Did You Know It Takes More Than Talent?

“It’s not about how talented you are, it’s about how hard you work to make the most of the talent you were given”
–  Me

It’s so crazy for me to think about now, but for most of my golf career, I relied 90% on my golf talent. Yes, I honestly thought that this talent I had been “born with” was enough to make me a successful golfer. That I could lackadaisically go about my life with a dream to be a professional golfer one day, but not actually work hard at achieving that goal. While I didn’t have an ego, and actually struggled with confidence in myself as a golfer, I did have this thought in my head that I was special and others would say the same thing because things seemed to come easier to me when it came to golf and being athletic. I’ll never forget caddies, tour reps, and other players on tour watching me hit balls and would make comments to me and my dad about why I wasn’t winning tournaments “with that swing”. Oh if only I knew what I did now and looked at myself and my work ethic the way I do now!!

This may sound crazy, but I believe that one of the biggest detriments to a young player’s development is being told how talented they are. Check out this old, but a great video about motivation and hard work.

I was one of those players who had a natural swing and talent for golf from an early age. I didn’t have to be taught a lot of mechanics and never had a full-time swing coach, mostly just my dad helping me. I could pretty easily figure out how to properly swing the club, work the ball, creatively get myself out of trouble, and hit different short game shots around the green without thinking much about mechanics.

As I started consulting and evaluating young golfers 12 years ago, it made me look back on my career to the things that kept me from being more successful in college golf and out on tour. I truly believe that being told that I was lucky to have a lot of natural talent, kept me from working as hard as I could in order to be the best player that I could be (and it pains me to admit that). As I progressed through the stages of golf, I started to see that some of the most talented players weren’t necessarily the most successful. Yes, those players who developed their skills and abilities more naturally may have had an easier road, but if they didn’t focus on their weaknesses, put the work in, and commit to getting better, then those who worked harder were likely going to pass them at some stage of the process. Well, I eventually got passed and outworked.

My natural abilities, athleticism, and the minimal time I spent working on my game earned me some really sweet accolades and allowed me to play on the biggest stage of amateur and professional women’s golf, but I struggled with the work ethic, discipline, focus, maturity, and mental toughness. These are all crucial for any athlete who wants to be one of the best in the world. It’s easy to see a great swing and think that the player is going to be good, but if the other qualities don’t continue to develop with that player, then the natural talent will reach a brick wall at some point.

My swing did over time need a little work, especially to hold up better under pressure and play in tougher conditions, but I never spent enough time really making those changes sufficient enough. I hit the ball well most of the time so I just kept at my usual routine thinking it would just take care of itself eventually. My short game was good, I could pull off these great bunker shots and creative shots around the greens, but I never really understood how I did it and never put the time to practice them under pressure. Because of that, I was also prone to hitting some pretty ugly shots when I was in contention or needing to post a good score – those were always great for a good laugh, and some good TV moments, just maybe not at the time.

I had an opportunity to work with a great golf psychologist, but I didn’t take advantage of his services and generosity to help make a difference in my game. He wanted me to create a schedule and prioritize what I did each week and at that stage of my life, I just wasn’t ready to be structured and disciplined. Mental toughness was very much a missing piece of my golf career but I never put the time into it.

Towards the end of my career, I read Dr. Bob Rotella’s book “Your 15th Club” and the Vision 54 books and for the first time really understood what being a “complete player” was all about, unfortunately, it ended up being a little too late for me. I didn’t handle the pressure well when I got into contention, I didn’t have any kind of structure to my practice sessions, I worried about the things I couldn’t control, I was easily intimidated by other players, I struggled to find my place on tour and never really got comfortable out there mentally.

So for all that talent that everybody liked to talk about and remind me of, it meant very little since I wasn’t putting the time into working on the weaker areas of my game and really working hard to be the best player and athlete I could be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that had to look like some players who could spend hours on the range and putting green, but it did need a level of structure and discipline that I just didn’t develop at that stage of my life. And trust me, none of this has ever been fun to admit and I have certainly learned from my past tendencies, especially now as a business owner and mentor, but if it will encourage a young player to put the work in and not just get by on talent alone then it’s worth the brutally honest admission.

There comes a point where hard work outweighs talent. So as a junior golfer always remember that just because something may come easy for someone else doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and be as good as they are, if not better. Don’t get discouraged. The most important thing is that you find something that you love and you work hard to develop your own talent. And for those who tend to be naturally talented athletes, keep in mind that if you don’t work extra hard on your weaker areas and find ways to continue to make yourself better, others will catch up to you. The road may seem like an easier one for you, but you will find the end of the road much quicker than those who continue to work hard to get better.