Hi everybody!! Welcome to Better Golf Academy Podcast, I am your Host Hanju Lee and…it’s a rainy day here in Southern California…and I am loving it!! I can hear the soothing and relaxing sound of raindrops outside and for your visual, I have a TV here and it’s streaming a youtube channel of a fireplace…a real live fireplace ladies and gentlemen…on TV…with crackling sound. I can almost feel the warmth coming out of the screen. Is that weird? Don’t judge.

Speaking of rain. I played a practice round last week in Temecula on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest golf days out of the year. But, because of the rain…the place was totally empty. This was great for me because I got to take my time and really focus and write notes for each hole…etc…to prepare for the PAT. What is PAT? It’s called a Player Ability Test. So, if you want to pursue your career in Golf, you can go through the PGA PGM program (Professional Golf Management), but prior to registering you have to pass the Players Ability Test. Which, my friend Ashley encouraged me to do. I am not trying to pursue a new career in golf, but I thought it would be fun to experience it. And also, I thought it would give me some credibility as I talk about golf on this podcast that I really do know what I am talking about.

So, how do you pass? Well, you play 36 holes in one day and have to shoot within 15 shots of the course rating. So, the cutoff score for 36 holes was 158 and my plan was to shoot 79+79 = 158. 

Did I pass? Well, this entire episode is dedicated to what went right and what went wrong during this 36 hole endeavor. So, stay tuned, I think we will learn something great!

On a side note, I love playing in the rain. I know a lot of people hate it. But, as long as it’s not windy and cold, light-medium rain during a round adds another element to the game that makes it really fun. The key is to keep everything dry. And there are some great techniques and hacks to do just that. But, that’s for another entire episode. On the side, side note…why do they call it a hack? Like, life hack? The word hack has such a negative meaning in golf but you add the word life before it…LIFE HACK…all of a sudden, it’s like it reveals all the secrets to efficiency, strategy to like…productivity and happiness. Hmmmm….

I know this is a long intro, but I gotta do what I promise every episode, give a shoutout to one of my listeners. And, this time, it happens to be one of my favorite listeners, because…he’s a non-golfer. What? What is a non-golfer listening to a golf podcast you ask? Well, let me read to you what he said. David writes, “Not a golfer but I benefit from…almost everything that Hanju shares. These podcasts can be applied to some aspects in life-goal setting, focus, practice, health, fitness, failure and success. I don’t play golf but I have found some wisdom in every episode that I can apply to my fitness goals. My guitar practice, my reading and writing goals my bad days and my good days.

Hanju shares lots of information based on his extensive research and his experience pursuing the game he loves and also his pursuit of being the best he can be. Every episode is loaded with interesting information he has gathered that has helped and inspired him You would have to read a lot to get just some of the useful wisdom that Hanju shares.

Hanju has a very unassuming and personal style that will make you feel like you are sitting with a friend as you listen to him (although I usually listen while I am on my daily walk). It is almost like a conversation with a good friend who is interesting, interested in you personally, and very open. 

Well done Hanju.

Do you know why I love this review so much? Because it’s like he has a special insight into my life…could it possibly be that he actually does? Hahaha! Yup, it’s my father-in-law who’s one of my huge supporters!! Thanks, Dad!! I also love your thoughts about friendship…that you feel that I am interested in you personally and that I care about you!!! Because it’s so right on.  So, thank you Dad so much for taking the time to write such an amazing review. I hope you are having a great walk today!!

Mindfulness

Ok, let’s talk shop. I think this episode is going to be really impactful. So, I hear this word a lot these days, and I am really trying (I say trying because it’s not easy and it’s not natural for me) to practice this before, during and after my round. And not only that, throughout my day and even at night when I am not playing golf. I am trying to implement this in my life as much as I can. The word is “MINDFULNESS”. For some people, when they hear this word, they know exactly what I am talking about. But for some, they kinda sort of understanding it of being some type of yoga or meditation type of term but maybe think it’s weird or it’s not for them. Well, let’s first define it.

Mind·ful·ness a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. 

I mention this in episode 2 of the Here and Now. I said, “The importance of finding a way to be in the moment, finding a way to focus all your mind, body and soul in what’s in front of you…here and now. It’s the only place they can be. The only place our body can be in space is now. The only place our body can be in time is now. Let our mind and body sync together to produce your best effort, every shot, every time.” 

