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Brandin Wilkinson

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From the Fairway to the Office; How Golf and Business Relate

Jake Knapp flushed another 3 iron up the middle of the 17th fairway in the final round with a one stroke lead on his playing partner, and one of his best friends, Jonathan Garrick. Jonathan was lighting it up on the back nine going 4 under to that point and putting the pressure on Jake. No question this was a high-pressure situation – one stroke lead with the momentum on Jonathan’s side and 2 holes to play. One mistake and the trophy goes to Jonathan. As we walk off the tee box on 17, Jake asks me about my kids and what sports they like to play. While the majority of players would tense up and shut down conversation, Jake did the exact opposite. The result? Jake drains his birdie putt, shoots a final round 63 and takes home the trophy.

This was Jake’s mentality throughout the entire weekend. Whether he made bogey, par, birdie, or eagle, his demeanour and attitude stayed consistent. It was very much a display of stoicism where he never got too high and never got too low. To me, there was this feeling of Jake winning after his second shot on hole #1, even though he was 4 shots back of the lead after Greyson Sigg’s remarkable 59. Jake landed slightly into the rough on the right side of the green and was happy that it was a “safe shot” and something he could work with. Most players who are in contention on Sunday would be frustrated that they weren’t on the green in regulation which would surely start the momentum against themselves. Jake walked up to his ball and chipped in for birdie, generating momentum for himself as he shot -6 on the front nine.
 

Here are the 3 Key takeaways from caddying a MacKenzie PGA Tour Winner and how it relates to business;

1. Know when to Coach

My role with Jake Knapp during the tournament in Kelowna was to caddy. As a certified Professional Performance Coach, there were moments coaching strategies had the potential to be of value but I wasn’t there to overstep boundaries. The strategy I took early on was to let him lead the conversation and get a feel for his personality, playing style, and routine. I was fortunate enough to be paired up with a person who enjoyed conversation, is genuine, and has developed a strong mental toughness. A simple example of when I did coach was on hole #2 during the first round when we were dealing with swirling winds. The clouds were moving west but the trees were moving east. As Jake was getting his number, I wanted to add a little confidence before his swing. With that, I asked “when you’ve been in situations like this before, what strategy did you take to ensure you made the best shot?” From there, Jake walked me through exactly the type of shot he needed to make. A few seconds later he executed his shot from 118 yards out and made eagle. Would he have made that shot anyway? Of course. He’s the expert and professional. The goal for me was to add an additional amount of confidence prior to the shot. When you speak a goal into existence, it’s amazing the results you can accomplish.

Another example was on Saturday when momentum wasn’t necessarily on his side. Through Thursday and Friday we were conversing in between shots but Saturday was a bit different. I had to give him the space he needed. On hole #14 Jake takes a couple clubs up to the tee box while I wait for him down below. While I was waiting, there were 2 boys no older than 13 watching him tee off. One of them wearing a full golf outfit, including the shoes, and the other commenting on Jake’s shot “that spin is ridiculous”. Clearly they were golf fans. In a moment where Jake needed to regain momentum, I took this as an opportunity to step in and help get it generated. As he came down from the tee box, I told him about the two boys and how cool it must feel to be an inspiration to kids. He smiled and agreed. Then, I continued with asking

how it felt to get a tweet from one of the greatest golfers of all-time, Gary Player, after he overcame a 5 shot deficit on Sunday to win the Canadian Life Open only 2 weeks ago. Jake said it was a pretty cool moment for him.

We had been talking about PGA Tour Player Xander Shauffele the day prior because he was in contention at the US Open and some of the guys knew him personally. They had all spoke very highly of him and said that even though he made the show, he never became too big to stay connected with the guys. They all respect Xander immensely. For a final boost of confidence, I brought up that story to Jake on Saturday and said that when everyone was talking about Xander, I immediately related it to you and what you’ll be like when you make the Tour. I wanted to add inspiration and confidence into Jake when he wasn’t feeling it. He shot -2 on the back nine and ended his round with a much needed birdie on 18 which put him in 2nd place and in contention for Sunday.

Shortly after the round I sent him the following text:

“Hi Jake. Just wanted to say great work today. The roll on the last putt was awesome and a great way to cap the day and start tomorrow. Enjoy the company tonight, definitely a special moment for the 3 of you. See you tomorrow. You got this!”

His reply:

“Thanks brotha! Yeah that was nice to convert after that good driver. Thanks my man, gonna be an exciting day tomorrow!”

And exciting it was.

In summary, having the ability to recognize moments when coaching could be valuable to your team, inspiration is advantageous, or space is required plays critical to their performance. By not doing this, you’re hindering the growth and production of your team member which has a direct impact on their contribution to the culture. The stronger your culture, the stronger your results will be.

