SOCIAL media was abuzz recently when Stephen Curry, from the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, was granted a sponsor’s exemption to tee it up in a Web.com Tour event in the US. Opinions were divided on whether this was a good thing for the game or simply a publicity stunt. Personally, I think it was great for the game and of course it was a publicity stunt! With Curry in the field, the world’s golf media was focused on a Web.com event rather than the coinciding WGC tournament, an alternate-field PGA Tour event in Reno and the Women’s British Open. No offence to the Web.com Tour, but this would never have happened if Curry weren’t playing. The sponsors did a great job promoting his appearance and I’m sure were rewarded with great value for their buck.
Curry’s a two-handicapper, which means he’s probably six to eight shots per round worse than tour pros. For someone who’s currently in the top-five basketball players on the planet, it was an incredibly ballsy move to put himself in an environment where he’s not even in the same vicinity as his fellow competitors. But that’s what elite sportspeople do. They challenge themselves to completely get out of their comfort zone and see what happens. I thought he’d miss the cut by at least 10 shots, but closer to 20. To his credit Curry played well, shooting consecutive four-over par 74s to miss by 11. He was very happy with his play and I’m relieved he didn’t make a fool of himself. I’m positive he learned so much more about himself in those two days than he would have if he’d gone through his usual pre-season routine for basketball.
‘How you react determines whether
you expand your comfort zone.’
Curry’s example is to the extreme and I applaud him for doing it. There are quite a few top golfers who fancy themselves at other sports that I’m pretty sure would be hesitant to throw themselves in at the top level.
One of my favourite books is Steve Waugh’s autobiography, Out of my Comfort Zone. It contains some great stories about challenging yourself by getting outside your comfort level. Steve was my amateur partner in the 2005 Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour and we had a fun week on the three-course rotation of the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. The weather was typically Scottish and particularly cold when we played the Old Course. He showed up in just a golf shirt while I had four layers of clothing on.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“The cold helps me get fired up, mate!” he replied.
He went on to explain how early in an innings he liked getting hit in the body by the bowler. It helped him focus. Whatever works, I thought, but thinking back now I understand for him to improve as a cricketer, golfer, person, he loved the challenge of pushing the boundaries (pardon the pun).
This happens constantly on the golf course. When facing a tough shot, there’s an opportunity to extend ourselves beyond what we are comfortable doing. See this as a positive rather than a negative. Now I’m not saying take on every shot with reckless abandon (I made a career out of playing to my strengths and avoiding my weaknesses). However, there are occasions when taking the shot on is what’s called for. Maybe it’s a shot over water to a green, or a particular tee shot you’re not comfortable with. Whatever the situation, how you react determines whether you expand your comfort zone or remain within it.
Step up to the ball, focus on your process and take it on with the confidence of knowing you are only going to learn from the situation. That itself is an achievement because you faced up to the challenge. If it works out then great, you’ve just expanded your comfort zone. If it doesn’t, learn from it so you know what to work on for next time.
And hopefully the Aussie Tour take a leaf out of the Web.com’s book at the end of this year and slip a good non-golf sports star into one of the bigger events.
How about it, Ricky Ponting?