I talk about looking and thinking about the past that can bring regret, pain and/or even fear. Like the hole number one on Creek. I hit a perfect 9 iron pin high but left from the middle of the fairway but it ended up on a downhill slope on wet dirt. I couldn’t get my club underneath it to hit it high to get it over the bunker to land it softly. So, I overshot it, chipped again and missed an easy putt and got a double. I kept wondering and thinking about what a freakin bad luck that was and how that double bogey was not deserved.

I talk about looking and thinking about the future which brings anxiety of “what ifs”. So now I am a bit perturbed and uneasy about what other bad lies lay ahead in these wet conditions and how to NOT get myself into that situation again. 

But why is this so important in golf? Because, I truly believe in order to conquer this game to play our very best, we have to control our thoughts. It’s really true what they say, this game is 90% mental and 10% mental. And I so much believe that if we get this part right, it can really change our game. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Is this easy to do? Nope.

PAT (Players Ability Test)

So, I am fully aware of this concept of being in the moment. The idea of mindfulness. In fact, I have this app that I use called mindfulness that teaches me how to mentally focus on the present moment and also tracks my time and stats…cause, you gotta measure everything right? Also, the night before my PAT round, I was a bit nervous and I was expressing my doubts and getting a bit anxious about the next day and my amazing wife in her very wisdom said to me…” dude, just enjoy, have fun, be in the moment.” Yes, she gets it too. And I was fully aware of what I needed to do. And honestly, I know that course inside out, I’ve been playing it for the last 25+ years and it’s one of my favorite courses…AND, I often score well there.

I woke up at 4 am because it takes me 1:15 minutes to get there. My Tee time was at 7 am so I want to get there by 6 am and didn’t want to rush. Did you know that it’s pitch dark at 4 am? And at 5am? I ended up getting there just before 6 and got in line with the rest of the players to check-in and pick up the official scorecards. There were about 35 people…mostly younger but I was surprised to see a group of older, more seasoned people there like me.  I went straight to the driving range and hit a half a bucket off the matt just to get the feel and stretch. Everything felt great. It’s going to be a great day I said to myself and took a deep breath. “Enjoy, have fun and be in the moment.”

I played with Joe and Adam, two amazing, young, strong players with flawless swings who are already well in their golf careers and now required to pass the PAT. We became friends right away. I’ve been in these types of environments before in a golf tournament but this felt quite different. Everyone there is not competing against each other, they are rooting for each other. It’s not a competition. Also, the PGA wants you to pass it. During normal tournaments, you’ll see tricky pin placements and tee boxes moved back to add to the challenge, but for the PAT, they did the opposite. The pin locations are fair and tees are moved up on some of the holes. So…let’s do this!! Enjoy, have fun and be in the moment. Let’s take the certificate home!!

First 18 holes were a bit of a blur. I was just focusing on not making big mistakes to eliminate my chances. I ended up with an 80…which wasn’t great but I was satisfied. Only one shot off my goal of 79. The greens were super slick, fairways were wet and destroyed by the rain and I was still adjusting to the speed of play, nervousness and the pressure of the event.

Then, everything just kicked in. I was fully focused on the here and now. I didn’t even care about my previous shot or my next, I was in the zone focusing on the shot at hand. Visualizing, confident and actually, having fun. I shot even par on the front 9. 

So, here I am. In the place where I felt alive. Playing great. All I needed to do now was to keep the momentum going and finish strong. I even said it out loud. Let’s finish strong.

Hole number 10, with my juices flowing, I hit a perfect drive down the middle. And as described earlier about my 9 iron hitting it slightly left of the green which left me with a bad lie and overshooting the green, I end up with my first double bogey of the day. Then, something happened. Something happened that I couldn’t quite control. My mind went wild. It just had a mind of its own. Did you get that?? My mind…my mind had a mind of its own. I panicked…thinking the worst. What if I blow it now. What if after all this, I don’t make it? What if I get another double bogey. Then, I started doing the math. How many holes left? How many strokes left? How many more bogeys and double bogeys can I have and still make the cut? I was fighting it. I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, but it kept going there. Then, it happened again, I double-bogeyed the next hole. I took a deep breath. Thinking to myself, you have got to refocus. Here and now…come on, you can do it. 

