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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Bobby Jones on the Stresses of Tournament Golf

Bobby Jones concluded his book Down the Fairway with a chapter on tournament golf. He wrote about the fact that, in his opinion, it was possible to be a great golfer, and not a great tournament golfer. He also spoke about the changes he made in his diet during a tournament. 

Bobby wrote about the stresses of championship golf. He wrote:

    "It must be a sort of subjective nerve-tension, this difference in tournament golf. Years ago I discovered the best preparation for a big tournament, for me, was as much rest as I could acquire, in the twenty-four hours before the opening gun. In my younger days I liked to play a lot of golf, right up to the day the competition began. Often I'd play 36 holes the day before it started. Now I try always to schedule the little preliminary practice season, of three or four days, so that the kast day I can rest. In bed, often with a book... If I can avoid it, I never touch a golf club the day before a big competition opens, and I prefer to play only 18 holes a day the two days preceding.
     The fair success of this plan induces the opinion, then, that the strain of championship golf is mostly mental; and certainly the mere physical strain would not burn one up as has been my experience in so many tournaments. Could anyone make me believe that six days of just golf, 36 holes a day, would have stripped eighteen pounds off me, as the six days at Oakmont, in 1919, did? At Worcester, in the open championship and play-off of 1925, I lost twelve pounds in three days, and I wasn't much overweight when I went there. Perhaps these physical symptoms help to explain the furious toll exacted from the spirit, under the stress of tournament competition. I know that tournament golf takes a lot out of me; the photographs, before and after, sometimes rather shocking in contrast.
     Now, my career to this writing, which includes the year 1926, is divided with so extraordinary a balance as regards tournament golf and championships that it would seem there must be a good opportunity to offer something in the way of a solution of the difference between a good golfer and a good tournament golfer. In the seven lean years between 1916 and1922, inclusive, I played in eleven national championships, and did not win one. In the four years including 1923 and 1926, I played in ten national championships, winning five and finishing second three times.
     Something, then, seems to have happened, to fatten the run of what one fanciful writer termed my seven lean years. And here it seems I have worked up to a climax, without the climax--excepting a negative sort."

It is important to remember that Down the Fairway was written before Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam. But he had turned the corner in terms of his tournament play. A great golfer from the time he was a boy, Bobby had endured those seven lean years where he couldn't seem to win a major championship, despite being such a golfing prodigy. He discovered something important that put an end to those lean years. In the next article, we'll cover that.

The important thing for good players reading this; or any players reading this who have struggled in tournament play; is that tournament struggles don't point to any moral deficiency or lack of courage on your part. There is something all good tournament players must learn. And in the next article Bobby Jones talks about what that is.