“Now all I have to deal with is the cotton mouth. I can’t produce enough saliva to swallow. It really is laughable.
The reason is simple; I’m just not used to this kind of pressure.”
If you’re successful in your professional life it’s due in large part to repetition. You work on your skill sets day in and day out. After years it gets to the point that you just do things without thinking. It almost becomes second nature, and you learn to trust your internal GPS. Ah, but when you do something that doesn’t come close to being second nature the results can be fascinating.
I had such an experience this week. As a point of background, every year around this time I join 23 of my industry colleagues to participate in the Mortario Cup. What is the Mortario Cup? It’s two and a half days of make believe; it’s 24 golfers who gather together to play a Ryder Cup style golf tournament. The make believe part is we get to pretend we’re just like the pro’s. We all have matching tour golf bags, each team wears the same coloured golf shirts during the competition, we all wear the same coloured jacket to the champions dinner, each team wears matching ties, we even have matching cufflinks! Unfortunately, just because you dress up like the pros doesn’t mean you play like one. Every golfer at this tournament has probably played over a 1,000 rounds of golf over their life time. Some of the golfers have put their time to good use based on how good they are. It doesn’t matter what the skill level is something happens to each of us at this tournament.
I know this may sound crazy but nerves can get the best of me at this tournament. I’m not playing for money, the results will not impact my real life one bit, and yet I struggle to keep my emotions in check. Maybe it’s the responsibility I have to my team members. If you lose your matches you feel like you have let your eleven team members down. The tournament is made of two teams of 12, Team Blue which was captioned by Terry Dolson this year, and the bastards, I mean Team Red, captained by Bryan Devries this year, going head to head. As you may have surmised I’m on Team Blue, and have been for the last eight years. The bastard reference to Team Red is all in jest, kind of. Bryan is a good buddy of mine and damn good player. I want Bryan and Team Red to play well but I want Team Blue to beat their brains in. That’s the truth.
So there I am on the first tee, and it’s amazing what goes through your head, “Please god, don’t hit into the woods. Just put a good swing on it. Christ, stop thinking about this. Oh man, if I poop the bed on my first shot my team members will think I stink!” This conversation between my ears all takes place during my warm up swings, which is about three seconds. I’ve taken thousands of golf swings over the years yet this is different. I finally pull the trigger and think, “well, now it’s in god’s hands”. No it’s not you idiot, god’s way too busy to be worrying about my swing. Then the club finally makes contact with the ball and I see it flying majestically, landing in the middle of the fairway. Then I nonchalantly bend over, pick up my tee and pretend like there was no doubt. I can’t wait to get to my ball in the fairway so I can start breathing normally again. I finally get to my ball and I take a bit of extra time to get my pulse rate back to normal. Now all I have to deal with is the cotton mouth. I can’t produce enough saliva to swallow. It really is laughable. I’ve done public speaking in front of hundreds of people and yet I don’t experience the same nervous reaction that I do when I play in this tournament. The reason is simple; I’m just not used to this kind of pressure. Over the years I’ve played really well at this tournament only to choke on the last few holes. I can feel myself squeezing the club tighter, and I can just feel that something bad is going to happen. And you know what? It does. When it happens I ask myself, “WHY NOW?” The answer is simple – I’m out of my element.
I must be handling the pressure little better because the last two years I’ve been fortunate enough to close out my opponents. There’s a difference in being beaten by an opponent rather than beating yourself. I played fairly well, for my skill level, by earning the maximum three points for our team. But that matters little because we lost to Bryan Devries and Team Red. They out played us and were deserving of victory. I hate to lose but if lose I must, it might as well be to a great bunch of guys. I’m already looking forward to next year’s tournament; for redemption? Maybe a little, but what I look forward to is that 24 men get together to be little boys again.
Until next time