Have you ever played golf in front of a crowd? I mean more that the group in front and the group in back watching/waiting for you to hit. Well, I have actually played a few holes where the crowd exceeded 50 people. The funny thing is that as I played more holes with a crowd, the better I played. Not surprisingly, the more holes I played my confidence grew to a point where the presence of the crowd was a non factor. Let me explain.
The first time I played a shot in front of a crowd of 75 players was at the Ontario Military Region Golf Championship in Kingston, Ontario. I won the honour of being team captain for my base and was the third player in the first group to hit during the tournament. As I strode up to the first tee, the players continued to gather and they turned our focus on me. As I bent down to put my ball in a tee, my nerves started to flare. Oh yeah, this particular tournament was about 27 years ago. As I stood over the ball, I could barely see the ball. I swung and squibbed my ball about 50 yards off the tee. I was so embarrassed as I walked to my ball. With know one watching, I hit two great shots and sunk my par putt!
As years past, I played about another 15 holes in front of the same size crowd. As time progressed, I played better and better. I focused less and less on the crowd and more on my game. During my last time, I hit a good shot into the 18th hole and had a 25 foot putt for birdie. Since I was in the last group, the entire field was watching the last group. As I walked around the my putt, I could hear the other players mulling around the green. As I started to immerse my mind in my putting process, the noise of the crowd and the crowd itself was erased from my field of focus. As I lipped out my putt, I heard the crowd groan as they all thought it was dropping (me as well), but was left with tap in for my well earned par.
Playing golf in front a crowd is not a easy thing to do. I applaud all the players who (professional and amateur alike) can stay focused and put the crowds on the back burner. It is a mental challenge and found that my game only improved when faced with the increased pressure of repeatedly playing in front of a crowd. Additionally, I was able to take that experience and apply it to the rest of my game and found that past pressure situations are not nearly as challenging anymore.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!