The Long Road to Mastery

We look around at the stars on the PGA Tour and we feel like we’ve known them forever, that they’ve been around forever, that they just sort of came out on Tour and started playing competently. We feel this way because we never see all the hard work that got done to get them to the PGA Tour.

My favorite example of this long hard slog is Justin Rose. He burst on the scene in 1998 as a seventeen-year-old amateur playing in the British Open. He famously tied for 4th and was low amateur after an improbable pitch shot he holed on the 18th hole. There was a raucous response for the hometown boy that seemingly never stopped.

As he rose up the leaderboard during the week, there was ongoing, wink-wink speculation about if and when he would turn pro. That one shot seemed to cement his decision; he turned pro the following week…and fell off the face of a cliff. He missed 21 cuts in a row on the European Tour. Where had all the talent gone?

He drifted in oblivion on the European Tour until he won the 2002 Dunhill Championship…and then three more tournaments that year. He migrated to the PGA Tour in 2004, but wasn’t able to win until Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament this year…and then the AT&T National played outside of Philadelphia on the storied Aronimink Golf Club.

And now he’s finished 9th on the PGA Tour Money List and is ranked 29th in the World Golf Ranking. For us, it was like, “Oh, yeah.” For him it must have been, “What took so long? Does anybody appreciate just how hard I’ve worked for this?”

Well, my attention was just drawn to another young player who’s going through his “winter of discontent.” Ryan Lavner writes in Golf Week about Kevin Hall:

During his senior season at Ohio State, in 2004, he won the Big Ten Championship by 11 shots. A year later, he earned a sponsor exemption and made his PGA Tour debut in Milwaukee.

I remember that Milwaukee debut. With all the promise born of his Ohio State career, there was a lot of hoopla. But now, Hall’s is another story of putting in the time, doing the work to finally realize that promise. In one form or another, that’s what mastery takes.

And his story is all the more compelling because he’s deaf. How can you not pull for this kid? You can read the whole story here.

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