"Act Without Expectation"
Josh McCumber, Scholarship for Athletes Director of Golf, sat down with Camilo Villegas to ask him some questions about his college recruiting process, his time at the University of Florida, his transition to becoming a PGA TOUR winner, and advice he has for student athletes going through the process. Enjoy his answers in the 15 minute interview and feel free to comment on what you will take from Camilo's thoughts to become a better student and golfer.
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Bowen Sargent has coached the University of Virginia Men’s golf team for 10 seasons and he played professionally for 9 years. He was kind enough to sit down with SFA’s director of golf, Josh McCumber, and share his knowledge about the recruiting process.
SFA: At SFA, we try to explain to our clients that the recruiting process is like being on three year job interview; is that how you view the recruiting process?
BS: To some extent yes. As coaches, we certainly want to see a “body of work” over a period of time to better indicate what we’ll get when they enter college.
SFA: What advice do you have for the parents of high school student athletes about the recruiting process?
BS: I would recommend starting early in the recruiting process. Often recruits are left behind because they don’t know how quickly the process unfolds. I would also put more value into the coaching staff and recognize that what a program has to offer will compliment or make their child better. I think this piece is lost in the process a lot of times.
Also, I would advise any recruit that has been contacted directly prior to September 1 of their junior year is being recruited illegally. I wouldn’t want my kid playing for someone willing to cheat. After all this is a game of integrity and I think the recruiting process should be treated with the same respect.
SFA: Assuming that they have the academics and golf level to attend your school, when should junior players begin to contact you or send you their resume?
BS: Given the new change in NCAA rules, I think no later than your sophomore year, preferably by their freshman year. This will allow potential student athletes (PSA’s) to visit schools in their sophomore year and make a decision soon thereafter which seems to be the current timeframe for a commitment.
SFA: How important is it for potential recruits to build strong relationships with you and the players on your team?
BS: Building a relationship with a potential coach is vital. I think this is a piece of the recruiting process that is often missed. The coach will be with you for four years and will help shape your athletic, academic and social life.
SFA: What are your coaching philosophies?
BS: I feel my job is to motivate and encourage my student-athletes to achieve the most of their academic and athletic skills. So I want to see each student athlete graduate from the University of Virginia having achieved their full potential thus setting them up for a successful future whether it’s in golf or business.
SFA: What should athletes do or not do while taking their unofficial and official visits?
BS: I would encourage PSA’s to come prepared for a visit. Think about what you want from a college athletic program and ask good questions to make the most of the visit. Talk with former student athletes who played for or against that coach/school, and see what they think of that coach.
SFA: What would you like to see more of from high school athletes?
BS: If I were a recruit and knew what I know now I would go to college tournaments and see what actually happens at college events. I’d see how coaches prepare and develop their young men. I think attending a college tournament tells you a lot about how a team is prepared and how they are coached.
On the academic side, I’d like to see more PSA’s taking the SAT/ACT in their freshman and sophomore year.
SFA: Why do you think so many college student athletes quit and transfer?
BS: Great question, no doubt it’s because the PSA didn’t do his homework before making a decision. As I mentioned previously, the recruiting process is about getting the most out of your college experience and finding the college and athletic program that’s the best fit for you! All too often, PSA’s get too consumed with the material side of the recruiting process whether it is rankings or facilities, etc… In the end, it’s people and knowledge that make you better. So a recruit’s relationship with a coach is vital. Be leery of any program that has a lot of transfers or kids dropping off the team. Do your homework with rosters and check the history of the athletic programs.
I am constantly searching YouTube for good tips on becoming a better player. It is great learning the nuances of the game from the greats and major champion winners. I came across a great video of Lee Trevino talking about hitting pitch shots and wedges. In the video he will also explain why Steve Stricker is such a good wedge player. Enjoy the video and let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Play the game and enjoy the walk!
