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When I start working with a player on their golf game I always try and ask myself, “what is this person’s potential?” To be honest, this is the most exciting time with a player. To start to dream a little bit, I ask the player, “Where do you want to be with your golf game in one year? How about in three years?” Then we make a plan for what that player needs to do each day in order to reach the goals we’ve set.
There are so many up and down days in this game; you’ve got to have a process you can stick to after a bad day. Hopefully you’ll look at your plan and have enough faith in it that you don’t need to make drastic changes — just keep working at it. After coaching and being around many top college players, and even Tour players, I’ve seen that this can be the biggest trap they get into: they’ll play with someone who, let’s say, is a really good putter or driver of the ball, and think, “I need to change myself and do it that person’s way.” If you follow one player’s career for long enough you’ll see that they don’t play well every week. They’ll occasionally miss cuts and perform poorly, but it’s during those times when you have to believe that what you’re doing is the right stuff and make slight adjustments –not overhauls.
I caddied on the Champions Tour for Tom Kite, who once told me, “If you’re not making changes, you’re not getting better.” Tom likes to be on the cutting edge, constantly working and getting better, but I’ve noticed he’s always trying to improve the same aspects of his game. He has a plan and he doesn’t vary from it. I remembered what I learned from Tom when, last summer, I was approached by an unheralded college player, a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota, who wanted my help to achieve his dream: making it onto the PGA Tour.
I had worked with 23-year-old lefty Donald Constable — on his short game, mostly — for the past four years, but the question he posed on that August day was an entirely different matter: “What is it going to take for me to get through Qualifying School?”As you may know, the PGA Tour Q School is one of the most nerve-racking experiences is sports. Most pros never even come close to landing one of the few Tour cards that are available each year during the marathon of tournaments that comprises Q School. I immediately knew that getting Donald, the 75th-ranked college player in the country his senior year, his card was going to take a lot of work.