Chapter 1On My Interprectation of Dreams
I have two things in common with Sigmund Freud. I have a couch in my consulting room. And I ask people to tell me about their dreams. But there the resemblance ends.
The couch is in my basement rec room, near the Grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The picture frames above it hold not the psychoanalyst's carefully neutral art but a print of a golfer swinging a mid-iron and a flag from the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, signed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tom Kite. A four-and-one-quarter-inch putting cup, sunk into the floor, and a universal gym complete the decor. And no one lies on my couch. They sit, and we talk face to face.
Freud believed dreams were a window into the subconscious mind. From them, he spun a web of theory that, too often, boils down to a belief that people are the victims of circumstances beyond their control -- of childhood traumas, parental mistakes, and instinctive impulses.
But the dreams I ask about are not the ones that crept from the unconscious the night before. They are the goals and aspirations a golfer has been carrying around in his or her conscious mind.
The dreams I want to hear of excite some fortunate people from the time they wake up each morning until they fall asleep at night. They are the stuff of passion and tenacity. They might be defined as goals, but goals so bright that no one need write them down to remember them. In fact, the hard task for the professionals I work with is not recalling their dreams, but occasionally putting them out of their minds and taking some time off from their pursuit of them. The dreams I want to hear about are the emotional fuel that helps people take control of their lives and be what they want to be. Time and again, I have heard stories of dreams that are intimately connected to the ability to play great golf. In fact, this is the first mental principle a golfer must learn:A person with great dreams can achieve great things.
A person with small dreams, or a person without the confidence to pursue his or her dreams, has consigned himself or herself to a life of frustration and mediocrity.
Pat Bradley had some of the most exciting dreams I have ever heard. When I first met her, in the early 1980s, she had won a number of tournaments, but she wasn't convinced she knew how to win. She wasn't even sure she was innately gifted at golf. As a kid, she had concentrated most of her attention on skiing. She hadn't won many important amateur events, and she hadn't attended a college with a great women's golf team. She was a good player who just slowly and gradually got better, until she was making a good living as a professional.
She sat on my couch and said, "I'm past thirty. I want to win more. I want to win majors. I want to be Player of the Year at least once. And I want to be in the LPGA Hall of Fame."
At that point, I didn't even know what it took to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame. I quickly learned that, in all of sports, it's the hardest Hall of Fame to enter. A golfer has to win thirty tournaments, at least one of them a major. Very few make it.
I said to myself, "Wow. This woman has a great head."
Just talking with her exhilarated me. She was so intense and so excited. She had a quest.
We worked for two days on how she could learn to see herself as a winner, to think effectively, to play one shot at a time, to believe in her putting and herself. We talked periodically thereafter, and still do.
The first year after our visit, she won five tournaments, three of them majors. She nearly won the Grand Slam of women's golf. I attended the one major she lost that year, the U.S. Women's Open in Dayton, Ohio. She lipped out putts on two of the last three holes and lost by a shot or two.
Afterward, we talked, and I told her I was glad I hadn't been carrying a million dollars with me, because I would have bet it all on her to win the Open. That was how impressive her attitude and confidence were that year.
Pat continued to win, and in 1991, with her fourth victory that year, she qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony was at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, and Pat invited my wife, Darlene, and me. We came into the lobby and saw Pat and her mother, Kathleen. We exchanged hugs.
"Hey, before you leave, we have to talk," she said.
"What do we need to talk about?" I asked.
She looked at me and said, "Where do we go from here? Bob, we've got to find a new dream. What's next?"
Pat is still trying to figure out what comes next. For a while, she thought that the 1996 Olympics would include golf and be played at Augusta National. She had always dreamed of playing at Augusta, and she had always dreamed of being an Olympian. The prospect of doing both fired her up, until the International Olympic Committee dropped the idea.
Now she's searching for a new dream. And she hasn't won since 1991. I know that when she seizes on a new dream, she will win again. Her dreams propel her.
