Golf has been a big part of my life. When I was growing up in St. Paul, I dreamed about making a living playing golf professionally. I wanted to be the next Ben Hogan, the top golfer at that time. When I was competing in the NCAA golf tournament as a member of the University of Minnesota golf team, I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

I still love golf after all these years. It’s been a hole-in-one opportunity to build my envelope manufacturing business. Whether you are opening doors or closing deals, golf can enhance almost any business opportunity.

Earlier this month I was privileged to play golf with another links hero of mine, Jack Nicklaus, regarded as the greatest golfer of all time. He won 73 PGA tournaments, including a record 18 major championships. We played his home course — the Bear’s Club in Florida — and I was a sponge as I soaked up his golf wisdom.

I asked Jack about his tremendous success, especially in making critical tournament-winning putts. He thought about it for a bit and said, “I never missed a putt in my mind.”

Jack Nicklaus is not considered to be the best at hitting his woods, long or short irons, or even chipping and putting. But almost everyone considers him the greatest thinking golfer of all time. He had no equal at the mental part of the game, which makes up 50 percent of competitive golf.

As an example, golf great Ben Hogan stood over a critical putt. Suddenly, a loud train whistle blared in the distance. After he had sunk the putt, someone asked Hogan if the train whistle had bothered him.

“What whistle?” Hogan replied.

Jack said: “Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety. I have always felt that the sheer intensity Ben Hogan applied to the shot-making specifics was one of his greatest assets. It left no room in his mind for negative thoughts. The busier you can keep yourself with the particulars of shot assessment and execution, the less chance your mind has to dwell on the emotional ‘if’ and ‘but’ factors that breed anxiety.”

Nicklaus put great effort into preparation. I can’t think of another golfer who was better prepared. He would often arrive at a tournament a week early to study the course, prepare mentally and relax. He always kept his focus on the game.

Nicklaus is also a big believer in philanthropy and volunteerism. He and his terrific wife, Barbara, have raised tens of millions of dollars for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which provides families access to world-class pediatric health care.

Those activities illustrate his priorities in life: family, golf and business. He skipped a lot of tournaments because of family activities. He also would leave in the middle of a tournament and fly somewhere to watch his kids and be back the next day to tee off.

One final point I found interesting. When Jack was giving me a putting lesson, he told me that Barbara devoted 40 years to his life in golf. Now it is his turn to devote the next 40 years to her life. Family really is No. 1 with Jack Nicklaus.

Mackay’s Moral: Golf is so much more than just a game; it’s a slice of life.

 

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.