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Wisdom From The Pros - Australian Golf Digest Wisdom From The Pros - Australian Golf Digest

PGA professionals Ali Orchard and Lisa Jean share their journeys. 

In the world of professional golf, the path to success is often lined with challenges, triumphs and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Former tour players Ali Orchard and Lisa Jean have both walked this path and emerged as seasoned professionals with invaluable insights to offer. In this exclusive interview, they answer questions from their own perspectives, providing a wealth of advice for aspiring golfers looking to make it in the world of competitive golf.

Ali Orchard [Featured image]

The fundamental ingredients for success: As a seasoned golf professional, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you wish you had received when you were just starting your career?

Every golfer develops differently, but there are some key fundamentals that they must have to make it on tour. Knowing these ingredients early in your career and addressing them is huge. A player either naturally needs to have a lot of speed or work really hard to develop it. Incorporating speed at a young age is a must, as it is a non-negotiable X-factor.

The balancing act between training and competition: Can you share some insights on how aspiring professionals can effectively balance their training regimen with the demands of competition?

Golf needs to be your obsession. If you’re thinking about balance at the beginning of your career you just won’t be able to contend. How hungry are you? This answer needs to be: eat, sleep, breath golf! Balance in my opinion is something we earn and is a privilege once we have worked harder than everyone else. Ordinary people do ordinary things. Extraordinary people do extraordinary things.

Mental strategies for success: In your experience, what mental strategies have been instrumental in overcoming the pressures and challenges of professional golf?

There are two pieces to this. One of the only things you can control in golf is your preparation. If you have done the right preparation mentally, you will be as strong as you possibly can be because you have built internal belief through repetition. For example, the more three-foot putts you hole, the more you believe that they always go in. Having the same routine regardless of the situation guides you to your best result. Your internal self-talk needs to be unbreakable to be a tour professional – you need to be strong like a monk so that nothing can dint your universe. The better the player gets, the more critics they may have. The player starts to hear a ‘peanut gallery’, these people sitting at home drinking their lattes having absolutely no idea what it takes. The player knows how good they are; they no longer need anyone’s approval. In fact, they use it as fuel to their fire in achieving greatness. I heard a great player once say, “It’s not a matter of if I make it, it’s a matter of when I make it.” Another example is this year’s Open winner, Brian Harman, who had patrons literally yelling out to him, “I hope you choke – you’re not good enough to win!” Not for one second did he absorb the comments. They never got close to dinting his universe, [instead] he used them to fuel him to the finish line.

Key areas for ongoing improvement: Golf is a sport where technique and skill development are ongoing. What key areas of the game should young pros focus on to continually improve and
stay competitive?

The No.1 factor to playing competitive golf at an elite level that has been proven through statistics is distance. No.2 is to be able to control your ball. If a player can do these two things, they are going to be able to contend. There is no area of the game where you can have a weakness. Keep working at each so they can all be a strength. You will also need to have one or two areas that are your ‘wow’ factor.

Sponsorships and endorsements: Many aspiring golfers dream of playing at the highest level. What steps should they take to secure sponsorships and endorsements, and what does it take to maintain those relationships?

Sponsorship really is a partnership. If you’re looking to secure sponsorship, you must be willing to give and receive the same. Ask yourself: what can you offer a sponsor? Be creative – what’s something different you bring to the table? Usually, a sponsor will want you to attach their logo to your bag and help their brand exposure. Think about what else you could do for them.

Presentation is key – if you want to be a professional then present yourself as if you are one. Be authentic – if you can be admirable and relatable, you will be able to build strong connections. Some examples of players that exceed in this area are Rickie Fowler and Christina Kim. Keep your doors open – you never know who you will meet, whether it’s a member at your golf club, a billet at a tournament or a friend of a friend.

Lisa Jean

Navigating the tour’s physical and mental toll: Travel and constant competition are part of a pro golfer’s life. How did you manage the physical and mental toll of the tour, and what advice do you have for staying motivated on the road?

