Jeff Maggert: On the value of compliments

I find Jeff Maggert very interesting. The guy was on the PGA Tour uninterrupted from 1990 and made $19 million in the process. He’s won four times this year on the Champions Tour including the U.S. Senior Open. Call him the quiet man. And there was an unlikely catalyst in 1989 who helped all of that happen: Curtis Strange.

Strangely enough, I was in Australia [before he made it to the PGA Tour], it was 4 probably 1989 and I was paired with Curtis Strange the last round of a tournament. We were both right near the lead…At the end I think I finished third and he signed my card and he kind of flipped it over to me and he said, “You know what? You’re the best American player I’ve never heard of.”

But you’ve got to know Curtis and it was actually, it was a compliment and it really made me feel good because here at the time two-time U.S. Open back-to-back winner tells me that I’m the best American player that he’s never heard of. That was his way of giving a compliment and it really gave me confidence that I’m going to be good enough to get on the tour eventually.

It is a very powerful thing to say two sentences to a man who then parlays that into a career.  

Midst all of my struggles during my Monday qualifier days, it was kind words like that kept me going:

  • An amateur who played inspirationally in the U.S. Senior Open told me after we had played a round that I could play at the Tour level and backed it up by spontaneously inviting me to be his best ball partner in an upcoming event.
  • Ten days later, a surprise pairing with a Champions Tour caddie on my course in the middle of nowhere said the same thing and even volunteered to caddie for me for free in a couple of practice rounds just so I would know what it was like to work with a Tour caddie.
  • After an awful round in the Minneapolis qualifier my first year, I felt compelled to apologize to the guy keeping my card (something I would never do now because it is so disempowering). “Oh, that’s alright,” he drawled. “We’ve all been there.”
  • In Miami, I played with the late head pro at Warwick Hills, the old Detroit Tour stop for the Buick Open. He had to withdraw after nine holes with back problems. But as I dropped him off, he leaned over and said, “You keep going. You can make it out here.” This from a guy who had seen the best in the world.
  • In the early going, I was humbled enough times that I began asking the better players I played with if there was anything they’d like to contribute to my game. I knew that most people really do like helping other people and won’t hesitate if you give them permission. On one such occasion, one of the guys who regularly qualified simply said, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
  • In Nashville, I came off the 18th green to an exuberant fan who had seen me play in Napa, California. He was a retired postal worker who followed the Tour across the country. “I know you! I saw you play at Silverado! I talked to you in the parking lot!” I was amazed that I was that memorable to someone who knew what the best looked like.
  • In the Newport Beach qualifier, my best skill was in full display: I was putting like a maniac. We were playing in foursomes and when I improbably sunk another long putt on the front nine, one of the regular qualifiers turned, pointed at me emphatically and said, “That man can putt!”
  • In Baltimore, the other side of my short game came in for praise. My swing was so loose that my short game had become quite good; world class I came to believe. After hitting a delicate, downhill mogul, flop shot kick-in to a tight pin, one of my fellow competitors simply said, “Mr. Up-and-Down.”
  • In Park City, Utah, one of the nicest men I met out there was a club pro from Pennsylvania who made a special point to seek me out. He was a regular qualifier, actually earned his card at one point and was the kind of guy you couldn’t wait to play with again. He thought enough of my potential that he brought his new coach over to me and enthusiastically introduced us.
  • And, of course, the three great coaches, Dave Collins, Jim Dieters and the great Jim Flick, who in their every interaction with me never betrayed a flicker of doubt that I had the talent to get to the Tour. That was pure gold to someone trying to maintain the vision on a daily basis and kept me motivated for years.

And now, I find that aside from inspiring other people with your compliments, it’s a great icebreaker with strangers. It can be something as simple as admiring a shirt or shoes or a way of being. I know a number of truly happy, radiant people and I tell them every time I see them.

Recognition is a key human need. As one master salesman says of how deeply the need for recognition runs through us, “We all crave it. Some are willing to die for it.”

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