By David Vaught, USGTF Master Professional
Occasionally we are all confronted with a deep-meaning question from someone that requires quite a bit of reflection. It could be a colleague, peer, student, or family member. As I have progressed through the years in my golf career, I get asked the following question more and more often: “How did you get where you are today in the golf business?”
A few years ago, when confronted with this question by a young aspiring golf professional, I was caught completely off guard, but the answer popped into my head unexpectedly. Before I reveal that epiphany, I must say after that day I began to notice a similar motive for almost every successful golf instructor I have come across the last half of my career.
Thinking back to the very early years of my golf career, I could come up with some very easy answers. For example, I was starving when I got my first golf job. Therefore, eating was a good motivator. I needed a car that didn’t break down every week. I wanted to impress a potential girlfriend, and being homeless doesn’t lend itself to good first impressions. Besides what young guy doesn’t have someone of interest they want to impress?
Don’t be misled. Not all instructors are motivated the same. I have met several instructors that have had different motivations. Some thought it was an easy alternative to selling insurance or working in sales, etc., etc. Others were motivated by the money; $80 an hour sounds like a good gig. Others were looking for the next young superstar they could groom into a tour player and then parlay that into big-ticket success.
Does the enjoyment of doing what you love trump the enjoyment you can receive out of the money you make? I am not wise enough to answer that one, but many will say doing what you love day in and day out is very important to truly being happy in life. Now let’s bring this back to golf and my answer. I responded to the question like this: “All I can remember trying to do was help someone receive greater joy and have more fun playing this game. If I could to add joy to their life, I was happy, and the rest took care of itself”.
Honestly, that was always my motivation. I somehow figured out that by having that one simple objective, everything else fell into place. I do not claim to be consciously aware of that all the time, but looking back, that is exactly what was in my mind somewhere. It guided me.
I made some money. I won awards. I received accolades from my peers. I received admiration from those that cared about me. All from that single motivation: bringing people joy by helping them play better golf. For me, that was through lessons and equipment. I look back now on what I have accomplished, modest by some standards and significant by others, and I have a very hard time believing I did all of that! I do realize it somehow just came from that single heartfelt desire. I do also remember often feeling desperate as to how I was going to help them play better. It could have been lying in bed dreaming up a new drill to fix their swing or not giving up until I found the right shaft they needed to improve their ball flight. Whatever it took.
Again, I would say that the clear majority of successful golf professionals share that motivation. I know it works. That could mean going the extra mile, giving more effort, spending more time, or being more patient.
It is not exactly earth shattering or even that profound. It is simple. I guess much like the mantra Harvey Penick lived and taught by. That piece of advice is the best advice I can offer someone that is entertaining a career in golf, especially teaching or equipment. Love to see them get better, love to see them improve, love to see them have a great day enjoying this game. If you are trying to help them do that, it will all come to you. You may not make millions, but your heart will be full, people will notice and you will have the gratification that money does not always buy.