The mental aspects of golf and life

Years ago I was playing in a golf tournament at beautiful Torrey Pines. At best, I am a very mediocre golfer so I invited Warren Shaffer, Poway’s director of administrative services at the time, to play in our foursome with my son and Mickey Cafagna. Having someone like Warren, who is a “scratch” golfer on your team was not only fun, but with a best-ball format, his skill set helped us win the tournament.

National Hockey League Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” That day at Torrey Pines a number of shots were taken, but by the end of the day (thanks to Warren) we took less shots than anyone else. During lunch, Warren shared that he once played 36 holes trying to qualify (as an amateur) for the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, but he missed a 10-foot putt on a sudden-death playoff hole. He opined that most of the golfers trying to qualify were similar in their physical golfing abilities, but what did him in was the mental aspect, which separated him from victory.

Charley Hoffman, a Poway High School alum, recently shot a 65 on the first day of the Masters Championship in Augusta and led by four strokes, the biggest lead in that tournament since 1941. I took special interest and anxiously awaited the next day’s results. The next day Charlie shot a 75 but still remained in first place tied with four other golfers. Saturday ended with Charley two shots back of the leaders, but still in contention. On Sunday, the final day of the tournament, Charley shot a 78, ended tied for 22nd and his potential earnings of $1,980,000 dwindled to a paltry (in professional golf terms) $105,600. That got me thinking about what Warren had said about the separation between physical abilities and the mental pressure of the game of golf.

Those same pressures often apply to the game of life. Someone once said that “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success, and if you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Regardless of his finish at the Masters, there is no doubt Charley loves what he does.

I had the opportunity to learn more about Charley and his foundation, career and character when he was nominated in 2015 for the Poway High School Hall of Fame. I sat on the selection committee. When Poway High celebrated its 50th anniversary, then-Principal Scott Fisher was instrumental in helping establish the Titan Hall of Fame with the goal to recognize and celebrate Poway High graduates, especially those who exemplify the mission, goals and values of the school and who have made significant contributions and achievements in academics, business, the arts, community service, public service, science and athletics. Poway High was dedicated in 1961 and while 30,000 students have passed through its portals only 18 have been honored by being selected for the Titan Hall of Fame. One of those is Charley. The selection committee, made up of alumni, current and retired faculty,…

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