JAMIE MULLIGAN: Pros prepare for greatness with a system that works

BY JAMIE MULLIGAN, PGA, with Greg Flores

There is a beautiful, rhythmic and repetitive feel on the Tuesday of a PGA Tour event. From rookies to superstars with multiple major championships on their resume, they all get down to the business of preparing for a new week of competition. They all employ their own personal system of preparation in an effort to find greatness that week.

It’s the same in every sport at its highest level. In the NFL, you will see players going through a pre-game walkthrough of the game plan. In the NBA, players will take part in a shoot-around. Watching professional athletes prepare to play is like watching fish swim. You can see that they have been doing this their entire lives. It’s all in preparation for that moment when the player is in the heat of competition. They need to be able to execute when it matters most and it begins and ends with the system.

Having that system honed and in place is what separates the great players from the amateurs.

The Tour players that I watch the closest all have a system in place and they are working on it constantly. They work tirelessly to refine it to the level where it becomes second nature. For the best players, it becomes as natural as breathing. The most intriguing component is that every player’s system is unique. Players that attempt to alter or tweak their system without a specific plan are inviting struggle into the equation.

Years ago, I remember going to a baseball game to watch a young player named Derek Jeter. Before the first pitch of the game had even been thrown, I could see what everyone was talking about. From the way the guy wore his uniform to the way he warmed up and stretched out his entire body, you could see there was a purpose to his preparation. There was a reason why he was successful on the field and it started with his system.

We work with six Tour players. They have six different systems of preparation. They all have different things that they want to accomplish prior to competition and they all want to do them at different times in different ways. Some are more orientated toward ball striking. Some prefer to focus on their short game. Some like to include a workout. They all have to incorporate nutrition. They all have found ways to implement the things they need to perform their best and they all have found success on the game’s biggest stage.

My question to every amateur out there is this: “Do you have a system that works across your entire game that will help you get better and is it the right system for you?”

There is a very simple question in golf that I love to pose. It was stated by the great Byron Nelson and was passed down through Ken Venturi – the newest member of the World Golf Hall of Fame – to John Cook. It’s been shared with all the players we work with and it boils everything down to its very essence: “Are you being brutally honest with yourself?”

Golfers sometimes have trouble admitting the weaknesses in their game. It’s scary to think you might not achieve what you set out to do. It’s human nature to have a defense mechanism in place in order to deflect failure or defeat. In that process, if a player really wants to grow, they need to find that level of brutal honesty. Does their system work? Can the system be altered to allow them to see further growth? Is what they are doing allowing them to be the best player they can be? I can tell you one thing: If you are prepared, you are not scared.

Take a look at your system. Build a process that will allow you to improve. Continue to hone and work on it until you find something that allows you to be the best player you can be.

Jamie Mulligan is chief operating officer at Long Beach’s Virginia Country Club and a PGA teaching professional who currently works with several tour pros.

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