I never recovered. I ended the last 9 holes of the tournament with a total of 3 doubles, 5 bogeys, and 1 par. I shot 11 over on the back nine, a total of 19 over missing the cut by 5 strokes. I was devastated, disappointed…what’s another “d” word…dejected, denied, depressed, and ”DUMB”…I really really disliked!!  I FAILED!! Oooh…let’s now start listing the words that start with the letter “f” that I can think of how I felt…”frustrated, ffffff…  

Anyways, I had a couple of days to process. I am doing fine now. But…yes…there is always some type of learning lesson here. And that’s why I thought this was really important to share. I had two questions that I had to honestly ask myself. Number one, did I really believe that I could do it, that I could pass the PAT? And without much thought, my answer to that was a confident YES. Then the second question, do I think if I had a strong mental toughness and really played by my own teaching of Mindfulness, Here and Now, Being in the moment, would I have made it? This took me a couple of days to think through it. But my answer was and still is yes. My problem wasn’t that I was hitting bad shots, I kept making mental errors. 

So, my quote about golf being 90% mental and 10% mental…it’s a bit of a humorous statement mixed with lot of truth. I thought, I would list my biggest 3 main takeaways from my 36 hole PAT round from Monday.

#1: It’s Not Easy

No one said it was easy. Staying focus and not allowing your mind to wander is not easy. It takes discipline. It takes practice like everything else. And most of all it takes confidence. What do you mean by confidence? It takes confidence to know and believe and have the conviction that this really works. And, thinking back…I was teeter-tottering. I didn’t think seriously enough about it. Maybe, even though I preach it, I didn’t entirely believe it. I was thinking that if I had the physical talent and ability to shoot well, that I would automatically shoot well and the score will show it at the end of the day. NOT. It takes mental discipline every hole, every shot. Full focus. Being in the moment.

#2: It’s a Journey

How do we get there? I am not there yet. Obviously. But, I believe our pursuit of getting there is the goal, not just getting there. Okay, this reminds me of a quote, I know…sometimes introducing quotes in a podcast is a bit cliche-ish and corny but I think this really applies to what we are talking about today. 

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. 

This quote is by Arthur Ashe. Who is Arthur Ashe? He was an American Professional tennis player who won 3 grand slam titles. He was the first black player selected to the US Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, The US Open and the Australian Open. He was also an author and mostly known for being a crusader for equality. He really lived with intention and impact.

So, for me, I can look at this event as a total failure. Which, I actually called it that on my dreadful drive back home in my head. But, nah…I don’t believe that anymore. It’s all part of the journey and it’s never about the outcome, or the end result, or the certificate, or whatever’s in your life…I truly believe it’s about our attitude, discipline, will and our struggle and fight in getting there.

#3: Look Up

When I started my podcast, my friend Charlton messaged me and said dude, this podcast is for me. I am your poster child. Do you know how many books I’ve read about golf? Every single one. Do you know how many videos I’ve watched? Workshops I’ve attended? He’s a learner. A seeker who’s hungry for knowledge, a true student of the game. When we are playing golf together several months back, I asked him, hey…just curious, from all the books you’ve read, videos you’ve watched and the workshops and lessons you’ve received, what’s the one thing, one main thing that has impacted you the most in your game?

He said. “Look up” huh? So, I went home and looked it up. Yeah, the book Zen Golf talks about the expansive awareness. It’s a practice of Mindfulness. “When you have a difficult tee shot or short putt and you are waiting your turn, it’s not very helpful to stare at it, think about it, and let your mind get very small…instead, look up and breathe out, opening to the awareness around you. He says “in life..as in golf, you give it your best shot when you’re free of tension and self-consciousness.” In life as in golf…lol. That’s my line.

Summary

So, here’s the deal. It’s not easy. It’s a journey and you gotta remember to look up. Take a breath. Don’t get stuck on the small stuff. Be grateful. You are out here, on a beautiful day, on this beautiful course, with awesome people, playing golf. Look up. Enjoy. Have Fun. And be in the moment. 

Okay? Okay. Awesome. I hope all this was a good lesson for you as it was for me.

Please don’t forget to leave me a review or share this podcast. I will give you a shout out on my next episode. But in the meantime, thanks for listening to Better Golf Academy Podcast, I really appreciate you being here. Love you guys. Bye for now.

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