the life experiences of two young Irish lads working as caddies at the prestigious Shinnecock Hills course in the Hamptons. Mark has a unique writing style, with humorous observations of golfers and their caddies, navigating both the golf course and their respective attitudes. Toss in the personal experiences of a virtually broke couple of young men trying to make a few bucks and their adventures in a culture and society somewhat unknown to them... and you have Caddy Attitudes. From scintillating sex in a sand trap to the comparison of societal status with caddy shack status, the book will grab the attention of anyone who plays the game. Caddy Attitudes is available on Amazon/Kindle and to date it has had excellent reviews.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. James

    Jul 30, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Money has got to be number one…..you need money just to practice, Kids that grow up in a County Club family already have 9 out 10 better chance of making it to the Pros. You find the best local muni player in the 14 to 16 year old range, where does he get to hit 200 Pro V1’s for 2 hours to a green from 120 yards on in almost ZERO…the only non-Country club kids who can make it are the ones who get sponsored by someone or group that gets him/her into a club to play and practice. Can a kid make it practicing on Muni greens and playing a 6,400 yard course 4 times a week, with fairways that give you a country club lie about twice in 18 holes???? all 9 things the writer talks about can be present in spades but if there is no money you have ZERO chance…

    • Eric Sidewater

      Mar 20, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      This is fake news. You can make golf as hard or as easy as you want when you’re practicing, which I recommend takes place on the course. If you’re so compelled, work at a place with a range/course part-time so you have free access. Play by yourself with a cart with 3 balls, pick the worst shot of the bunch each time and hit the 3 balls from that spot, essentially
      worst ball.” Then force yourself to play with clubs that are your weakness, take time to print out course maps and diagram exactly where you’re going to aim your shots/misses on tee shots *(noting the distance between hazards (at least 65 yards), the fat part of the greens, and putt from the three toughest spots on each green from varying distances.

  2. michael johnson

    Jul 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    i was a very promising amateur once. nothing held me back, i made it on tour on my first attempt by winning on a sponsors excemption and i have won a record number of majors.

  3. ILoveHateGolf

    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Some of these are pretty appropriate to any field. ‘Write down what it means to be a professional.” I’m adopting that one myself.

    Nice column, Mark.

  4. Square

    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    My freshman year of college, I could shoot 72 on any course and 68 routinely at my home course. One day I played with a mini tour player and played really well on my home course. Shot 68 but it could have been a 66. He shot 61 and couldn’t do anything on the PGA tour or mini tours. Needless to say, 25 years later, I never looked back. He was so talented and I just couldn’t keep up. Best decision I ever made.

  5. Harry

    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    I can name 14 things that kept most of us out of the ranks- driver, 3w, 2i, …….

  6. talljohn777

    Jul 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Damn, I was so close on all of those.

  7. LA Billyboy

    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I could never take the travel. Not a life I have ever aspired to or envied. The PGA Tour is essentially a travelling Circus, the players are the performers and animals. I love playing golf too much to ruin it and turn it into a job.

  8. golfraven

    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I agree with all above. Dedication and drive would be biggest factors. The earlier you show the player what the odds are and what they have to face and are against the better. Persistance and discipline will determin if they will be able to fight back from disappointments. A shitty low tour player can still become great PGA player if he does not drop the ball too early.

  9. M SmizWit

    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:52 am

    As if anything useful ever came out of Ireland.

    • Mark Donaghy

      Jul 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Outside Guinness, Whiskey, St. Patrick, Oscar Wilde, C.S Lewis, Samuel Beckett, George Best, Liam Neeson, U2, Potato Crisps, the submarine, pneumatic tyres, the portable defilrillator and a bunch of other stuff, you are probably right!

  10. Mat

    Jul 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    None of this talks about who can support a guy with hotel money for 6-36 months on the regional tours. There’s little money when you compare it to the travel costs involved. If you have a backer, you have a much, much better chance. If you never have the time or resources to learn to be a touring professional, you’ll end up needing a paycheck. Jobs look very good, and that focus you needed to turn that 70 into a 68 isn’t there. Those “sure fire” guys have to eat.

  11. Rory

    Jul 28, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Money is a big one….