Yesterday was a really fun day attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. 9 years ago, I qualified for my 1st U.S. Open at Pinehurst. I fell short of advancing to the sectional but in the process I remembered why playing tournament golf is so valuable. I have been on the golf course a lot in tournament settings lately, just haven't played in them myself. I have been coaching players on how they can perform at their optimal when the outcome means something to them and their future. No matter how many times I tell my players how to approach a situation or how to handle adversity, if I'm not competing some, I am not giving them the best advice. Playing tournament golf brings out a different level of anxiety, a different amount of tension. Being able to think clearly, staying calm and relaxed is a skill that must be learned. It's why Jack Nicklaus was so successful. He said the four things that make a winner are the following:
When competing myself, I am able to attempt to do the above. It isn't easy when you are the one hitting shots. It is pretty easy to say to a player what kind of shot was that you just hit? What was your target? What were you thinking there? Emotions are a crazy thing. Everyone responds to stress differently. Competition reiterates to me every time the importance of a great routine that allows you to swing with great rhythm and tempo. At the end of the day the most important is your attitude. Can you adopt an attitude of confidence and playing with no consequences when the stakes are high? I challenge all coaches to not lose sight of competing themselves so they can practice what they preach. It will go a long way into getting your players to listen and buy in to what you want them doing under those conditions. Play the game...enjoy the walk.
It's been a while since I've blogged here. I've missed writing down my thoughts. I felt it appropriate to make a post as a continuation to an earlier article I wrote titled "Acceptance is the key to unlocking your true potential." The key is being able to accept the unknown. The truth is if we can accept bogeys we will be able to play this game at an extremely high level. We will make birdies, we will make pars and we will make bogeys. I want you to think about the last time you played 18 holes without a bogey? I bet you can count on one hand how many times you have done just that. So instead of trying to be perfect and not make mistakes let's accept mistakes. Let's just not compound the mistakes. When we hit a bad shot accept a bogey. But grind your tail off to make a par. Hit the smart shot. Give yourself a putt. I promise if you approach your next round of golf with this mindset you will score much better and enjoy the round a whole lot more. Acceptance is the key, so accept imperfect. Enjoy the walk and play the game!
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When you work on your game, all of your practice shouldn't be just on your mechanics. Make sure to make time to recreate scenarios you face on the golf course. Change your targets on the range and change your clubs. Walk into each shot and develop your routine. Play games on the putting green with one ball. Take a wedge and putter to the chipping green and see how many you can get up and down. The more you practice what you do on the golf course, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will be able to trust what you practice! Enjoy the walk...Play the game
I love how simple tom watson explains the golf swing in this clinic he gave in 2005.
I hate the phrase. I hate the word – Choke. Nothing bothers me more than hearing an announcer mention choking in sports as he attempts to explain what is happening to a player or team that appeared to have the game, match or tournament in hand. As I watched the British Open this summer it was painful to see Adam Scott finish with 4 straight bogeys. He obviously didn’t handle the situation as best as he could. But it isn’t as simple as it appears. Being a golfer and having competed at a high level, I have had my fair share of letting the magnitude of the situation get to me. I’ve allowed myself to get out of the moment and allowed my emotions to dictate my performance. It is usually a snowball effect. When I think back to Adam Scott at Royal Lytham, if he had made the 4 footer on 16 I feel he would have won the tournament. He had just bogeyed 15 and now bogeyed 16.
For a golfer with a large lead when faced with small adversity if they can make a key 4 footer, hit a good chip or hit a ball on the green after a poor drive they feel as if “I am going to get this done, it is my destiny and my day.” When the short putt lips out, the second shot sails over the green into a tough spot, they start to unravel and feel out of control. It then affects their decision making. When Adam walked onto 18 tee, Ernie Els had just birdied to tie him. He made a tactical error in hitting a 3 wood. He either should have ripped a driver as he had been doing so well all week or hit an iron that couldn’t get to the bunkers. He hit into the only area he couldn’t hit it. He then played a great shot and gave him a chance for par but missed the putt.
