My first thoughts at the end of the 113th U.S. Open were pretty much: "Wow, I can't believe how great this was," and "Wow, I can't believe it's over." For years, we have been anticipating, preparing and awaiting this past week - and quite honestly, it could not have gone much better.
Even with the weather we had leading up to the week, and a couple of stops on Thursday, we were able to have the players and the course as ready as it could be as soon as conditions allowed for them to play. Logistically, it could have been quite a challenge but everyone involved with the tournament did everything they could - and needed to - to make sure things worked exactly as they had to in order to give every golfer their best chance to succeed and every fan their best chance to enjoy the championship.
And that leads to this week's "A Lesson Learned." There really is no substitute for proper preparation.
Some players arrived earlier this month to check out the course and I made a concerted note to follow them around on their practice rounds. As an instructor and a competitive player, anything I can learn from the world's top players will only benefit my students and my own game. What I found most striking was the amount of time they spent on the tee boxes and the putting greens. And for these players, it wasn't merely about finding comfortable distances to approach from or the best places to putt from - but also finding the best sightlines of each tee box as they prepared to hit - and learning the nuances of the greens, including the slopes and how the grain would run.
I watched one putting coach work with a player for quite a bit, hitting several putts on nearly every quadrant of every green and discussing practically every putt's movement, speed and flow of the grain. That coach told me after their session, "I think we have these greens down. We are ready." Not every coach and player can feel that confident before a tournament. But wouldn't it be great if you prepared in such a way that would give you that same confidence for a big match?
Incidentally, that putting coach was David Orr and he was working with the new 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. Ready, indeed!
So I encourage all golfers to not only prepare, but to take that added level of preparation when you are getting ready. You may know where you want your drive to end up, but do you know where you should be looking off the tee in order to have your ball get to that point? Are you aware of not only the best places to approach a particular hole location from - but also the worst place on the green for that same putt?
More than likely, you're not able to hit multiple shots off a tee box or take several practice putts on each green. (Hey, "While We're Young!") But you can still take a yardage book and make notes indicating these type observations so when it's crunch time, you are as prepared as can be.
Speaking of crunch time, I have to give a quick tip of the cap to Merion's PGA Head Professional Scott Nye, Merion's General Manager Christine Pooler and Matt Shaffer, our Director of Golf Course Operations. Their dedication to this event and to Merion was a big reason this U.S. Open will go down as one of the all-time great championships. And as anyone in golf knows, the members and volunteers were critical to hosting this championship. No matter what Mother Nature threw at them, everyone stepped and did what needed to be done. As a whole, we were ready for any and every variable. In short, we, like Justin Rose, were prepared.
This coming week, I'm preparing for the 2013 PGA Professional National Championship, the ultimate championship for PGA Professionals. I will be arriving in central Oregon early enough to get plenty of practice rounds - and I know that my notes will include additional preparations that I learned while watching the Tour's top players this week. It will only benefit my game, I'm sure it will benefit yours.
Finally, I have to make a quick note about my experience with champion Justin Rose. When Justin came in two weeks ago for some practice time, as noted, he spent the majority of his time on tee boxes and greens. He also spent significant time with the assistant professionals and staff here. Not to ask questions, not to ask for favors - but simply to say, "Thank You." He even went out of his way, would not leave, until he had a chance to show his gratitude to those who were helping conduct the championship. Every golfer from Tour player, club professional, aspiring collegiate golfer or weekend warrior - could learn from Justin Rose.
Mark Sheftic is a PGA Teaching Professional at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA. Sheftic was the 2012 Philadelphia Section Teacher of the Year and is an accomplished player, having earned his way into two PGA Championships. You can learn more about Mark at his website: markshefticgolf.com