When I first met Ezakiah, he was practicing putting with one of my students. I learned that the two of them met while playing in the South Florida PGA Junior Section Links Tour, now they have become friends. His Dad asked me what I thought about him and I was honest when I said he has a lot of raw talent he just needs to slow down. About a week, later I received a text inquiring about some lessons.
He is by far the smallest 7 year old I have coached so far and he has a lot of energy that needed to be harnessed in the correct way. He has become extremely attentive and always repeats everything I say during his lessons. He really wants to improve and he practices by playing the course in between lessons which has built up his confidence level. His strokes in tournament play have also decreased leading to his best 9 hole tournament score of 46 and a first place finish.
Ezakiah has the best attitude toward golf that I have seen in a long time. He is always happy and ready to learn. He is extremely polite and he is always impeccably dressed for his golf lessons. He comes dressed to succeed and after just seven lessons he is well on his way.
Mateo started learning golf when he was 5 years old but he told me that he really started to like it after I took over his group classes. He was quite talented for his age, so I encouraged his Mom to consider private lessons as well. He quickly excelled and moved up from the Little Linkers to Level 1 where I introduced the 9 Core Values. In order to move up to Level 2, golfers were required to attain a certain score on a golf skills assessment. The first time, he was nervous, the second time he came close and the third time he crushed it. While the first two assessments were disappointing he learned a lot about himself and his golf game. Now, I felt he was ready to play tournaments.
Tournaments proved to be a testing ground for true perseverance and grit. With a little coaching from his caddie, he was able to work through some mental challenges on the course and place first a dozen times and second a few times. Mateo, now 8, picked up tournament play again in June and he started to struggle with perseverance. "I have a hard time forgetting what went wrong on the last hole. I get upset and then it carries into the next hole. Sometimes I just don't recover." He puts a lot of pressure on himself because he wants to be perfect.
No golfer is perfect so I had to spend a lot of time with him encouraging him to focus on the fundamentals that I have always taught him. His early success, left him complacent. Complacency led to over confidence which led to mistakes and a lack of perseverance. It was a tough summer of learning and growing for him.
This past weekend, he was given the opportunity to play up in the 9-11 group of the South Florida PGA Junior Section Links Tour at Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach. He was nervous but when he saw a familiar face from his previous PGA Junior League Team he was more relaxed. He played bogey golf through 4 holes. "I was not happy, but after the 4th bogey, I decided to focus. I needed to catch up. I was making too many mistakes." He birdied 5, parred 6 and birdied 7 to tie the leader. That birdie would lead to a first place finish for Mateo in a scorecard playoff.
The win was special because he played against two 10 year-olds who could out drive him. It was intimidating but he overcame it and finally did what I had been teaching him to do, persevere-never give up.
I have been coaching Sara since 2017 and she is an absolute delight. She encountered many ups and downs as she battled flaws in her swing which left her unhappy with her performance at times. Her competitive nature also caused her to try too hard to make things work which was very frustrating for her.
We spent time talking through her challenges and she started to become a better student of the game. I filmed her, she studied what she was doing wrong and she practiced for hours at a time until she could make the corrections. She is a determined young golfer.
Sara started playing in U.S. Kids tournaments last year and her performance earned her an invite to Regionals. She was presented a beautiful trophy for her 3rd place finish and she wanted to share it with me. It is truly an honor to coach her. She is only 8 years old and her future is bright. I have no doubt she will attain her goal of first place soon.
I love teaching golf and I especially love teaching golf to students who are willing to put in the time to practice. I stress this to all of my students but especially for students who purchase lesson packages and plan to have a lesson on a weekly basis. I make the commitment to my students and I expect my students to make the commitment to practice what they have learned in the lesson. Why? I don't like to see people waste money.
If a week goes by and my student has not practiced, it is very unlikely that we are going to make much progress in the next lesson. I want my students to improve in their skills and their game. That progression happens during a student's practice time when neural pathways are created.
Neural pathways are formed whenever we start a new behavior. Golf can be a new behavior for a beginner student or it can be an existing behavior that needs to be altered for an amateur golfer. Either way it takes time for your brain to impress the new behavior into your memory. Just like riding a bike, once you have learned you do not need to learn again.
Golf skills, however, require more practice because learning how to swing a golf club is only the beginning. The physics of the golf swing will take you on a journey of varying emotions as you play the course. It is not something that you will master after one lesson without practice. For this reason, I do not recommend taking a lesson just before your tee time.
If you want to progress, make the time to practice. If life gets in the way and you cannot practice; reschedule your lesson.
Each week during my Homeschool Group Golf Classes I focus on one or more of the First Tee 9 Core Values. I firmly believe that junior golfers become people of character as they learn them and actually apply them in their everyday lives. That belief allows me to look forward to the future with hope.
While some junior golfers take the initiative to learn and apply, most need a helping hand or a gentle push from a parent, mentor or even an older sibling. It is my hope that the discussion questions that follow will be used as conversation starters in the car, during dinner or casual walk. Try one soon and let me know how it goes. Remember, these are not one-time conversations.
Core Value Discussion Questions
1. Respect is being polite and kind in one’s actions. What are some ways you can be respectful at home? What are some ways you can be respectful outside of the home?
2. Courtesy is being or acting polite to others. What are some ways you can be courteous at home? What are some way you can be courteous outside of the home?
3. Responsibility is it’s up to me, I am the one myself and others depend on to make it happen. What are some ways you can be responsible at home? What are some ways you can be responsible outside of your home?
4. Honesty is telling the truth. Describe a time where you were honest.
5. Sportsmanship is playing by the rules and acting nice to others no matter if you are winning or losing. Describe a time you were exhibiting sportsmanship.
6. Confidence is a feeling of “I can do it!” Describe a time you felt confident. What are some ways you can help yourself be more confident?
7. Judgment is to make a decision or form an opinion. What are some ways you can use good judgment at home? What are some ways you can use good judgment outside of your home?
8. Perseverance is to keep going to matter what. Describe a time you had to persevere and what helped you keep going.
9. Integrity is knowing the difference between right and wrong; doing what is right even when no one is looking. Describe a person you think has integrity.
10. Complete the following statement. I will use the core value of ____________at least once every day by __________________________ because ________________________.