Everyone will say he choked and unfortunately it will be hard to refute, but as I mentioned earlier it is a series of events that lead to it. If he could have made one par on those last 3 holes before 18, he pars 18 in my opinion and wins the championship. Choking is just a situation where our focus gets more on the outcome than the process. We realize where we are and what we are about to accomplish. If we could always the play the game with the process in mind and be a kid we would choke less. We must learn to program our minds to go back to that place where we went out and played for the love of the game. It is a difficult thing to do but the best lose themselves in the moment and just do what they can control. Next time you are playing for your Y league or on the course with your buddies and have a chance to win the match remember why you are there that day. It is what you enjoy doing. Have fun, be a kid and let it go.
Remember the joy you had as a kid
I am really enjoying coaching junior golfers and helping them to understand the nuances of the game. When you are a young golfer there is a thought in your head (at least there was in mine) that one day when you get on the PGA TOUR your game will just be good and good all of the time. You think you will find some formula the best players have and poof you’ll be on tour and winning tournaments until you want to stop playing. Yes, the best players have a formula but it isn’t something you wake up with one day.
The formula is developed by practicing smart and learning how to trust your golf swing and game. The formula is keeping it simple and working extremely hard on those simple things and applying the coaching philosophy of Tony Dungy that in order to be great work on what you do well and perfect those things. We don’t want to neglect what we don’t do well, especially if we can improve our short game, wedge game and putting. But if you have a bad tournament or stretch it doesn’t mean to start over and change your philosophy, look for a new swing coach and think a new swing is the answer. Your focus should be on how can I make what I do and my strengths even stronger and put myself in position to maximize those skills.
As our golf games develop we invariably deal with expectations. Expectations to play well because of how we have been playing, what others think we should finish, or a great round the day before the tournament starts. Every golfer must keep their expectations in check. I have found the best way to accomplish that feat is for your goal to be anything but your score. Create simple goals within your round that are measurable but do not involve the outcome. Let them involve the process; your ability to pick out good targets, to walk and talk with confidence and to keep an even keel throughout the round regardless of where your shots end up.
The more attention you can pay to working on parts of your game that will impact your score the more confidence you will take with you into competition and the better you will be able to deal with adversity. Golf is a game of misses. We don’t hit many shots exactly how we pictured. Byron Nelson, one of the best ball strikers of all time used to say he would only hit about 5 shots just like he wanted in a round of golf. The great players manage their misses the best. They putt with great confidence and speed control. They have excellent distance control with their wedges and know how to flight the ball. Above all, they swing with abandonment and let it go. They trust themselves and know the more they can swing freely the better results they will get even if that means the occasional loose shot.
I urge all parents to be mindful of potential expectations you put on your golfers. Children want to please their parents and it is natural that they would want to shoot good scores to make mom and dad happy. What is important is that your expectations for them involve things other than score. I encourage you to watch your golfer and see how they handle themself throughout the round. Is he or she up-beat, smiling and walking with confidence? Are they staying focused and patient during the course of the round regardless of the outcome? These are a few things to start measuring or judging them on. If you can start to make these your goals for them, both golfer and parent will enjoy the journey more.
Remember, golf is a game, a game that mirrors life. In our professional endeavors we don’t have parents and loved ones looking over our shoulder at the office critiquing every presentation we give or judging us based on every phone call we make. Even in school, every project or test isn’t analyzed with a fine tooth comb. The teachers give us a grade and if we didn’t do well we are told to study harder for the next test. If we apply this type of behavior on the golf course the game will remain fun and the scores will be the best they could be for that day. Golf is great because it always starts over every day. We have another 18 holes to go play. We have a 1st tee shot to hit and a last putt to hole. If we can get a little better each time we go out, our games will be where we hope when it’s time to pick a college or make a decision about playing professionally. Remember to play the game and enjoy the walk!
Josh McCumber, professional golfer, coach and consultant has been playing golf almost all of his life. He has been around the game at the highest level, and has learned from the best players and instructors in the game. His uncle, Mark McCumber won 10 times on the PGA TOUR and his cousin Tyler McCumber is currently playing on the PGA TOUR. Josh will share his wisdom, knowledge and proprietary techniques from being out on the PGA TOUR with his uncle, his cousin and from his experience playing the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Nationwide Tour) and 2 U.S. Opens.