In the course of human events, people go from wanting something very badly to knowing that they are going to get it. That first stage of accomplishment, the wanting, merely creates the possibility that it could occur. The second stage, the knowing, is on the other side of the transformation process.
For Billy Horschel, the 54-hole leader in the Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio, he is there because he said that he would be there:
Yeah, and I said it would. What happens tomorrow, I don’t know. But I got my card after Q‑school, and I said I was going to win this year. I felt that confident in the way where my game was at right after Q‑school. I felt confident in what I was doing and the path I was going down in the sense of the plan I had in place with my instructor, Todd, and obviously my sports [psychologist] guy, Fran, has been a big help since I started working with him last summer.
Then, obviously, you add my trainer there when I started working out with him in September, Jeff Fronk. I think I’ve put everything and done everything you need to do to get to the level to win. Whether my time is tomorrow, I can’t tell you this right now, but I hope it is. If it’s not, then I’ll go on to next week and try to win that week.
There are a couple of important milestones to take note of in that statement. First of all, he made a declaration that he was going to win, as in, he put it out there to the world. He didn’t just sit meekly by hoping; he was proactively declaring his future. It is very important to get the words to come out of your mouth.
And the second milestone was that he put all the pieces together to help make it possible. In addition to a golf game sound enough to earn a spot on the PGA Tour through Q-School, he added the layers of: a coach, a sports psychologist and a personal trainer. He was also proactively building his future, not just talking about it.
And then there is the notion of just being confident that it’s going to happen. In Horschel’s case, he already had a strong self-belief:
I’ve always been pretty confident. I think confidence comes from on the golf course. I think confidence comes from your practice sessions, hitting the ball the way you want, doing your drills or whatever. I think you can build confidence off that. You can also build confidence off the way you’ve played.
As of late, for me, it’s more confidence added to that little meter of confidence or whatever. But I’ve always been pretty confident in what I’ve done. I’ve never been hesitant or unsure of things. I think it’s just a natural thing for me. I’ve always been someone who has been very confident and very sure of what my abilities are in any sport or whatever I’ve done in my life so far.
Confidence could well be a natural trait you’re born with. You could imagine an infant consciousness taking in the world around him and finding himself lucky enough to have parents wise enough never to have interfered with his unfolding sense of himself. But if you weren’t lucky enough to be that kid, finding your way to that level of confidence is as simple as imagining that you were, imagining that sense of freedom that he must have had, imagining the joy of operating in the world in that way. The mind is a powerful thing in taking those first imagined steps toward confidence.
And when you can operate in the world in that way, when you finally get paired in the 3rd and 4th round at Torrey Pines with Tiger, it makes it all that much more real, but also, not that big a deal:
I’ve never been star struck out here. Even when I first came out on Tour. You watch these guys playing — I’ve watched these guys playing as I’ve grown up. When I first got out on Tour it was like, hey, you know it’s cool that I’m playing with these guys, but at the same time I felt I was just as good as they were. I just haven’t had the track record to prove it [yet, but I knew I would].
I respect all the veterans out here. I respect everyone that’s put their time out here. I think everyone knows that I’m really respectful to everybody. But at the same time I’m as confident as I’ve ever been, and I feel just as good as anyone else in the world right now.
This has been no romping lark, however. Like all big things worth having or doing, it’s not always a straight line to success. Horschel never thought it would take as long as it did:
Never did. I thought right when I got my card, right after I got out of college, I thought it was going to be smooth sailing. Not smooth sailing, but I thought it’s going to take off.
Unfortunately, I had a wrist injury that I had to deal with. I had to have surgery. Then it took me a year just to get back to playing somewhat good golf, and it took me another year to understand how to control my emotions and what I needed to do day-in and day-out to play well out here.
It’s not that I’m a slow learner; it’s just taken me a little more time. I’m always trying to learn; I just haven’t always done what I’ve wanted to do.
Once you have the confidence to soar towards your goal, you begin to pick up more and more that will help you on your way.
I’ve learned more since I’ve been out on Tour how to be near the lead or have the lead. I mean, the college days it was easy because there was never a leaderboard out there so you never knew what anyone was doing. You were just trying to play the best you could. Same with the couple of Mini Tour events I did play in.
I think what I’m learning is that I just need to — and I know I keep repeating it, but just stay focused on what I’m doing and not worry about anything else. I’m a guy that likes to know a lot of things and that hurts me from time to time, and it has in the past. I’ve learned how to not look around and not worry about what anybody else is doing out there.
To prove his point, he fell out of the lead after a two-shot swing on the 8th, but he never knew it:
I didn’t even know I fell out of the lead until someone just told me. Like I said, I wasn’t looking at the leaderboard. Charley [Hoffman] was playing well. I couldn’t care less whether I was leading after eight holes or whether I’m leading right now.
He adopted that point of view out of his experience finishing T2 in Houston:
What I learned from Houston was that final round, played some good final rounds from in the middle of the field to move up on the leaderboard. But to be up there closer to the lead, two shots going into the last day, I learned that I can handle my own [game]. I can do my thing. If I stay focused and commit to what I want to do, I can handle my own.
In that final round, playing with a Top 5 player in the world with Lee Westwood, I could have easily gotten caught up in what he does, but I didn’t. I was focused. My head was down in the sense that I was more worried about what I was doing. I couldn’t care less about what anybody else was doing on the golf course. I didn’t look at the leaderboard.
But as big an accomplishment as winning would be, he’s so far down the transformational path, he’s already taken that for granted. He knows there’s a much bigger future beyond that. Which, coincidentally, brings that future closer to him sooner. Winning has become an interim goal, not an end unto itself:
It [winning] would just be a check on a goal that I’ve had since I turned pro is winning the PGA Tour. That’s all it would mean. Future-wise, I don’t know what else it’s going to mean to me. But all it really is I can check off one of my goals that I’ve had since I’ve turned pro.
And the other key thing that came out of his T2 finish in Houston is that he made enough money for the year that he locked up his card for next year. He knows for sure that his job is secure for next year. And there is a whole lot of freedom in that knowledge:
Last week was key to finish second and wrap up my card. I told people, I said, it’s going to be a scary thing. It’s going to be Scary Billy in the sense that my card’s wrapped up and now I can play a little more free and a little more at ease. I haven’t been in a position where my card’s been wrapped up and I can just let it go and not have to worry about things.
Now I’m in a position where I know my card’s wrapped up. I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I know I’m going to be a member of the PGA Tour. I finally don’t have to go back to Q‑school for once.
I took care of business last week, so this is just me being more free on the golf course and allowing things to happen a little bit more and me playing [as if I was] at home. When I play at home, there is not much worry when I hit a golf shot, and I feel like that now. I don’t care if there’s water or whatever it is; I’m going to tune it out and not worry about it.
The way he has evolved as a human being and as a player, the way things unfolded in Houston last week and now this week in San Antonio, it looks for all the world that Scary Billy just might pull this off.
There is something in these kinds of moments that makes us swell with joy, not only for the person who accomplished this great thing, but also for the implications of what might be possible in our lives if we try.
The Golf Channel has the first two hours beginning at 1:00 PM ET and NBC picks up the three-hour finish at 3:00 PM ET.