MTT Pro-spective: Jim Furyk

A few weeks ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am I was happy to see my old high school teammate, Jim Furyk. I hadn’t seen Jim for years and it was great to be reminded of our time together as junior golfers. Jim is well on his way to the Hall of Fame, having won the U.S. Open in 2003 and being named PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2010. Although it seems quite normal to think of him as a superstar now, it’s a far cry from our humble beginnings in the small farm town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Back then the closest anyone in our area could imagine getting to a professional athlete was from the stands at a Philadelphia Phillies game. In hindsight you can say that Jim was always a special talent, but back then almost no one believed he would ascend to the player he has become. It was the lack of perspective that comes from living in a sheltered community. As a high schooler, Jim had won several American Junior Golf Association events which were the gold standard for excellence in junior golf. He had also won a state title, propelling our team to victory by a whopping 27 shots. Still with all his success, there’s no way he could be as good as a Fred Couples or Greg Norman, could he? Certainly, as peers we believed our heroes on TV had to be competing at a superhuman level.

I share this story because now in my role as a coach I believe achievement begins with embracing one’s own “deservedness.” That is the belief that with dedication and commitment all things are possible.

We landed on the 18th hole only to see Jim still grinding, rolling putt after putt with the same focus and determination he would eventually demonstrate as a U.S. Open champion.

People have asked me over the years about Jim and what it was like practicing and playing together as kids. I can’t imagine anyone working harder at their craft than Jim Furyk. He always knew what he wanted and took a very organized and dedicated approach toward reaching that goal. For example, one day I asked Jim if he wanted to join me and a couple of other kids for a round. Already set up for his practice putting session, he politely declined. Four hours later, we landed on the 18th hole only to see Jim still grinding, rolling putt after putt with the same focus and determination he would eventually demonstrate as a U.S. Open champion.

And what about that unique swing? It has changed over the years offering up varying degrees of his unforgettable “loop.” As a junior he took his share of criticism and as you can imagine was encouraged to have his unorthodox swing “fixed.” Jim politely listened to each and every armchair quarterback’s assessment. But he also understood that great golf is about controlling your golf ball. That is something he has done better than most other players on the planet.

In the mental toughness portion of our MTT Performance program, we help players develop the attributes of clarity, courage and discipline as the roadmap for achievement. It’s fun to remember that Jim Furyk at a very young age exhibited each of these winning characteristics, which have served him well.

If you’re a young person reading this, I want you to start thinking big. If you’re older, it’s time to do the same. Show courage, take action and do what it takes to create the experience you’re looking for. Even out of a small community, there’s plenty of room for greatness.

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