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Club Junkie

Ampcaddy golf speaker V3 Pro review

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Music on the golf course is becoming more and more common, especially with bluetooth speakers designed for the purpose. Ampcaddy has been around for a few years and is famous for its adjustable clamp that mounts easily to the roof support on a golf cart. That clamp can also be used to attach the V3 Pro to just about any pole that you have at home, at the beach, or on the golf course. The clamp also lets you attach the speaker to aluminum or plastic securely, something the magnet options in this space don’t allow. The Ampcaddy V3 Pro clamp and arm are adjustable, so you can direct the sound in any direction that you desire. I like to keep my music focused more on the cart and aim the speaker at myself so I minimize the distraction on the green or tee box.

The sound quality of the Ampcaddy Golf Speaker V3 Pro is very good. There looks to be a small subwoofer on the back for great bass and the small front speaker does a good job with any genre of music. I am no audiophile, but my course playlist of everything from country, to hip hop, to rock sounded clear and full. The volume control could be a little more sensitive as I found that increasing or decreasing the volume could change the decibel level more than I wanted.

Sometimes, early in the morning, I felt the music was either a little too loud for my playing partners or a little too soft for me to hear comfortably. The battery life is listed as 20 hours, and while I didn’t go that far, it worked fine for two 18 holes rounds. The Ampcaddy Golf Speaker V3 Pro is wireless, using a Bluetooth connection from your phone, but also has a Micro SD slot and an Aux port for connecting if Bluetooth isn’t available. Ampcaddy lists the Golf Speaker V3 Pro as IPX7 water resistant for rain or splashing, so you should have no issues if you get caught in a downpour away from the clubhouse.


Overall, the Ampcaddy Golf Speaker V3 Pro seems to be a well built speaker with a ton of flexibility for mounting it on the golf course. With good sound and long battery life, the Golf Speaker V3 Pro can add some further enjoyment while on the golf course.

Take a listen to the Club Junkie Podcast for even more on the Ampcaddy Golf Speaker V3 Pro.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to use your backyard haven to train your golf game

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This will help improve your skills — without upsetting your better half.

 

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Club Junkie

Review of the new Fujikura Ventus TR Red and Black shafts!

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Fujikura’s Ventus shafts have been one of the hottest shaft lineups in years. You can see them all over the professional tours and in tons of amatuer bags every weekend. The new line of TR models does not replace the original Ventus Red, Blue, and Black as those are still available and won’t be leaving anytime soon. These new TR models are meant to be an addition to the line and filling a few gaps that players have asked for.

The Ventus Red was a shaft that I played in drivers and fairway woods over the years and I really loved it. I hit a pretty low, flat ball so the added launch of the Ventus Red was needed and it offered accuracy that I hadn’t been able to find in many higher launching shafts. The new TR Red takes a lot of that DNA and turns it up a notch. TR Red has a smooth, yet little more stout feel through the swing. It takes just a little more effort to load it and the kick at impact is great, just maybe not as aggressive as the Ventus Red is. The TR Red launch is a little bit lower and overall apex seems to be just a bit flatter as well. For players with more aggressive tempos the TR Red might offer a tad less draw compared to its sibling. I took the TR Red out in my Stealth+ head to a course I had played frequently and never had yardages into holes that I had that day. On at least 3-4 holes I told my playing partner that I had never been that close. The TR Red is currently in the bag!

TR Black looks amazing with the Spread Tow fabric showing in the sunlight. When you set the club down and waggle it, like all of us do with a new stick, there is almost no waggle to the shaft! The Ventus TR Black is very stout, noticeably more stout than the original Ventus Black. As stiff as the shaft is, Fujikura has built in a ton of smoothness to it. It takes a lot of power to load so be ready to try the softer flex or lighter weight. The launch is very low, one of the lowest I have hit, and the ballflight very flat. I could see that the TR Black launched significantly lower than TR Red when hitting it in the same head on the course. TR Black is hard to turn over and players who fear the draw should like the stout feel as you bring the shaft to impact. For my 105 mph club head speed I think stepping down to the 6-S would give me more playable results compared to the extra stiff.

Overall the new TR Red and TR Black are great shafts that Fujikura has engineered. Even if you are currently playing a Ventus, I think it is worth your while to check out the new shafts and see how they compare to your gamer. For more on each shaft check out my Club Junkie podcast.

 

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