“Masters Month” has many of you dusting off your clubs and venturing out to the range or golf course for the first time in several months. How will you practice this spring to positively grow your game? No matter what your current ability level, I am confident this lesson from my book, Mentored by the King, Arnold Palmer’s Success Lessons for Golf, Business and Life will inspire you to want more from your game.
Back when I was the director of the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy based out of the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, my days began at 7:00 a.m., Monday through Saturday. The school opened promptly at 8:00 a.m., and I can still remember how one new freshman mini-tour player would be the first young professional on the practice range by early morning light and always one of the last to leave at dusk. That player was someone who would become my good friend and a PGA Tour winner, Dicky Pride.
Dicky’s work ethic was well beyond that of any of the other mini-tour players preparing to go to Tour School in the fall. I also noticed he possessed a strong self-confidence and a willingness to talk openly and candidly about his abilities. Some of the other players didn’t like his attitude. They considered him to be cocky, not confident. Frankly, I was always a bit amused at his strong ego. I thought it showed a great degree of determination, and though his game may not have yet caught up to his mouth, he was declaring exactly what he wanted to accomplish. I admired that about him. He certainly had learned the positive mindset of the PGA champions who were playing out of Bay Hill at that time. Swinging alongside him were greats such as Payne Stewart, Scott Hoch, Greg Norman, Corey Pavin, Mark O’Meara, Ian Baker-Finch, and Brad Faxon, to name just a few.
With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see. - Ella Wheeler Wilcox
In my honest opinion, Dicky wasn’t the best player to ever show up at Bay Hill with the aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour. In fact, in the summer of 1992, Bay Hill was swimming with young aspiring talent preparing for Tour School in the fall. At that time, Dicky was realistically about the eighth or ninth best player in that group of professionals and amateurs.
Since college, one of Dicky’s coaches has been the world-renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella. Preparing Dicky for Qualifying School, Rotella had given him a bit of advice similar to that which I had given to Bradley Hughes. It worked for Dickey just as it had for Bradley. (Dicky told me it gave him a boost of confidence and led to quick success on the Tour.) Rotella told him, “Q-school is going to be a little easier than playing the Tommy Armour Tour has been for you because not so many players really believe they can do well at the Tour Qualifying.”
Well, that just fired up Dicky’s already confident attitude and gave him an extra kick at just the right time. Pride and seven other Bay Hill junior members headed to the grinding test known as the PGA Tour Qualifying School that fall of 1992. Only two made it through with full exempt cards: Robert Damron and Dicky Pride. Everyone at the club was anticipating Robert’s success. He had proven himself in the National Amateur events and mini-tours since turning professional. But nobody was expecting such a stellar performance from Mr. Pride—except Dicky.
I’ve asked the then forty-one-year-old Tuscaloosa native to share a story about his first meeting with our mutual friend, Arnold Palmer. According to Dicky, the meeting he writes about turned out to be one of those life-changing conversations that came at just the right time. To this day he remains amazed how a casual and offhand conversation came to inspire him to remarkable success on the PGA Tour.
A Turning Point
As I watched Arnold Palmer come off the steps of the pro shop, my mind and heart began to race. How would I address him? What would I say? I knew I was overthinking things, but how do you properly and respectfully address a legend?
I decided to be straightforward and direct. Greeting him on the putting green, I walked up, stuck out my hand, and said simply, “Mr. Palmer, Dicky Pride. I just wanted to thank you very much for allowing me to become a junior member. I really appreciate the opportunity.”
Mr. Palmer, ever the gentleman, even though he had likely heard a variation of that comment hundreds of times, was polite and gracious. “Oh, good, good,” he replied with a smile. “Now, Dicky, you’re going to try to turn pro, aren’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied. “I’m about to turn pro, and try to play … see what I can do.”
Mr. Palmer paused, placed one hand on his hip and the other on his club. “Well, do you mind if I give you some advice?”
Here was one of my dad’s idols and the “King of golf” himself, and he wanted to give me some advice? I was sweating bullets. “Oh, yes, sir, please do!” I replied eagerly.
“You know, Dicky,” he began, “when you are on tour—” He stopped suddenly, clearly aware that I was hanging on every word. He cocked his head, a sign, I later learned, that he was deadly serious.
"There are no miracles in this game of golf. You only get out of it what you put into it.”
With that bit of advice, we immediately connected. It was the same no-nonsense wisdom that my father taught me about working hard and giving my full energy toward what I wanted to achieve.
Parting ways, I can remember spinning on my heels and releasing the air that was trapped in my lungs. I immediately ran into the pro shop. Throwing myself onto the counter, I hollered to nobody in particular, “I need a sheet of paper and pen!” The three assistant pros behind the counter gave me puzzled looks.
“Excuse me?” one asked quizzically.
I repeated myself a bit more slowly. “I need a sheet of paper and a pen. I’ve got to write something down!”
I still have that “Palmerism” scribbled on that paper in my office for daily viewing:
“There are no miracles in this game of golf. You only get out of it what you put into it.”
For the last eighteen years, those simple words have helped to frame my pursuit of professional golf. I’ve begun every day with one goal: try to improve my game from yesterday. I may not always make it, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Dicky’s story is a great testimonial to the benefits of working toward your goal on a daily basis, for within two years of that first conversation with Arnie, Dicky went on to win the Federal Express St. Jude Classic. He has since had more than a dozen top-ten finishes in PGA Tour events with over $3 million in career earnings.
In order to get something significant out of life, we must put something of significance into our life. To enjoy more fairways, greens and one-putts in May, means doing the good work in April.
Enjoy “Spring Training” with us in Orlando and get a huge jump start on a great summer of golf. Call direct, 407.996.3306, email, email@example.com or by cell, 407.595.3645.
Until next time, happy golfing,
A Top 100 Teacher by Golf Magazine and PGA class-A Professional, Brad successfully competed on the Austral-Asian PGA Tour and Hogan/Nike Tours, developed the training curriculum for high-performance juniors at Saddlebrooke Preparatory and applies these experiences to his teaching and coaching at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando. Brad was awarded the North Florida PGA Teacher of the Year and Junior Golf Leader of the Year, Edwin Watts Golf Top Instructor Award, along with the honor of Top 50 Instructor in Florida by Golf Digest.