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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Your Heroes reveal your greatest values!

Last night I got a tweet from Robin Sharma that said "your biggest heroes reveal your greatest values", who are they? My immediate reply was Ben Hogan for his work ethic And his love of the process of mastery. I have a few others as well, but Hogan and Bob Beck stand out for me. Both golfers, Hogan I only knew through TV interviews and stories and what has to be close to every book ever written on him. More on Hogan in a minute.

Bob Beck was 73 years old when I met him at Shoreline Golf Course in Mountain View, California. He was a single and I first saw him as he was lugging his huge tour bag on the long path from the club house to the first tee where I and two friends were waiting to tee off. I met him somewhere in between the clubhouse and our carts to help him with his bag. At first he seemed to be a bit cantankerous and crusty. That day began a friendship that would last until the day he passed away, but one I reflect on often.

I was a decent golfer at the time in my late twenties, but Bob taught me how to play the game and we ended up playing in tournaments together. He taught me that it's more important to do what's right when nobody is watching than it is when somebody is watching. Golf is a game of integrity, you call penalties on yourself that in many cases nobody would no if you didn't call yourself out. He used to say to me "play the ball down" meaning if it was in a divot or plugged in the sand, you play the shot from where it lies. The premise was you will never learn how to play those shots if you don't play them.

I would often ask him how to play a shot and he would give me advise on how to execute the shot or sometimes he would say, "think about it, how do you think is he best way to hit the ball in that situation?". His way of teaching critical thinking or innovation.. I first began to follow Hogan when one day, Bob showed up at the course with a set of Ben Hogan Apex irons from 1955. They were old and well used but beautiful works of art to me. Old clubs were forged steel and hard to hit compared to even the clubs of the mid 1980's. He gave them to me and said "play these, they will make your swing better". I gratefully used them, but they were hard to hit pure, but when you did hit them pure, the feeling was ridiculous and the ball flew different.

Bob told me they were his favorite clubs. I could tell because the sweet spot on the face of each club had the chrome worn off from being hit so many times. I could imagine Bob on the range in his younger years poundage balls for hours honing his swing. It was the process internally that captured me and that is where I first developed my hunger to learn about Ben Hogan.

My favorite story about Hogan is at Westchester Country Club in 1971 at one of the last PGA tournaments that he played competitive golf in. At this time, the tour began providing the tour players with yardage books that provided yardages from landmarks on the holes and the actual flag placements on the holes so that the players knew from anywhere on the hole exactly how far they were from the hole.

In the press tent, Hogan was being interviewed and a reporter asked him why he didn't use the yardage cards provided by the tour while playing. His response was "because it would deprive me the enjoyment of a well executed golf shot". I loved that quote! Hogan played the game by feel and played it the way the course was designed to be played for the sheer enjoyment and satisfaction of executing on all the enjoyable and sometimes hard work he put in crafting his swing, his mind and his attitude. For Hogan, he wanted to do it right, and play the game with all the variables of the wind speed, what shot was called for, a draw, a fade, a high or low shot and then execute that very shot.

Hogan was the greatest player that ever lived. He didn't win as many majors as Nicklaus or as much money as Woods, but he was a gentleman that enjoyed his trade and dedicated to being his own man. I learned from all my reading about Hogan and my days spent playing golf with Bob Beck that life is a process and being true to yourself is the one thing you will always have or not depending on how you live your life. If your lost, finding your way is being true to yourself, it's being true to life. If you take a short cut or move a ball to make it easier along the way, learning from that is just part of the process, as long as you learn from that and it does not become the norm, and its being true to yourself. And when that becomes the norm for you, as you do the right thing and pull off a challenge or a great golf shot you will not be deprived the enjoyment of doing it the right way.

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