Playing Golf With Your Hero

A couple weeks ago, Jin Young Pak, one of my students, had the good fortune of living a life-long dream — she played golf with her hero. After two solid rounds at the Jamie Farr Classic on the LPGA Tour, she was paired in Saturday’s last group with Se Ri Pak.

Now, I don’t think it’s possible for westerners to comprehend just how big Se Ri Pak is in Korea. And what she has done for a generation of Korean young women who have followed her lead to the LPGA Tour. When in Korea, Se Ri must either walk around in disguise or plan on getting mobbed. In fact, her caddie and coach both need bodyguards when in Seoul because they too are famous in this golf-crazy culture. So you can imagine, when a young Korean LPGA rookie gets the chance to play with Se Ri Pak — it’s a huge deal. And especially so for Jin Young, who once waited in line for hours to get Se Ri’s autograph at a junior clinic in Korea.

Because of this situation and my closeness to it, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the dynamics that comes from playing golf with a hero. After all, we’ve all done it in some degree. Maybe not at the level of Se Ri and Jin Young — but we’ve played with our club champion, boss or some other larger than life figure — who made the round a little something extra. And with that something extra, comes a pressure that can often cause some really poor golf, which can ruin an otherwise memorable day.

So what to do when playing with a hero? I will give you the same advice I gave Jin Young the night before her round with Se Ri, which I think helped her through what could have been a very nerve-wracking experience.

First, when playing with a hero — embrace it! Usually it means you’ve done something well in life or business if you’re playing with someone you’ve admired greatly. In Jin Young’s case, she was in 2nd place at one of her first LPGA events — so this was a good thing. She needed to remember that. She was in front of 120 other girls – all heroes in their own right. So, before she played the next day with Se Ri, Jin Young needed to believe it was deserved. She didn’t win a lottery to play with Se Ri. She had worked hard for years and this was one of the perks of that hard work. So first thing — pat yourself on the back for being in that position.

Second, when playing with a hero — be yourself! I’ve seen a lot of people over the years transform personalities based on who they’re playing with. If your hero is a Lee Trevino type player — but you’re Nick Faldo type player — don’t all of a sudden become Mr. Talkative. Keep to the things you do well. And if the way you focus is different from your hero — so what — stay true to yourself. Getting out of your comfort zone is the quickest way to have a bad hero experience. When it’s your turn to hit — stick to the routine that got you there.

Third, when playing with a hero — don’t be afraid to learn. Usually another golfer is a hero because they do things you admire. Take this first hand opportunity to learn how they do the things you admire so much. This doesn’t mean playing the round as a fan instead of a fellow competitor. It just means paying attention. I’ve learned as much playing with golf pros I’ve admired as I’ve had hitting thousands and thousands of range balls. So pay attention when they’re hitting shots and managing their game. Normally what you will find is the best players keep it simple.

Fourth, when playing with a hero — engage in conversation when appropriate. Again, this is a golden opportunity to learn from your hero. When I talked to Jin Young after her round — she said Se Ri gave her some great advice. Se Ri said to work smarter not harder. That for a long career, Jin Young should learn to hit balls for 2 hours intelligently, as opposed to 5 hours aimlessly. Now, I have been telling her that for 3 years — but Se Ri’s advice was the needed confirmation. Since that round, Jin Young only talks about smart practice – not harder practice. I almost want to send Se Ri a thank you card.

And lastly, when playing with a hero — don’t set high expectations. Play your game and stick to your game plan – not theirs. You’re not there to impress them. You’re there to play golf. I remember a great lesson I learned from a hero of mine as a young pro. I was playing the mini-tours in Florida and had a great first day. I was in the last group on the second day (the last of the tournament) and paired with Doug Weaver, who at that time was the best mini-tour player in Florida. He won everything. Well, I hung in there okay — but ended up playing the last 4 holes four over par. After the round, I went up to Doug and apologized for my bad play. I told him I was sorry he had to witness that terrible display. He looked at me and smiled — then put his arm around my shoulder and said something I’ll never forget. He said – “George, I don’t care.” He said the quicker I learned no one else was worried about what I was doing — the better off I would be. He wasn’t mean about it, just honest. He said we could have a beer after the round — but when playing, he had too many other things to worry about besides my bogeys. That lesson is still one of the best of my life. So remember, your hero will not worry about your poor shots — just theirs. They’re not critiquing your swing and wondering how you got paired with them. They are playing their own game, which is one of the reasons they got to hero status to begin with.

So, next time you have the chance to play with a hero — go for it! Good luck!

23 Responses to “Playing Golf With Your Hero”

  1. Clyde Dowell says:

    Hi Andy,
    I would just like to say how much I appreciate this article, and it will be a big help to me as I play with better golfers that I admire because of their talent. It is very easy for me to get intimidated when I am playing with very good golfers. Thanks for this excellent advice.

    Clyde Dowell

  2. Mark D. says:

    Dear Andy,

    Thank you for the advice and thank you for mailing it to me.
    It makes so much sense.


  3. Pam Simone says:

    Thanks for the great advice about playing with a much better player. I
    am guilty about being too concerned with my bad shots, and you are right that the better player only cares about their shots. Great advice, thanks.


