Monthly Archives: January 2013

If You Don’t Want to Choke, EAT MORE !

I believe nutrition is the single most important factor that most golfers fail to consider when preparing for competition. The topic isn’t talked about much, and if something isn’t talked about, it’s not a priority. Well it should be, so let’s talk about it.

When I recruit a young man I spend a long time talking to him about all aspects of his game. We talk about putting, driving, iron play, etc. We also talk about how he plays, what he thinks about while playing, what usually happens when he plays well and what goes wrong when he plays poorly. When he plays poorly many times he explains the situation like this:  The round starts out very well, then about the 14th hole everything begins to unravel. The young man doesn’t really know why, he just knows that he chokes at the end of rounds—usually in tournaments.

scorecard1The first thing I ask is, “How much do you eat out there?”  The answer I usually get is either, “Nothing”, or “I had a pack of crackers during the round.” I hope to God that I don’t hear, “I had a hot dog at the turn.” That one drives me nuts.

I then ask, Do you know how many calories your body burns during a round of golf when you walk?

At this point I get either silence or a shrug. They usually have no idea.

Well, for all of you out there, the answer is right around 2000! That’s almost a days worth of calories!  I know, right? Surprised?

The reason he finished poorly is pretty obvious to me. He simply ran out of fuel.

Almost every golfer that I’ve ever coached prior to their experience with me operated at what I call a Calorie Deficit. I have discovered that teaching a player to eat may be just as important as teaching them the swing.

PrintYoung people are calorie burning machines. I know very few moms who have sons that don’t eat constantly and in great quantities. Yet these same young men go to the course to play or compete and do so with no food in their bag and by the time they have hit balls and played, they will have gone six hours without eating, maybe more. I ask them, “Aside from sleeping do you ever go 6 hours without eating?” Of course not. Yet while doing an athletic activity they starve themselves of the fuel they need to compete at a high level! This makes no sense.

Let’s say you were going on a trip in a car. One of the first things you would ask yourself is, “Do I have enough fuel to get me where I want to go?” The same question needs to be asked prior to a round of golf or even more importantly, a round of tournament golf.

One of the biggest reasons golfers “choke” stems from a lack of food in their belly. Simple as that.

When you lack fuel it not only affects your energy level (blood sugar) but it also affects your ability to make sound decisions. The brain needs fuel just as much as the body in order to operate at an effective level.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying—don’t go and pound down 2000 calories prior to your round. That would be equally disastrous!

foodMy golfers always eat a ton of healthy snacks while on the course. This always comes as a shock to my freshman. Most aren’t used to eating at all. As I tell them, “you’re not eating because you are hungry, you are eating to maintain your optimum performance level. If you wait until you are hungry to eat, it’s too late. Chances are we’ve already lost strokes out there.”

When we compete we eat something every 2 to 3 holes, but never garbage! (hot dogs, hamburgers, candy bars, chips, sodas, etc.) Those items are loaded with fat and will cause your blood sugar to spike and then dive. Eat things that will help you perform like the athlete you are! You want to maintain a consistent blood sugar level. My team eats apples, bananas, nuts (excellent) beef jerky, any dried fruit like raisins, trail mix, and a good energy bar like a Cliff Bar or something.

A few years ago I had a golfer from England named Tom. We discovered he played his best when he ate 6 apples a round. I called him Apple Tom. He would eat an apple every 3 holes. He won a lot of college events and became an All-America.

During your round you will need to consume 2000 calories to match what your body will burn.

This is one of the most important lessons my golfers learn from me their first year. When they go home for the summer and play in their local events, state amateurs or national events I usually get a call after the tournament and hear stories about their successes not failures.

I like happy endings.

Happy 80th Dad!

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The Dottie Pepper Interview

I recently had the honor of sitting down with the LPGA legend and NBC Sports golf commentator, Dottie Pepper.

