Saturday, December 10

Best of the Best—PGA Tour Q-School of 1971 (Part 4)

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

ON ONE OF THOSE RAINY afternoons at PGA National Golf Club, I let the players alone on the course and stopped by the pro shop to chat with head professional Lou Strong who had seen more players come through PGA National than most. I asked him what he thought was key to winning a tour card, or for that matter, what makes a good golfer.

“What makes a professional golfer, whoever they are, or wherever they are, is the ability to score,” he said.

“The pros call this ‘getting up and down.’ And to be able to score, the players must first be able to manage their game. They must know how to play a variety of shots from the same locations as circumstances dictate. They must also know the course they’re playing—know its putting grain, its wind and soil conditions, its distances yard by yard. And they must be able to come back from poor shots and bad rounds. Golf is,” Lou summed up, “a game of misses, not of hits.”

Lou went on to say that very few shots are executed perfectly. Everyone misses shots, but to par or even birdie a hole after an adverse shot is what makes a touring professional. It is, Lou says again, “the ability to ‘get it up and down.’” When Lou judges a new player he looks for the same thing. “A sound golf swing, a repeating swing, a control swing, and the ability to play varied shots.”

Still, not everyone can make it to the tour.

“I have seen players in my time,” Lou continued, “who have had all the shots, all the talent to be great winners, but still couldn’t make it. They lacked the strength of mind to come back from a bad shot or a bad round, to recover the mental quietude needed to execute the next shot, to play the next day. Professionals need to be able to pull themselves together, to eliminate tension, worry and the fear of failure, and perform the shot as if nothing else in the world mattered. And nothing else does matter until the shot is hit.”

To get ready to play, Lou had the same advice for pros as well as club members.

“Don’t go out to the practice area and bang away at balls. Hit twenty or thirty balls before a round, concentrating on the driver and the short iron. All you want to do is loosen up. Save the shots for the course.

“Most professionals spend the majority of their time on the putting green. That’s the right thing to do. If a young pro wants to make it on the tour, he’s going to have to make it on the green. Putting is a game of confidence. If you know you are going to make a putt when you step up to it, chances are you’ll make it.”

(To be continued.)

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

(Photo credit: Dave Fayram, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

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