Photo : Godofredo A. Vásquez


The night before each tournament round, I would lie in bed, visualizing how I wanted the round to unfold. I would envision where each shot would land, the angles I would approach the greens from, and the satisfaction of sinking birdie putts. Undoubtedly, this visualization practice enhanced my performance, but it rarely played out exactly as I had imagined. I would often hit an errant shot and be faced with unexpected challenges.

This realization holds true in life as well. We make plans, yet find ourselves deviating from the intended course, searching for a way back. The lessons I learned from bouncing back after hitting errant shots in golf have seamlessly translated into life. Just as Charley Hull demonstrated, we must learn to navigate out of difficult situations if we want to enjoy the rewards that life has to offer.

Our Vision vs. Reality and Why “Shy Kids Don’t Get Sweets”

Throughout my career, I harnessed the power of visualization to enhance my performance in tournaments. The night before each event, I would lie in bed and mentally walk through each hole, picturing the shots I wanted to execute. I would try to immerse myself in the sensations of a well-struck iron, feeling the surge of confidence in my veins and imagining the satisfying scent of a perfectly carved divot hanging in the air. Many players employ this technique to prepare and stay focused during a round.

One notable example is Jason Day, who is known for closing his eyes before each shot. He’s definitely not the only one on the tour who taps into the power of imagination to elevate their game.

The purpose of visualization exercises is to imagine how you want each shot to unfold or how you envision playing each hole on the course. However, no matter how intensely I visualized, the reality of the next day’s play rarely matched my expectations. Why? Well, we’re all human and prone to making mistakes. Even the best players in the world don’t have a perfect round every time they step onto the course. There is probably only a handful of times they came close to accomplishing such a feat.

Ben Hogan famously said, “Golf is not a game of good shots. It’s a game of bad shots.” Suggesting the best are those who have better bad shots and respond best when put in an unforeseen circumstance.

The true mark of greatness lies in how players handle those less-than-ideal situations and unexpected challenges. While our goal is always to hit fairways and greens, it’s inevitable that we’ll find ourselves behind trees, in hazards, or playing from bunkers. When we choose to tee it up, we willingly invite adversity into our day.

For the longest time, I used to fear hitting errant shots or ending up in places I hadn’t visualized as part of my perfect plan. I strived for perfection, only to find myself feeling tense and actually landing in more undesirable spots. The truth is, I should have accepted that regardless of how prepared I was, at somepoint I’d be derailed from my game plan.

The crazy thing is, when I did find myself facing those challenges, I discovered a sense of calm. It presented a new opportunity for me to showcase my creativity and resilience. I would ponder how to shape a shot, navigating it under a branch and around a tree trunk to land safely on the front fringe of the green. Those were the moments that defined my round—how I responded to adversity and navigated my way back on track. So, why did I ever fear those situations?

And this realization extends beyond the realm of golf; it mirrors life itself. As I shared in my previous post, I had a “perfect plan” for where I wanted to be in my life by the age of 25. Life, however, had different plans for me, which initially led to frustration. It was only when I accepted that I had veered off the expected path that I began to tap into my creativity, finding new ways to overcome obstacles and define this period of my life by resilience rather than victimhood.

Just last week, during the U.S. Women’s Open, an inspiring incident unfolded. Charlie Hull found herself three strokes behind the leader as she approached the challenging eighteenth hole, a par-5 that demanded excellence. She knew that an eagle was the only shot at victory. Her drive off the tee appeared perfect, but upon reaching her ball, she discovered it nestled behind the famous cypress tree, seemingly impossible to reach the green in two shots.

Instead of letting this setback define her, Hull embraced the moment with a touch of humor. She turned to her caddy and jokingly remarked, “Shy kids don’t get sweets. We’re three behind, might as well go for it.” With unwavering determination, she unleashed a three-wood shot that landed just short of the green, settling in a greenside bunker. Though victory eluded her, she left the crowd with a lightheartedness and a valuable lesson of resilience in the face of adversity.

Life often deviates from our carefully constructed plans, but it’s crucial to smile and embrace the unexpected. It’s within those moments of unpredictability that our character strengthens and new opportunities arise. The more we find ourselves off the well-trodden path, the more adept we become at bouncing back.

Personally, I honed my skills in hitting low 6-iron punches out of trees once I accepted that I would need to use that shot from time to time. Similarly, you will become better at finding your way back on track if you can recognize when you’re facing obstacles and willingly embrace the challenge of overcoming them.

One day, when you encounter a significant challenge in the journey of life, akin to a cypress tree blocking your path to success, you will be able to face it with a lighthearted smirk, knowing deep down that you have been preparing for that moment all along.

After all, shy kids don’t get to savor life’s sweet rewards. And deep down, we all yearn for a taste of those delights.

The Good Stuff

I’m a big fan of Amy Olson and they way she uses golf as a platform to share her greater purpose. Last week, she played The U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach while seven months pregnant. Following the tournament, she shared the lessons she learned from the week that she’d later tell her child. Lessons we all could put to use in our lives.