UnknownThroughout her career she has been known as a intense, fiery competitor. Few athletes have a more fitting name.
Her passion has kept her at the the top of her profession(s) her entire life. Dottie had an impressive amateur career and in college Pepper was a 3 time All-America at Furman University. During her LPGA career, Dottie went on to win 17 times, including two major championships. Her nineteen under par performance at the 1999 Kraft Nabisco Championship is still a record. Dottie played on six Solheim Cup teams amassing a career record of 13-5-2, winning 70% of her matches.

Injuries ended Dottie’s playing career prematurely at age 38. In 2004 Dottie joined NBC Sports and went on to become one of the most respected on-course commentators ever to walk the fairways. In December of 2012, Dottie decided to retire from broadcasting to move on to new projects both personal and with the PGA of America. And, oh yea, she’s an assistant captain on this years Solheim Cup Team.

As we stood in her kitchen I asked her some questions about her childhood.

CoG: You were raised on a farm. What are some of the chores that you had to do?

Pepper : Our family had a turkey farm in Saratoga Springs, New York. Each year we had about 45,000 turkeys. One thing that most people don’t know is that turkeys are terrified of thunder storms. They freak out and they’ll all try and pile on top of each other. They’ll suffocate each other! So every time there was a thunder storm we would have to go out into the barns with brooms and chase around 45,000 turkeys and to try and keep them away from the corners, piling on and killing each other.

As we moved to her office we shifted the conversation to golf.

CoG: What did being an on-course commentator teach you about the playing and competing that you wish you knew while you on tour?

images-6Pepper : That it’s not rocket-science. It really isn’t.
I think as a player you over-think situations. Where when you take a half a step back, it becomes a lot clearer. Part of the reason why is that because when you are observing the game emotions aren’t so involved and so over driven. All of the sudden the light seems a lot cleared and the options seem a lot bigger and much more obvious. It’s just not as difficult as we think it is.

CoG: Name someone you have seen that we don’t yet know about who you think will be the next big thing on the PGA and the LPGA.

Pepper : On the PGA Tour, as an analyst you’re not suppose to be a fan, but I really am a fan of Bud Cauley. I really think this kid is going to be a rock star. There’s a mentality passed along from his dad who was a NAVY Seal. This kid goes out there—no excuses—and gets the job done. He’s one of only seven players to ever to earn his card through a few sponsors exemptions. That alone puts him in elevated territory. Mechanically his swing is great and he’s found a veteran caddie. Now he’s learning how difficult it is to play that many weeks. Because in college it’s a pretty scripted fall, pretty scripted spring, then in the summer you’re of on your own to figure out where you want to be to make sure you’re prepared for the next season. Well guess what? This IS the season. It’s all the time. I think that has been his biggest adjustment.

On the female side, I would look out for another Alabama product, Brooke Pancake. Terrific kid. Great story. Her dad passed away early so she’s been on her own and had to mature faster than most kids have had too. She was a top-notch student, plus a great player as well. She’s got the qualities to in her first few years to make a Solheim Cup. She’s that good.

CoG: For a high school golfer, male or female, what single piece of advice would you give them to be a successful collegiate golfer?

photoPepper : I would tell them to not just play golf. I would tell them to take advantage of the other sports, individual or team, and use them not only to keep their high-school experience complete, but for cross-training. It benefits golfers in so many ways. Golfers can get bogged down with the psychological aspects of the game, because it is slow. Where if you’re on the ski team, or football team or baseball, whatever, there is an instant reaction that ends up helping in golf. A break from golf is healthy. Myself and other professional golfers that came from up north did other things in the winter—we skied, bowled, played hockey, whatever. We played other sports in the winter and that probably helped our longevity.

CoG: Same question about college golfers wanting to go pro—what advice would you give?

Pepper : I would stay in college as long as possible. I really would. It’s not just about where your golf might be. It’s where you are as a whole person. In learning how to get around the country or how to interact with other people. Whether it’s your roommate, your teammates, whether it’s alumni, whatever it might be, I would take that time not only to enjoy the college golf experience but the college education and social experience as well. I see so many players who are in such a rush to get out on tour. I think that is a mistake.