  4. Earl C Price DDS says:

    I grew up in the same town as Doug Weaver. We have a mutual friend and I have seen Doug a couple of times since I have moved here To Hilton Head Island SC. He is the head golf pro at the Palmetto Dunes Resort. Doug is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Too bad I haven’t had a chance to play with him yet. I will really need to use the advice given in this article if I ever do get the opportunity!

  5. Glenn says:

    Dear Andy
    I like this kind of advice . . . I find keeping my mind on my own game is difficult enough without worrying about what my playing partners are thinking. Mind you, when I am playing with a group of big hitters, it is difficult not to try to keep up with them.

  6. ray kendall says:

    Great advice, unfortunately I dont think I will ever get to play with any of my hero’s. I have played a lot of golf with players who have been on a very low handicap a few on plus H/C and I remember my first time I was on a 20 h/c
    at the time and somehow got paired up with 3 low h/c players. I was shaking
    so much and totally intimidated that I botched up the 1st 3 holes.We had to wait on the 4th tee as there was a hold up in the field. One of the guys turned
    to me and said, ”don’t worry about what we think of you or how you are playing. We have problems of our own the main one being how to beat this bloody course, you should do the same. On 20hc if you play to that you have had a great day, if you are under that, then thats a bonus. If you are playing a match you would likely have won. I never forgot that piece of advice.

  7. Ira says:

    Very helpful advice, many thanks.

  8. Hal Ray says:


    I enjoyed the article. I hope to use Jin’s advice in an upcoming tournament. Also, I want to tell you my game has improved since reading your Majic Move. Keep the tips coming. 🙂


  9. Ian Roberts says:

    The advice re other golf partners not caring about your game is immensely valid.
    Many golfers get embarrassed if they play poorly. I know I do!
    Fortunately, my best golfing mate sometimes says to me, “Ian, I don’t want to hear about it!” when I have done something bad or sometimes even something good.
    It is always a reality check for me (I’m a bit of a chatterbox.) to concentrate on my own game because I am the only one really interested in it.
    This “mental” side of golf is so important and I often have trouble taking my own advice!
    Yes, no-one else really cares!!

  10. bill says:

    excellent! good advice both on and off the course.

    thanks for sharing.

  11. Wan Subrata says:

    these secrets are no secret untill now you tell me. Like Jin Young I need a confirmation. Although I never played with a Hero but excellent Tips, one should be himself and concentrate on his game only not others. That I realised to be most important. Thanks Andy

  12. Donald Dearmont says:

    I found the article very interesting and helpful. I have never played with a “Hero”, but I do play with some people that put pressure on me. The advice given in the article will be used in the future. Thank you.

  13. Dennis Kearns says:

    😯 I think this little guy says a lot. I was in the club championship with my good buddy and playing partner. We were always 1-2 between us one way or another. Well I played my most unfortunate round of the year. You see he was the club champ. I hit my first shot dead behind a tree( great start I was thinking). About the third hole after some rather questionable play he said to me relax man your playing as if this meant the end of the world to you. You know I knew I was nervous, but had not made the connection to my poor play. He said it really doesn’t matter what you shoot to me we’re just playing golf like we normally do. Well there you have he didn’t care but my over intensity ruined it for me.

  14. Neri Infante says:

    Very sound advice which applies not only to playing with one’s hero but to playing with anyone with a much lower handicap than ours! I agree it should be posted in every junior locker room and why not have a copy handed out to every beginner?

  15. Rick Tod says:

    Great advice Andy. The “I don’t care” comment in particular.

    I have a good friend that is a nice golfer, but in tournaments he allows one or two bad shots ruin his round. I believe he thinks everyone is watching him. They don’t care. If he learns that he could be quite good.

  16. brian duguid says:

    good comonsense advice ,good of you to point it out, just hope I can remember all you contact – thanks

  17. Brian Dickenson says:

    That article makes sound common sense.
    Will keep it in mind. Excellent advice.
    Regards Brian Dickenson

  18. Don Bennett says:

    I completly agree with the advice, if you try to be something your not you will apear a total idiot. Watch & learn is a great way to improve

  19. william says:

    thank you. this makes alot of sense and take the jitters away. thanks again.

  20. George says:

    I enjoyed the article very much…great advice. I had the opportunity to take a group lesson from Doug Weaver this past April at Hilton Hill, SC. He seemed like a great teacher of all aspects of the game.


  21. Jim says:

    A great piece of advice. I recall having played 9 holes alone one morning and shooting a dead-honest par 36 .. my best score by far on that course. After a coffee break I decided to play another 9 holes. A guy was standing alone on the tee and asked if I minded if he played along with me. In my elated mood I was happy to have the company. And what happened next? I was so pumped-up after my opening nine of 36 that I whiffed my tee shot and ended up with the worst score for 9 holes that I think I ever had at that course. My playing companion shot a decent 40, not bad for someone who had never seen the course before. I guess the moral is that I wasn’t playing within myself for the 2nd 9 holes, but perhaps trying to impress this stranger with my new-found scoring ability. In the process I put undue pressure on myself in a feeble attempt to prove something. For most of us, golf is meant to be a game to enjoy. We seem to do our best when our primary objective is simply to enjoy the game of golf and whatever company we’re in.
    Jim . .

  22. Patrick Cox says:

    Many thanks for your advice Andy. It is very helpful

  23. Jean Eldridge says:

    Great advice Andy,

    This should be posted in every Junior and parent’s locker room both ladies and men.

    Kind regards


Leave a Reply