With the PGA Tour’s schedule going dark for two weeks, that’s my cue to take my own two-week vacation. My commitment to produce one quality post a day in the narrow niche of the golf mastery process is extremely enervating and rewarding, but it is also relentless.
Many people have expressed curiosity about the process I go through each day, so a little excursion into how the sausage is made.
First of all, as most of you know, I come to it from the point of view of a Champions Tour Monday qualifier and inveterate Q-School attendee: 124 Monday qualifiers over a nine year effort and 8 Q-Schools before I ran out of time. The math was undeniable: 50 years old plus nine years of trying would mean that if I had been successful in that 9th Q-School, I would have been 60 years old in my Champions Tour debut! Not going to happen.
Second, I have nothing but reverence for the men of the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, European Tour and the ladies of the LPGA Tour. These are my regular haunts and I can’t help myself because I know how hard it is to get where they are. I know how hard it is to stay there. And I know how hard it is to move beyond your insecurities and doubts. As I have said many times before, the biggest component of success in professional golf or any other goal for that matter, is knowing with your every heartbeat that you belong there. That happens when belief transforms into knowing.
The gold I mine each night is not so much in the “what happened,” it’s in the how it happened. How did the player reach down into the best of himself or herself and bring forward that startling performance that surprised everyone. Or that routine performance of such an exceptional nature we all know their names.
My mine is the player transcripts, what they had to say in the media center about how they achieved what they did. It is amazing how the adrenaline from the round combines with the glaze of being deeply in the present to produce some of the most revealing candor: they tell you why they succeeded in very, deep introspective ways. It is these unguarded moments that help to build our understanding of the path they are on, the path we seek to follow.
In many ways it sometimes seems to sound redundant but it’s not. It’s not because there are many different ways to end up in same place: so devoid of any ego concerns that they are free to just be, to be so absorbed in the moment, they don’t even notice distractions. All they notice is everything that factors into creating a shot that goes to that target.
My work each night begins with the daily player transcripts of the leaders. There is a minimum two-hour embargo after the last interview before they are posted on the Internet. This gives the reporters on site who asked the questions time to write and publish their stories. Frequently, the embargo goes to four hours or more and sometimes they don’t get published until the next morning.
I usually get to start reading them around 9 PM and it’s pretty easy to identify the introspective comments. Sometimes the whole interview is detailed “what” answers rather than the “how” answers I’m looking for. That’s why I have to read all of them before I can start writing.
I’m usually able to start writing around 10 to 10:30 PM; it takes that long for the coalescing of the various threads into an expressive idea: “What did this player say about the mastery process that will provide readers with pieces of the mastery puzzle they are personally trying to put together.
In tailoring the piece, I frequently have to do research on the player or players, particularly the ones who aren’t as well known, because I want to detail what they’ve done in their careers that would cause readers to care what they have to say about mastery. This frequently involves running through years of their careers documenting winnings, cuts made, tournaments won, majors won or particular statistics that support the skill they may be talking about. If a good putter is speaking about putting mastery, where does he stand in the Strokes Gained — Putting? How does that compare to other players the reader might be more aware of?
It is meticulous work. If you write that Charl Schwartzel won the 2011 Masters, it better be the 2011 Masters. People rely on what you write and if they later discover it’s wrong, you lose credibility. One foggy-minded night I was detailing Rory McIlroy’s soaring accomplishments which included winning the U.S. Open and the Masters. As a reader helpfully pointed out the next morning, Rory hadn’t won the Masters. It was, of course, the PGA Championship. Since I write about his exploits assiduously, I knew that. But sometimes the mind projects rather than recalls. As I said, it is meticulous work.
I probably read the rough draft five to ten times trying to get it to a polished draft. Then I tag the Categories (Accomplishment, Commitment, Expectations, Failure, Genius, et. al.) and then tag players and tournaments mentioned in the post so Google can lead readers to it. Then I proof the Preview post that moves it out of my drafting window and into the final way that it will look when it’s posted. It is amazing to me how many proofing errors I catch once it’s in its final layout. Still more editing. Staying awake sometimes becomes problematic.
When I can’t seem to find anything else, I hit the Publish button, a little buzz that I get to enjoy every night: something I just wrote is now whirring around out there on the Internet. I draft an email to a personal list of followers and send it so that it’s in Inboxes first thing in the morning. Subscribers to the blog receive their copies of the post in their Inbox about twenty minutes after it’s posted from a great company, Feedblitz, that specializes in that. Finally, using a Twitter utility called HootSuite, I draft and schedule three unique tweets a couple of hours apart so that my Twitter followers have a better chance of seeing the link (using the URL shortener, bitly.com) to the post.
Because of all of that, I routinely find my way to bed around 1 AM, occasionally 2 AM, once 3 AM (wish I could remember which one that was! Maybe Thailand?). That first experience of my body being totally released and relaxed between the sheets brings on a sort of involuntary, luxuriant ecstasy.
And just like tonight — and for the next two weeks — I am gone.
Thanks so much to both my loyal and casual readers. Knowing that you are out there enjoying my work inspires my work. I look forward to this annual time off, but I also look forward to what the best players in the world have in store for us next year.
See you then.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.