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GOLF DOCTOR

The more I practice, the better my luck

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Ever wonder about luck? I mean the role that luck, good and bad, plays in sports, politics, careers, wars and even life.

Winning a big lottery is very good luck; going down in an airplane crash is very bad luck. We have no control over luck, or so it seems. As years go by, I realize that we actually have control over precious few things while we’re on this earth.

We’re born into life. Then stuff happens. We try our best – or may even give up. Parents, genetics relatives, status, color, ethnicity, money – all have critical roles in our life, which is not actually “well-planned” at all, to use an ill-conceived term a big investment firm used.

How one senses the role luck plays in our life seems similar to how we view happiness in general. No one can define happiness or come up with a prescription for how to be happy. Robin Williams had it all; he wasn’t at all happy.

Luck. Fate. Stars. God. Chance. Cultural views about luck vary from considering it a matter of chance to being a matter of superstition. The American Revolution luck? Paul Revere may have spread the word that the British were coming to a small few, but luckily enough people heeded the message, or our Revolution would now be a footnote in English history texts.

I contend that, just as in life, luck plays a prominent influence in sports. I’m not arguing or implying that our destiny is written in the heavens, or even in our genes, for that matter. But birth heritage and upbringing count bigtime.

Tiger Woods was raised, taught and tutored by his dad and mom to be a champion golfer from the time he was a toddler. Most of today’s marquee golf tour professionals start out young and are groomed for the part, like Jordan Spieth and Michelle Wie. As juniors they go to golf camps and even academies.

Even Arnold Palmer, the son of a greens superintendent, and Jack Nicklaus, with private club access, started at early ages and became accustomed to competing and winning in the spotlight while young.

The late author Ayn Rand once said, “any success requires both talent and luck. And luck has to be helped along and provided by someone.”

After sifting through a lot of research concerning luck in sports, and especially golf, I find that luck is a tricky and fickle thing to analyze.

If you are a Chicago Cubs or a Buffalo Bills fan, all you have to do is think back over the years to understand how luck figured into so many heartbreaks. And we won’t go into the agony of many of the U.S.A. Ryder Cup matches.

Researchers have tried to measure and quantify the role luck plays in tour wins, to no avail. Many golfers attribute it to “good luck” when a rival holes a lot of “improbable” putts. But that’s like saying blackjack dealers in Las Vegas are very lucky.

And golfers often blame “bad luck” for their failures. Or is it lack of (enough) talent. It’s hard to detect luck when it’s good; it looks so much like something you’ve earned and prepared for. Luck?

Until recently Tiger Woods had so many lucky shots they would fill volumes. One of the really lucky moments was when he made the 12-footer on the 72nd hole in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines to tie Rocco Mediate, and then to win in the playoff. But the most unlucky thing was his drive into a fire hydrant a year later, which cost him dearly.

A lot of people think putting comes down to a matter of luck. Known as one of the best putters in his day, the late Jerry Barber said, [In putting],“somewhere skill stops and luck takes over. The scoring range is probably from 15 feet in. Anything outside that is plenty of luck.”

Many tour players, as they get older, including Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, view putting not as a matter of luck but as a game apart from actual golf.

If you want a fun read concerning the luck factor, try “How to Make Luck: 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed,” by Marc Myers, who says, “lucky people take very specific steps to improve their odds of good things happening to them.”

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.