CoG: If you could change anything about your playing career, would you?

Pepper : I’d be more sensitive about playing so many events. When I was at my best I played thirty-five weeks a year counting the LPGA and the “silly season” stuff. I developed some nagging injuries because of that, that later turned into chronic injuries that ultimately led to my playing career being cut short.

CoG: What is your craziest, favorite story you have about your playing career?

Pepper : It was in Japan at the end of the year. I made a 3 week trip over to play in a week of pro-ams and two events that we played that were on the LPGA schedule. We had what we called an “R. I. rule,” meaning “readily identifiable,” when it came to food in Japan. The last night of our trip me and two other girls went to this fabulous restaurant in Tokyo and we toasted the fact that we made it the entire three weeks without breaking the “R. I. rule.” As soon as we did, the shrimp in the basket sitting on the grill moved. They were alive! We all screamed! On cue they started jumping around in that basket. It was so gross!

CoG: Same question about your announcing career. What’s your craziest, favorite story?

Pepper : It was at the 2008 U.S Senior Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado. In the 2nd round during a couple of commercial breaks we hear rumblings that a bear is loose on the course. I ask the guys, “Where is he?” They say he is a couple of holes away, no big deal. Well don’t you know, about five minutes later we have just come back from a commercial break and I see this thing and he is going so fast coming across this hill, down underneath through a bunker and then up over a rise and then directly at me! (See photo.) He was so big and so fast and so gorgeous. The next week a guy from the USGA presented me with a bear that was made at a local shop. Roger Malbie’s comment to me was, “Kid, that was a bad day to wear white.”

dottie and the bear

Coach of golf commentary: What I like most about this image is that Bernhard Langer (yellow shirt) is just standing casually observing with hands on hips as Dottie Pepper is about to be eaten by a bear!

CoG: Are there any rules in golf you would change if you could?

Pepper : I really don’t like the anchored putter ban, to be honest with you. I really don’t. And here’s why — (the argument) is being used as a “practice round” for (the future argument about) the golf ball—the ball that many believe goes too straight and too far. I think the they (USGA and the R&A) picked their easier fight to see what the reaction was going to be.  Knowing that there was a stretch that we are currently in where three of five major champions have won with a putter using the anchor-style method, so dramatically changed what was coming out of the USGA. In May of 2011 Mike Davis is on record, on video saying, “I’m not worried about it,” when there are no demonstrable numbers coming out saying that this method makes golf so much easier. Why, less than a year later, it is now so bad that the R&A is involved and looking at a ban? Just draw back the golf ball! They let that issue with the golf ball get so far ahead of them and so far gone, that I think they had to pick this fight to see how hard that fight would be. I think that’s essentially why I’m against it. I don’t like the way (the anchored putter) looks, but if it was that easy, if it made that big a difference, everyone would be doing it. It takes a different skill set to be able to operate that thing. It has to be fit properly, it takes a lot of practice to make it even work okay. I didn’t like the smell of it (this fight when it started), and I still don’t.

CoG: What is one thing that no one knows about Dottie Pepper that they should?

Pepper : Wow, hmmm…That I have a very green thumb. I love my gardens. I volunteer at the local florist. I work in the back room. I love it. That’s my thing that nobody knows. If I had to have a business to stay home all the time, that’s what it would be. It totally captivates me.

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Dottie now lives in her home town of Saratoga Springs, New York with her husband, David and their dog J.P.

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Bogey Tees OffWith  co-author Scott Fuller, Dottie wrote Bogey Tees Off (Volume 1, A Lesson About Being Truthful) in 2012. The children’s picture book, illustrated by Kenneth Templeton, is available at amazon.com in both hardcover and paperback. If you order the book through the New York State Golf Association website NYSGA.org $5 of each sale goes to the New York State Golf Foundation.