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  • Alistair Tait

A lesson in perseverance

Every aspiring tour professional should watch the third round of the 2020 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. They’d learn an invaluable lesson in the art of perseverance.

Conditions were brutal at the Renaissance Club. Ian Poulter said the third round was….

“…as tough a day as I’ve seen on a golf course in 21 years.”

While scores soared and the notion of par went out the window. Poulter accepted the challenge for what it was:

“You’ve got to embrace it,” he said. “It tests everything that you have. You've got all shots from archives you haven't hit for a while. It's miserable. But we're playing golf.
“It’s really easy to sit here and just moan and say the golf course got unplayable, right? I’m not going to do that. It was a massive mental challenge.
“We’re in a lucky position to be here playing this Aberdeen Standard Scottish Open for a lot of money. A lot of guys have put a lot of hard work in to get us here. So we just need to dry off and go again tomorrow."

Tommy Fleetwood, like everyone else, looked like a drowned rat when he stepped off the 18th green. However, his philosophy on playing in driving rain and near gale force winds explains why he’s one of the world’s best players. He said:

“I loved every minute of it. It’s golf isn’t it? Let’s face it, with the money we play for these days it does not do for any harm, does it? It’s fine. I’ll play in it every day.
“The prize money we play for, going out in a bit of bad weather is fine. There’s nothing about today that got me and Finno (caddie Ian Finnis) down. It almost got so bad that we were laughing about it towards the end.”

Laughing in the face of adversity. How many aspiring tour professionals can say that? It’s perhaps not surprising Poulter and Fleetwood ended the third round in contention for the title.

Coach Graham Walker once said there was nothing wrong with a bit of “tough love” to knock young professionals into shape. He’s practised that with many of his charges over the years, including Fleetwood, whom he works with on the short game. He’s also coached Danny Willett. The 2016 Masters winner would phone Walker on a constant basis when he spent a short time at Jacksonville State in the American college system. If Willett was looking for a shoulder to cry on, then he didn’t always get it from fellow Yorkshireman Walker. Sometimes Walker was pretty blunt, telling Willett to basically "man up."

That sort of bluntness wouldn’t go amiss with many aspiring tour players, those players reluctant to play when it’s too windy, too wet, when the greens are not quite up to standard because of adverse conditions. I always have these words for these so called aspiring tour pros:

“Do you think conditions are going to be perfect every time you play a pro tournament?”

Er, no! Those who make it are the ones who embrace adversity, who look at conditions like those of the third round of the $7 million Scottish Open as a challenge.

Padraig Harrington once came off a round in the Open Championship in absolutely foul weather and was asked for his thoughts. Rather than complain, the Dubliner said he’d actually quite like to go back out on the golf course and have another bash.

No wonder Harrington’s three major trophies form the centrepiece of his trophy cabinet.

As Eddie Pepperell once said about opting for amateur golf in the UK versus the American college system:

“I think the fact we grew up playing links golf and faced tough conditions means we’re maybe a bit better mentally prepared. Because as an 18-year-old playing, say, the Lytham Trophy in a howling gale means you have to find some way to get through it. I think that helps in the long run.”

Tough love, adversity, perseverance, those who embrace what's in front of them are those who make it.

#JustSaying: “This championship (The Open) is a test of patience, of never feeling sorry for yourself, of courage, almost teaching yourself to enjoy adversity, because you’re going to be inundated by it.” Gary Player

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