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Max Homa, one of the highly talented young guns on the PGA Tour, was the winner of the Genesis Invitational tournament in greater Los Angeles a few weeks ago. TV viewers thought his victory was a mere formality, as Homa stepped over a three-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole for the win. But Homa slightly misread it and the ball lipped out. That meant a sudden-death playoff going head-to-head with long-hitting Tony Finau.
On the first playoff hole, the short, very tricky par-four 10th, Homa hit what he thought was a good drive, but when he got to his ball, he saw it was up against a tree trunk, left of the green. In the now infamous words of former ABC golf commentator Bob Rossberg, “He’s got no shot.” Not deterred, Homa manufactured a hooded lob wedge and put it on the front edge of the green, two putting for a par to keep the playoff going.
Miracle? No, just calm and gutsy. Never count any of the young guns out. On the second playoff hole, the par-three 14th, Finau made bogey, while Homa made an easy par; but the win was hard. Known as one of the happiest guys on tour, Homa, the 30-year-old L. A. native, said later about his victory that “positive thinking” was key to his success.
As a kid growing up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, I specifically remember my mother, a schoolteacher and librarian, speaking often about her belief in positive thinking. The term became popularized by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking” in 1952. The book captivated America, which was then embroiled in the Korean War, and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks.
In his writings of “The Power,” as well as numerous other books, Peale offered testimony and evidence of the benefits of positive thinking through examples, anecdotes and experiences of real individuals who found success, health, fulfillment and private peace of mind by following his ideas and advice.
Thinking in a positive manner is self-evident. Do you know any negative thinkers who bitterly complain, whine and belittle themselves? Are they happy? Positive thinking is not pollyannish. It combines with other self-evident philosophies of thinking and acting, like taking personal responsibility of one’s own behavior and performance, living by a strong work ethic and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. These are fundamental truths of life.
One of my positive mantras is, “I never give up on a hole.” That bit of positive thinking came from a statement by Jack Nicklaus years ago, who said, “Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation is.”
Negative thinking is linked inexorably to emotions. Golf legend Sam Snead once said, “Of all the hazards, fear is the worst.” Yes, fear is a negative thought and emotion. Negative thoughts are the absence of positive thoughts. It’s the difference between, “I have this shot” and “This is an impossible shot.”
Positive thinking also is a matter of attitude. It’s an attitude about belief in yourself, an attitude about confidence and an attitude about dreading the outcome. One of the greatest positive thinkers of all time on tour was the late Payne Stewart, who once remarked, “A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing.”
Lastly, Bobby Jones said, “Golf is played on a five-inch course, the distance between your ears.”
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.