2. How to Handle Adversity

Golf is much like entrepreneurship and leading a company. It can feel lonely and it’s an emotional rollercoaster. One day everything seems to come together and it seems easy. The next day it’s as if everyone and everything is conspiring against you. These moments will come and go, we know this. But the challenge lies in being able to handle them effectively when they show up.

In Friday’s round, one of the golfers we were paired with was having a day where everything seemed to be working against him. What didn’t help was his score from Thursday which had started a negative momentum and essentially left him out of contention for the weekend. He decided to withdraw after 9 holes and left the competition. I can relate because I’ve let the negative emotions take over multiple times in the past. The difference now is with the self awareness I’ve developed, I’m able to recognize when the negative emotions are starting to take over and stop them in their tracks. This can be done multiple ways but one of the most effective strategies I use is a breathing exercise combined with digging into my “Jar of Awesomeness”. No longer do I have bad days. I have bad moments, but I do not have bad days.

Breathing exercise:

A quick and effective way to get re-centred is to take in a deep breath for 6 seconds, hold for 2, and release for 7. Think positivity in, negativity out.

From there, dig into your Jar of Awesomeness:

Mentally picture a mason jar with a bunch of small pieces of paper in there. On each one of those pieces is a small note is a memory of a time where you absolutely crushed a goal, had a positive impact on someone, accomplished something you deemed impossible at one point, any other positive experience that you’ve had in the past, or something you’re thankful for.

What this does is shifts your focus from negative to positive in less than 60 seconds and re- established your self-confidence. Sometimes you only need a small win to alter the momentum and other times you need a bigger win in the past to draw from to get you back on track.

What was a bit surprising about the golfer from Friday was that he studied Psychology in University. This proves how difficult it is to possess a controlled mindset as opposed to letting your negative thoughts take over your actions. It takes time and deliberate practice but once developed, has a profound effect on your results.

With Jake, he had a tremendous amount of mental strength and confidence. This stems from the way he was raised and also in the amount of work and preparation he puts in. For example, he showed up 4 hours prior to his tee time on Sunday to work on a few things in his game. He rarely would have needed to dig into his Jar of Awesomeness because there’s a steady flow of confidence coming through him. He also has the ability to learn from his mistakes and move on quickly. On top of this, he has a lot of positive self-talk while on the course which takes him in the right direction shot after shot.

In summary, you can control your momentum through proper techniques. Taking a stoic approach is also an effective way to avoid the negative emotions from taking over. Expect that there will be times where things don’t go your way and know that they won’t last either. Learn from each of those situations and when you start to feel another one come on, use the breathing and Jar of Awesomeness strategy to get back on track.

3. Support

We were standing on the 8th tee box watching another one of Jake’s UCLA teammates, Lorens Chan, hit his shot and see it roll about 2’ past the hole nearly going in. Jake puts his arm around Lorens with a big smile and congratulates him on an awesome shot. Lorens went on to shoot -6 and had the lead going into Sunday. The support that these two had for each other while playing together on Thursday and Friday was a pleasure to be around. Being inside the ropes and witnessing it first-hand, I’m convinced that it played a factor in them going -9 (Lorens) and -11 (Jake) over those two days and set the stage for the weekend. This continued even in the midst of a pressure-filled Sunday with Jake and Jonathan both celebrating each others well-played shots.

If you’re in a sales profession, often the top performers can become envious, jealous, and to a point don’t want to see the other person succeed because they feel it takes away from their success. This simply isn’t true. The more we support each other, the better we all perform. After the round on Sunday, Jake was being interviewed and made a comment that resonated well with this situation in sales. He said that he never wished anything negative to Garrick who

finished second. He actually wanted him to play his best golf. But Jake knew that if he played his best golf, he’d come out on top. And that’s what he did. For Jake, Jonathan wasn’t his real competition, the real competition was with himself. That’s what the best players and salespeople do. They don’t worry about competition because they are focused on getting better after every shot or sale. What the competition does is nearly irrelevant to them which is why they are keen on praising them for making good shots or closing a deal. The end result was Jonathan couldn’t have done any more to claim the title, he left with his head held high and was a true sportsman by giving Jake all the praise he could for winning. For Jake, he proved that he was the best golfer that weekend and took home the trophy.

In this tournament, the 3 former teammates (Knapp, Garrick, Chan) from UCLA finished 1, 2, and 4th respectively. At the next tournament, it could go a different direction. It’s very possible that the roles reverse and either Jonathan or Lorens are the ones holding the trophy on Sunday. If that happens, Jake will be right there to support them for the win.

In summary, healthy competition is good but self-competition is better. Strive for a mentality where your top performers aren’t in competition with each other but rather themselves. Jealousy and envy are cancerous so remove them from your environment immediately, regardless of how strong your top performer is. Having the right type of competition will generate a positive environment where everyone succeeds.

I feel privileged and fortunate to have met a great guy, Jake Knapp, and play a small role in his victory at the 2019 GolfBC Championship.

What an eventful four days!

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