I heard something similar from Byron Nelson recently. Tom Kite and I were giving a clinic at Las Colinas Country Club, outside of Dallas, and we were flattered that Byron and his wife, Peggy, showed up to listen to what we had to say.
After our presentation, during the question period, Byron raised his hand.
"People have often asked me where my mind was the year I won eleven tournaments in a row," he said. "I've never had a good answer, until now, when I listened to what you and Tom were saying about going after your dreams.
"When I was a young player, my dream was to own a ranch. Golf was the only way I was going to get that ranch. And every tournament I played in, I was going after a piece of it. First I had to buy some property. Then I had to fence it. Then I had to build a house for it. Then furnish the house. Then I had to build barns and corrals. Then animals. Then I had to hire someone to look after it while I was touring. Then I had to put enough money aside to take care of it forever.
"That was what I won tournaments for. It's amazing, but once I got that ranch all paid for, I pretty much stopped playing. I was all but done as a competitive player."
Tom Kite is a great example of a person who dreamed huge dreams, and kept dreaming them in the face of all kinds of supposed evidence that they were foolish.
A few years ago I was down at the Austin Country Club working with Tom the week before the Tournament of Champions. He had to go inside to take a phone call, and while I waited for him to return, a tall, athletic-looking man walked up to me and introduced myself.
"You're Bob Rotella, aren't you?" he asked. "What are you talking to Kite about? You know, he really thinks you're helping him."
We shook hands, and he identified himself as an old friend and competitor of Tom's from boyhood days.
"I went to high school with Tom and played golf with him," the man said. "Ben Crenshaw was right behind us. Ben won the state championship twice. I won it once. Tom never won it. I thought I was way better than him. He seemed to be always shooting three over par. How did he get so good?"
There was a long answer and a short answer to that question.
The short answer was that Tom had a dream and he never stopped chasing it.
As a boy, he was small, needed glasses, and wasn't even the best junior golfer at his club. His dream seemed so unlikely that when he was fourteen or fifteen, his parents took him to see Lionel and Jay Hebert, the former touring pros. Tom's father wanted the Hebert brothers to tell Tom something discouraging, to tell him how high the odds were against him.
The Heberts, fortunately, demurred. "He'll find out soon enough how hard it is," they said. "Let him go after it."
When Tom and I first met, dreams still motivated him. He wanted to win more tournaments, including majors. He wanted to be player of the year. He wanted to be the leading money winner.
He has fulfilled those dreams. Now he has new ones. Two days after he won the U.S. Open for the first time, he called me up. He knew what would happen when he returned to the Tour. Everyone he met would want to congratulate him. Reporters would want to interview him about the Open. Fans would mob him. Faced with those distractions, a lot of new Open champions have suffered letdowns. Tom was determined not to be one of them He wanted to test his self-discipline. He wanted to be a player who used the Open as a springboard to even better performance. And he did.
I suspect Tom will attain his new dreams as he did the old ones, because he has always been willing to do what was entailed in the long answer to the question posed by his boyhood rival.
The long answer would have recounted how hard Tom worked, on both the physical and mental aspects of his game, how often he endured failures, how often he bounced back, as he pursued those dreams.
The man I was speaking with had made a common mistake in assessing Tom. He confused golfing potential with certain physical characteristics. Most people carry in their mind an image of a golfer with potential. He is young, tall and lean. He moves with the grace of the natural athlete and probably has excelled at every sport he's ever tried. He can hit the ball over the fence at the end of the practice range.
But while I certainly wouldn't discourage someone with those physical characteristics, I've found that they have little to do with real golfing potential.Golfing potential depends primarily on a player's attitude, on how well he plays with the wedges and the putter, and on how well he thinks.
It's nice when Tom gives me a little of the credit for his achievements, but the truth is that he had a great attitude before I ever met him. He had a backyard green and sand trap as a boy, where he developed his short game. He refused to believe he couldn't achieve his goals. Those qualities of mind were and are true talent an...