Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters is a special place. My wife, Carol Ann, and I are golf junkies and we’ve been coming to these hallowed grounds to watch The Masters Golf Tournament for several years now.
We’ve seen Phil Mickelson win a couple times, as well as Tiger Woods. I’ll never forget Tiger’s playoff with Chris DiMarco, including his memorable chip-in at the 16th hole. Watching these golfers and their focus is really a treat.
This year, Jim Nantz, who broadcasts The Masters for CBS TV, gave us a personal tour of the Butler cabin where the green jacket will be awarded to the tournament winner this Sunday, April 8.
I also ran into Gary Player, who is playing in his record-tying 50th Masters. We reminisced about our first meeting, back in my varsity golfing days at the University of Minnesota many years ago. Back then The Saint Paul Open was one of the top tournaments on the men’s professional golf circuit. Prior to the tournament, I had a chance to meet Gary when he was taking a lesson from our team coach, Les Bolstad. Later that evening I went to dinner with the world’s future #1 player when he was still an unknown.
The following day at The Saint Paul Open, I saw Gary after he teed off at first hole and ran up to him to say hi. I wanted to tell him what a great time I had the night before.
His steely eyes remained focused on the fairway ahead and he never broke stride. “Harvey, please don’t talk to me. I must concentrate. I will see you when I’m finished.”
I remember how devastated I felt, but I learned a valuable lesson on the importance of focus, which has helped me in my business career.
Many years later when he was world famous, Carol Ann, and I ran into Gary and his wife in South Africa. I reintroduced myself and reminded him of what happened on the golf course.
Gary’s wife told me, “Don’t feel bad. He doesn’t even talk to me on the golf course.”
That’s the focus that it takes to do your best. If you have the ability to focus fully on the task at hand, and shut out everything else, you can accomplish amazing things.
Arnold Palmer, is also at The Masters and hit the ceremonial first ball, resurrecting a tradition that has not occurred since the late Sam Snead hit the first drive in 2002.
Let me tell you about a tough lesson Arnie learned about focus, which appears in Carol Mann’s book “The 19th Hole”:
“It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, “Congratulations.” I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus. On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. You don’t forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again.”
My message to you is to keep your eye on the ball. Don’t let friends distract you when you need to be focused.
How many times have you heard an athlete talk about focus? It’s a topic I also hear about frequently in business. The most common complaints? Too many irons in the fire. Too many projects spinning at one time. Too many interruptions. Too many phone calls. Too many emails. Too many things to do. Too little time.
Stay focused as best you can, and don’t let things happen to you – not when you can make things happen.