I recently struck up a conversation with a well-known coach who teaches young pro golfers. He told me that what makes the difference between successful and mediocre golfers is entirely mental.
He said many young golfers are able to hit balls a great distance with a near-perfect swing. Physically and technically they are superb, but few are mentally solid enough to grow into competent professional tour golfers, according to the seasoned coach.
“A successful golfer is 99 percent mental and 1 percent skill,” he said. “There are so many young talented golfers out there but what separates winners from losers is their mental state.”
Is it true that 99 percent is in the mind?
Although it may sound like an overstatement, golfing is surely a mental game, which was clear in last week’s British Open where Adam Scott of Australia lost a golden chance to win a major due to his failure to overcome the tremendous pressure during the last four holes in Sunday’s final round.
In one of the wildest finishes in Open history, Scott, who started the day with a four shot lead, had a mental meltdown on the final stretch and conceded the title to close friend Ernie Els of South Africa.
Scott, 32, a steady winner on the PGA Tour but who has no major title under his belt, saw victory slip away as he was trying to not make mistakes on the final nine holes.
In contrast, the 42-year-old Els, who started six shots back, kept his cool and played consistently; one shot at a time proved to be the winning formula.
That golfing is a mental game means it’s all about managing mistakes. When you miss a shot, you should be able to forget what just happened and play forward. Good golfers have the ability to let go of mistakes. By doing so, they can focus on the correct thought at that moment and prepare themselves for winning shots.
Of course, one’s mental state is crucial not only for golfing but also for all other games.
One of the most popular Korean slang terms used nowadays is “menbung,” short for “mental bung-goi” or mental meltdown. You can read and hear “menbung” used often in newspapers or on television.
Why has the coined word become so popular? It may reflect the hardships ordinary people are facing nowadays amid a sluggish economy which corners them to the point of suffering mental meltdowns.
On Tuesday, even the head of state admitted that he is in near a mental meltdown. President Lee Myung-bak, bowing to the people in a nationally-televised address, made a strongly-worded apology for a string of corruption scandals involving his elder brother and top aides.
“The more I think of it, the more it breaks my heart,” he said. “But who else can I blame but me? I can barely hold my head up, weighed down with embarrassment and sorrow.”
It’s sad to see the President, who once boasted about his administration’s cleanness, say sorry for causing concerns for the public.
If a leader blunders, the consequences could be disastrous for the people. While he has been in office over the past five years, ordinary people have seen their livelihoods take a turn for the worse.
While he read the text of the speech, he looked so dejected and remorseful ― an appearance clearly showing his lame duck status in the run-up to the Dec. 19 presidential election.
Lee pledged to fulfill his remaining duty as head of state. But he is unlikely to deliver on his pledge as he seems to be in a state of “menbung,” with lots of worries including post-retirement concerns weighing heavily on his mind.
Korean presidents, almost without exception, have made apologies for the wrongdoings of their relatives or key aides.
A new leader will be chosen in December. A big political game is brewing as the poll approaches. While Rep. Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party is leading the pack of presidential candidates, Ahn Cheol-soo, a popular software developer and professor, could be a strong contender if he runs.
The battle for Choeng Wa Dae will also be a mental game. The odds will be longer for the contender who is mentally stronger. Whoever the final candidates are, they may make various mistakes while campaigning. The one who can put their errors behind them and move forward will have a higher chance of winning the hearts of the people.
Will we pick someone this time that won’t have to apologize to the people in the final days of their presidency? Will we be wise enough to elect a leader who will not push people into a collective mental meltdown? To find the right answer, we may have to closely examine the mental character of each candidate.