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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Bobby Jones on "Courageous Timidity"

Here's a short piece from the book Bobby Jones On Golf, simply called Some Memorable Advice. After watching the golf at Bay Hill so far this week, I believe many of the pros should read it.
Two of the greatest golfers of earlier times were the English professionals Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor who, between them, won eleven British Open Championships. Among the many wise things both observed about the game, two especially impressed me. "No matter what happens," Vardon once said, "keep on hitting the ball." In effect, this is what I remembered and tried to do when playing a tournament round. Vardon was a man of immense gifts, not the least of which was his practicality.

J.H. Taylor made the statement that all the great golfers he had known had possessed a quality he chose to call "courageous timidity." That happy phrase expresses exactly the qualities a golfer, expert or not, must have in order to get the most from whatever mechanical ability he may have. He must have courage to keep on trying in the face of ill luck or disappointment, and timidity to appreciate and appraise the dangers of each stroke, and to curb the desire to take chances beyond reasonable hope of success. There can be no doubt that such a combination in itself embraces and makes possible all the other qualities -- determination, concentration, nerve -- we acclaim as parts of the ideal golfing temperament for the championship contender as well as for the average golfer. [p4-5]
Brave enough to keep trying despite disappointment, but timid enough not to tempt fate when faced with a shot that is unlikely to succeed. How often have we seen players fail to do these things -- sometimes the first, but especially the second?

When players talk about "losing their focus" on the course, I believe that's often a sign that disappointment has gotten to them. Sure, some days are just tiring and I acknowledge that, but it's no surprise to hear that phrase when a player is struggling. That's why we value players who are "mentally tough" and find ways to get their games back on track after a few bad shots or holes -- you know, the players who "turn a 73 into a 69."

And there seems to be a great fear among players -- all players -- of being thought of as "timid" golfers. We think that when faced with a shot we are unlikely to make successfully, we still have to take it, lest people think we aren't trying hard enough to win.

If we want to improve our own games, we need to learn "courageous timidity." We need to remember that the goal is to shoot the lowest score we can -- not the lowest score our competitors are capable of, but the best score WE can shoot.

There's nothing wrong with trying to improve, but we have to play with the game we have today. If that's 105, then we need to take pride in shooting 105 and not apologize for it. If we keep doing our best, we will eventually get better. But sloppy play caused by a weak ego won't help us.

And if the boys at Bay Hill expect to take the trophy this week, they'll need "courageous timidity" to survive the test. Some things never change, no matter what level you play at.

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