What Letter Will You Write to Your Younger Self?
Will you listen?
Today, I’d like to share a letter I recently wrote to “my younger self,” my “junior golfer self” of 30-plus years ago, with advice I wish I could time-travel to tell him.
I’ve been fortunate (in my past) to achieve success as an AJGA junior golfer, Division I collegiate player at Clemson, and even as a tour professional in Canada and Asia. But, I’m certain sage advice from my experienced “older self” would have made my journey in golf as a youngster a bit smoother and likely more successful.
To prepare to write my letter, I dusted off many memories and contemplated these questions. What got in my way? What helped me get ahead? What really mattered?
The result? Enlightenment . . . or darn close to it! Thinking through my past reminded me of awesome achievements (wins I should’ve celebrated more), big barriers (issues I wish I’d gotten through sooner), winning wisdom (tips that put the wind at my back), and a life-changing decision (that I made e-v-e-n-tually).
Writing this letter with advice to my younger self was a rewarding exercise for me, and I believe you’ll discover many helpful takeaways as you read it.
I know it’s easy (for kids and parents alike) to be hard on yourself at times, to struggle to do everything right, to get caught up in what you’re not doing well. So, hopefully, my letter will provide some comfort and encouragement as you navigate junior golf, the recruiting process, the college years, and beyond.
You’ve got an amazing journey ahead of you in this game of golf. It will be a fun ride with lots of learning, and you’re going to be successful.
Up to this point (midway through high school), you’ve made lots of progress. High fives are due! You’ve also dealt with failures, ones that have brought you to tears. Good times or bad, the feelings you’ve experienced show how important golf is to you. And that’s good!
You’ve got a strong desire to do everything “just right” and to strive for more. But remember, don’t drill yourself into the ground. Stay patient as you tackle the things you haven’t yet achieved, and take time to celebrate your victories.
- You earned a couple of AJGA wins and runner-up at the U.S. Junior. Way to go!
- You received AJGA Rolex First-Team All-America Honors. Sweet!
- You made all A’s . . . almost. Ugh, that stingy English teacher.
- You even managed to best your younger sister (and reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur Champ), Vicki, in every high school golf match. Newsflash from the future: she’ll beat you in one match next year. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all.
So many honors and highlights are gratifying, but I know the questions surrounding your future are still unsettling. You wonder:
- Will my golf skills keep improving?
- How good will I get?
- What’s the best college for me? Pro golf? Another career?
- How will it all turn out?
- A girlfriend? (Okay, talking to girls is a start.)
Yes, preparing for the unknowns can be a little nerve-racking, so let me offer some guidance to help make your next steps in junior golf, college golf, and beyond more confident.
- Too much “over-analyzing” and “second-guessing” in tournaments. Decide, commit, and swing! Onward!
- Don’t hold the advice of golf instructors as “sacred.” If you’re topping balls and can’t find the planet, stop! Leave them. Golf’s not that hard.
- The Ben Hogan “Wee Ice-Man” (in your own zone) thing is for him not you. Four hours of nonstop focus in a tournament is mentally exhausting. Say hi to someone. Have fun! Okay, Hogan did say to “smell the roses,” so he wasn’t totally icy.
- Mom and Dad. They will support and love you all the way.
- Dad is almost “certifiable” in his desire to cultivate your success. His consistent attention at practices and
tournaments will be frustrating sometimes, but let me tell you, his advice was ahead of its time in the 1980s junior
golf scene. So listen up as dad preaches:
✔ Mental resilience. Grind it out! Relish the strategy of turning a six into a five, or a five into a four, because every shot counts!
✔ “Seve-like” shot making. Be creative off the tee, on approach shots, and around the greens.
✔ Fitness. Dance and gymnastics as a little kid. (Yikes! Dance?) As a teen, Tae Kwon Do, weights, and protein shakes. (Whoa! Those shakes were bad.)
✔ Putting drills on the PING putting track. Kids hit too many balls and the practice green is wide open. Go putt!
✔ Innovative equipment. Titleist balls for life! The first TaylorMade driver, use that! Ping Eye 2s, they hit higher, straighter shots. They look funny? Who cares!
Yes, you’ll roll your eyes at much of dad’s unorthodox advice. But he knew that champions don’t do things like everyone else. Trust your dad. Many of the lessons he’ll provide during the beginning of your golf years will be super valuable. And as you prepare to move on to college, seek out a college coach like him. A man who really cares and views you as special and talented!
Here’s one last thing: Your best golf—winning golf—can arise from the ugliest golf of your career. This is counterintuitive. I don’t know how it happens. You’re so low and so down. But finally, out of nowhere, “an old trusted tip” sparks greatness. Exaggeration? No, believe it! It’ll happen this way when you win the NCAA Preview to end your sophomore slump at Clemson.
Remember that golf, like life, is all about the long race. Being a strong competitor and striving for improvement will serve you well. But you can’t rush or force things to happen within your preferred time frame. Just keep learning all you can and do your best.
In closing, here’s a quick story: During your pro career, a renowned sports psychologist you’re working with will ask, “Where are you in your walk with God?” And you’ll say (surprised by the question), “Um, I don’t know.” Silently, you’ll think, “Why is that important? I’m here working with you to get better, so I can win and make more money, right?” That will be your moment to hear, listen, and learn about what really matters. God has always been walking with you. Take that moment to make sure you’re always walking with Him. Saved my best advice for last!
Be well, Nicky!
Enjoy the holidays,
P.S. If you’d like help writing your letter, you’re welcome to reach me at nickygoetze.com
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