One of my favorite golf books I've ever read was Tom Coyne's "Paper Tiger." It is a beautiful and brilliant storyline of an above-average golfer taking a year off to pursue every golfer's dream of becoming a professional golfer. If the cover doesn't clue you in to how it went, I'll spoil it for you; not great.
Why I loved that book so much is because so many people think they can become professionals at this sport. Golf, more than anything else, triggers something in men that makes them think they have the goods to play this game at an elite level. Maybe it's the fact that there isn't a genetic barrier limiting the average male from making it. While J.J. Barea was slicing and dicing his way to a NBA Championship, 99.9 percent of the people playing professional basketball are taller and faster than all of us sitting at home watching. And the day I walked next to Brian Dawkins in the tunnel at University of Phoenix Stadium before the 2009 NFC Championship told me that as much as I work at perfecting my own body, those NFL guys are in a completely different world physically than I could ever be.
But golf is different. If I had a dollar for every time a wife sitting next to me on an airplane told me her husband was thinking about joining the Champions Tour when he turned 50, I sure as hell wouldn't be wasting my days writing on this blog for pennies.
So that brings up something I got sent yesterday by a reader/friend of mine. It's a new blog that popped up cleverly named "The Underdog Golf Blog," and it's a story about a 28-year-old guy that can't break 100 but wants to play in the 2014 U.S. Open. If it sounds familiar, that's probably because it is. Dan McLaughlin, a man who has become an online friend of mine and even stopped by as a guest on the Devil Ball podcast with myself and Jay Busbee, is spending hundreds of hours trying to perfect his game and become a professional.
It's just ... this game isn't easy. Not even close. It's probably the hardest sport to be great at in the world. An athletic guy might be able to smoke a running forehand down the line in a tight match because nothing is going through his head when he's doing it. He's just running and trying to hit the ball back and if he can get the racket on that ball with the right amount of force, it doesn't really matter the situation. Now, am I saying tennis is easy? Of course not, watching the Federers and Nadals of the world is one of the most beautiful athletic theater in sports. But in golf, you aren't just battling yourself, or the golf course, or the other players; you're battling the time between shots, and the thoughts that go through your mind.
And you're also trying to beat people that have done this for 10 hours a day, six days a week, since they were 8-years-old. I had beers with a good buddy of mine (A reader here!) on Friday, and we were joking about old men thinking they can make the Champions Tour. He made an excellent point; you, hopeful professional golfer, have a full-time job and play on the weekends. These guys have a full-time job that is playing golf all the time.
I don't mind people's dreams. You have to strive to be something. I still have moments where I think I have the game to play at the next level, even if my talent says otherwise. I had a good buddy write on my sister's Facebook wall, after she posted a picture of us two at the U.S. Open, "your brother shouldn't be covering that event, he should be playing in it," and it's moments like those that give me a little extra push to be better than I am. But I also understand what it takes to get there. You're playing against people that already have an arm, a leg and a short game up on you and you have to not only become equals with them, you have to beat them, and beat them a lot.
I'll just simply say this; dream as big as you want, and I hope guys like Patrick Alcoke and Dan end up making it. I think it would be an incredible story and it would further make golf the best sport in the world. But also do it a little like Tom Coyne did it. Expect brilliance, but don't be disappointed if it doesn't happen. There are a TON of brilliant golfers that have never even sniffed the fairways of a Nationwide Tour event, much less the pinnacle of stages. There are men that break 67 every single time they tee it up, but their games don't travel. There are men in every golf store and pro shop around the world that, at one point or another, have broke 63, and could probably do it again if they went and hit balls for 30 minutes. So just make sure you're approaching all of this with a part of your mind on the history of this game. Tiger Woods didn't get to be where he is because he just was good. He became good. He worked to be great. He spent YEARS on the range and practice greens perfecting the simplest of pitches, and the hardest of flops. He worked tirelessly at hitting his driver in the fairway. He would make putts in his sleep, and I'm talking about his literal sleep.
Becoming great isn't something that you have to work at. It's something that you can only work at. Good luck.