Golf Pro Greg Lee–Comeback King

Greg Lee, my golf instruction pro at Chicopee Woods Golf Course in Gainesville, Georgia has given many lessons, to me and other golfers. Yet I’m sure he gave his best lesson ever when he played in the PGA Professional National Championship in California a few days ago. The lesson:

Don’t quit, no matter how poorly you started.

Greg’s first nine holes in the tournament were dismal, by professional standards. He scored 42, six over par. Some other pros would have thought “Might as well quit now. I won’t have any chance to make the 36 hole cut.” Some might have claimed they had an injury or illness, and requested permission to withdraw.

But not Greg. For his second nine holes, he shot 34, two under par. His 18 hole total of 76 was far from what he had expected. However, his comeback had started on the tenth hole.

Second round: 70, two under par. After his awful opening nine, he had played the next 27 holes in four under par.

Miraculously, Greg made the 36 hole cut. At the end of the four round tournament, he tied for 40th place. As he walked off the 72nd hole, which he birdied, he was summoned to a TV interview, which many of his friends saw. Who would have expected that prominent recognition after round one?

Yes, I consider Greg’s comeback a grand lesson for every one of us, whatever we do professionally. A bad start doesn’t have to determine the outcome. We can recover, and perform at the skill level we’re accustomed to. You can bet I’ll include Greg’s courageous story in my motivational speeches.

Have you overcome a bad start in an important venture? Want to tell us about it? Greg and I invite you to share your story in the Comments section.

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GREG LEE’S CONTACT INFORMATION
To contact Greg:
mailto:gregleemeister@yahoo.com
Phone: 770-534-7322

As a regular student of Greg’s, I assure you that his golf instruction is friendly and encouraging–and that you are very likely to experience improvement in your game.

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Masters Champ Byron Nelson Kept Common Touch

Byron Nelson hitting practice shots

When golfers talk about the greatest professional players ever, usually names like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Sam Snead, and Tiger Woods come to mind. Yet my fondest personal memories center around Byron Nelson, who won his first Masters title long ago, in 1937.

Why do I hold Nelson in highest esteem? Because I had three encounters with him personally, and watched him illustrate what I call “championship communication.” He was very kind to me, a stranger.

The first time I watched Nelson was when he gave an exhibition in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, near my home town of Columbia. Not only did he amaze us with his shots, he was friendly with his playing partners, the gallery, and teenagers, including me. Nelson had won two Masters, two PGAs, the U.S. Open, and the British Open–yet he still seemed like “one of us.”

The second time was more exciting. Following Arnold Palmer in a practice round at the Masters, I spotted Byron Nelson standing by the twelfth tee. Knowing I might never get the chance again, I introduced myself, then said: “I watched you play an exhibition in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and soon afterward I got my first set of irons–a Byron Nelson set.” That prompted him to talk about golf clubs, and then he began to reminisce about his Masters career.

“Right here at ‘Amen Corner’ was where I really won the tournament,” he explained, recalling every shot from decades ago.We talked for more than ten minutes. Nelson was patient, friendly,and a good listener.

The third time we made contact was through the mail. I had written an article about Byron Nelson for a golf magazine, so I sent him a copy. The article mentioned how impressed I had been with “Lord Byron” on the two occasions described above. I didn’t expect a reply. After all, Byron Nelson still heard from people around the world, and stayed busy promoting his annual tournament and his favorite charitable causes.

Yet a couple of weeks later, my mailbox contained a handwritten message from Roanoke, Texas, where the 92 year old Byron Nelson lived many years as a rancher. He said: “How nice of you to be so kind in your writing.” He mentioned his faith and his determination to lead a good life. Next: “I am going to the PGA at Rochester tomorrow. Be nice to see some old and new friends.” He signed,”Thank you, Byron.”

I’ll keep that message forever.

To me, Byron Nelson was the ideal “championship communicator.” He reached the top of the sports world–winning 11 tournaments in a row and 18 total in 1945–but he never considered himself greater than anyone else. He communicated with everyone humbly and receptively.

When Nelson died in 2006 , golf writer Grant Boone noted: “Wherever the debate over which golfer is the best of all time ends, Byron Nelson was the game’s finest man, hands down.”

Rudyard Kipling would have wanted to meet Byron, because Nelson embodied a line from Kipling’s timeless poem “If”–the one that talked about walking with kings but not losing the common touch.

So however high you get professionally, follow “Iron Byron’s” example. Keep the common touch.

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