Letter to My Younger Self

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Dear Greg,

Right now, you’re just a crazy 14-year-old kid from Australia whose entire life revolves around bareback horse riding, scuba diving and surfing. Given that, it’s probably going to come as a surprise for me to tell you that someday you will be considered one of the best golfers on the planet.

Seriously, golf.

This isn’t me telling you to ditch your other pastimes. In fact, your love of surfing is going to be what helps the game of golf come to you so easily. Swinging a golf club is a very unnatural activity in that it doesn’t translate over to many other sports. However, it happens to utilize a lot of skills you’ve developed while crashing into waves on a surfboard. You understand the basic ins and outs of riding a wave by now: You’ve got to get your feet positioned, you’ve got to be balanced, and your core muscles — particularly your glutes and your quads — have to fire all the time. The more relaxed you are, the more you are part of the board. If you tense up, you’ll crash and burn. Same principles apply to golf.

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Mum’s a great golfer. She plays a four handicap (you’ll learn more about what that means later, but that’s pretty good). There’s going to be a day when you get bored and decide to caddy for her. You’re going to steal her clubs (which are way too short for you, by the way) and play a few holes.

That will be that, you’ll be hooked.

Golf is going to just make sense to you. You’ll go from never having swung a club to winning your first professional tournament in just five years. It’s your strong foundation in other sports that will make you become a pretty damn good golfer at a very fast pace.

You won’t approach the game in a conventional way, so people won’t expect you to find any conventional success… Screw ’em.

With this rapid ascension will come doubters. You won’t approach the game in a conventional way, so people won’t expect you to find any conventional success.

Screw ’em.

You’ve been blessed with a certain stubbornness that’s stronger than any doubt from others and even yourself. Things might seem bleak when you have no sponsors and you’re gambling with guys at the club in order to have enough money to get to tournaments. When you’re getting by on $32 a week, you’re going to need to find that internal drive and trust in yourself to just keep going. You, and you alone, determine your limits.

So, how will you get better?

Basics.

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Your grip, your setup, your stance and your takeaway. If your basics are correct, then everything else will come together. Whether it’s on the golf course or in your every day life, remember to get the basics down before anything else.

You’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices to get where you’re meant to be. Golf is such an individual sport. In order to be good, you’ll have to push yourself hard. In order to great, you’ll have to push yourself harder than anyone else. If somebody’s practicing eight hours a day, you’ve got to practice 10. Natural skills will give you aptitude for golf, but it’s hitting more balls than anybody else that will make you a true professional. You’ll have to sacrifice personal time, family time and recreational time, but that’s what it takes.

In order to be good, you’ll have to push yourself hard. In order to be great, you’ll have to push yourself harder than anyone else.

When you make it to your first Masters and shock everyone by having a lead after two rounds, take some time to go down to the media room to introduce yourself. Be sure to mention that you grew up diving at the Great Barrier Reef with sharks. You just might get a nice nickname out of it. Maybe that nickname will sprout a logo that you’ll retain the rights to. And maybe that logo will launch a brand that you’re remembered by. That leads me to my best piece of business advice for you: Treat people well. Every interaction is an opportunity, and nothing bad can come from a positive one.

I encourage you to get well-acquainted with your Inner Voice — that place inside you that harbors your motivations, fears, triumphs and doubts. You’re going to have plenty of moments on and off the golf course when you need that voice on your side.

Hey little man, where are you? Wake up, you little prick. Let’s work hard.

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Being in control of that voice is going to be very important throughout your life. You’ll need to temper it when you have success, but more importantly, summon it when you have failures. And there will be failures, some of which — well, one in particular — many people might remember you by. Relax. You can handle it. Everyone has the capacity for failure, but what will make you great is your ability to acknowledge a shortcoming and move on. Always think about the next round, not the last.

Remember to play the game and live your life with your heart on your sleeve. Don’t suppress your emotions just because that’s what’s expected of you. If you shove dirt underneath the rug, it’ll end up becoming a mountain. This game is all about ebbs and flows, agony and ecstasy. Experience all of it to the fullest extent, because damn it, you’re alive!

Take some time to look at yourself in the eye and ask, What do you want out of today? And be honest, because there’s no sense in lying to yourself. When you’re further along in your journey, you’re going to be very happy that you were willing to challenge yourself like this.

If you follow my advice, you can become the very best that you can be. And I promise you, that’s good enough.

Keep to the basics,

Greg Norman