Make sure to do a lot of gym work and practice in the off-season so your body is right. Know your swing – it’s critical to know what your natural faults are so you can fix them easily, especially as you can’t see your coach often. You don’t have much time on the road to dedicate to gym work or technical practice. Sometimes it is hard to find a gym, so having exercises you can do in your accommodation is important. I stayed motivated even when playing badly as I knew golf is temperamental. You can play well sometimes and badly other times. Just accept the bad and move forward and keep with the processes, as they do work. I love to travel so staying motivated was easy for me.

Embodying sportsmanship and etiquette: Golf is known for its sportsmanship and etiquette. Can you share some wisdom on how up-and-coming pros can embody these values on and off the course?

My coach told me very early on, “People won’t remember how you played, they will remember you for how you acted.” I always made sure to keep very even-keeled on the course, especially if I was playing badly. This is even more important now with social media and phone technology – you could be filmed at any time. We didn’t have to worry about that; we knew where the camera crews were. My advice would be that you will play badly at some stage; you need to accept that and realise that’s not going to always be the way you play. It’s how you react to it that matters. Don’t get angry and start swearing. We all know you didn’t mean to miss a putt or hit a bad shot, just let it go and try to not enhance mistakes with more mistakes because you’re angry. Don’t focus on the negatives, make sure you do your stats and focus on what you need to improve for the following week and focus on what went well. In terms of etiquette, respect your fellow players and how they are playing and where they are on the course when you’re playing with them.

Strategies for resilience: The road to becoming a professional golfer is filled with ups and downs. What strategies can young players employ to stay resilient and bounce back from setbacks?

Have set routines and try to stick with them as much as you can. Especially out on the road competing. It’s easy to get distracted with a new country or city (depending on which tour) and want to go out and experience the culture and sights. Do that if you’ve done your preparation for the week. Get plenty of rest when you can. Take time to relax. Trust yourself that you are good enough to be out there. You haven’t been gifted a tour card, so believe in yourself and keep working through the rough patches. Keep doing what you know works for you. Don’t change your routines because you saw another player doing well and think you should try what they are doing.

Adapting to technological advances: Golf has evolved with advancements in technology and equipment. How should aspiring professionals adapt to these changes and stay competitive in a rapidly changing sport?

Always test out new equipment. With the availability of FlightScope and TrackMan you can easily see if something will work for you. I’m cautious of people using technology too much and relying on it for everything – it’s very easy to lose your own feel if you do that. Integrate technology and practise without it so you can figure out your own swing and feels. It’s easy to get too focused on the numbers and not on the result.

The evolving future of golf: What are your thoughts on the future of professional golf for the next generation of golfers? How are things different or better than they were when you were competing?

The future of golf is exciting in terms of tournaments and prizemoney. People love golf now, especially women’s golf. We didn’t have that excitement around us – it was a very niche market regarding spectators. Now with the LIV tour and getting different people excited about the game, it is huge for the golf industry. It’s very different now than when I was competing. I think we had it better with most things. The prizemoney is much better now but so is the cost of travel and living. With social media and sponsorships relying on your exposure and playing well, it’s difficult for the young players. We had it easier with travel and not having to worry about updating our social media accounts after the round and explaining ourselves to everyone regarding what went right or wrong. Not being victimised or bullied meant we didn’t have to worry about how we played or how we looked all the time. We could just go and play golf, enjoy ourselves and have fun. 

“The best piece of wisdom I have been given came from my coach, Kelvin. He used to make me hit 9-irons. I couldn’t hit another bag of golf balls until I had finished an entire bag of 9-irons. You’ve got to think about the technology at the time, but his advice was to “groove my swing”. Then I swung every club like I swung my 9-iron. That’s what he wanted me to know. I didn’t change my swing when the club got longer.”

— Editor’s Note