Apr 25, 2024

Breaking Free from What's Holding You Back in Tournament Golf with Jon Sherman

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It's time to get real about breaking through mental barriers and playing your best golf when it counts. Tori sits down with golf coach and author Jon Sherman to dive deep into getting over the fears and hangups that hold us back on the course, especially in tournament play.

The Journey to the Mid-Amateur

Jon shares his experience qualifying for and playing in the prestigious U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship:

"I caught fire. I was five under through 10. And it was just one of those days where I was just like, 'Okay, this is happening.'"

But the real challenge came when he teed it up at the championship itself:

  • Brutal weather delays
  • Unfamiliar courses
  • The pressure of everyone following his progress back home

Jon fought through the nerves and embraced the opportunity to test his game at the highest level. His takeaways:

  1. Keep your head down and stick to your game plan
  2. Don't get too high or too low based on others' scores
  3. Savor the experience, no matter the outcome

Defining Winning for Yourself

Real winning in tournament golf isn't just hoisting a trophy. It's about:

  • Challenging yourself
  • Enjoying the journey
  • Learning from both triumphs and failures

As Jon puts it:

More Than Just a Number

Sure, we all want to shoot our personal best score or finish atop the leaderboard. But fixating on an outcome is a recipe for disappointment. Instead, focus on:

Process Goals


Pre-shot routines

Get into a consistent mindset over every shot


See and feel the shot you want to hit


Stay relaxed and present in the moment

The Beauty of Competition

There's something special about the camaraderie and memories forged through tournament golf. You'll experience:

  • New friendships
  • Lasting memories (both good and bad!)
  • A shared passion with your fellow competitors

"It's part of our identity. It's just a wonderful thing in life in general." - Jon Sherman

Why Experience Matters

Many golfers assume tournament play will feel the same as their casual weekend rounds. But the reality is very different:

  • Added pressure and nerves
  • Tougher course setups
  • Less margin for error

The solution? Tee it up in as many tournaments as you can!

Immersion Therapy

Jon likens tournament experience to exposure therapy for overcoming fears. The more you put yourself in those high-pressure situations, the more comfortable and confident you'll become over time.

"It's really like a form of immersion therapy. If you're fearful of opening tee shots or you're fearful of five-footers or what playing partners think of you, make yourself incredibly uncomfortable and have the right mindset. It will feel different in the moment."

Dealing with Embarrassment

Golf has a way of humbling us all. Embarrassing chunks, shanks, and meltdowns happen, even to the best players. The key is learning to laugh it off and maintain perspective.

Jon had a top 5 embarrassing moment himself, missing a short putt in a playoff:

"It was just devastating to me. But I'm glad it happened because it was this kind of mental scar that I went through. That happened and what can you do to me now that's worse than that? Probably nothing."

Overcoming the Spotlight Effect

Many golfers avoid tournaments because they fear embarrassment or worry what others will think of their game. But as Jon notes, this "spotlight effect" is an illusion:

The brave choice is feel the fear and tee it up anyway. Chances are, you'll gain newfound confidence, make new friends, and maybe even surprise yourself with how well you can play under pressure.

Simplicity Over Constant Tinkering

When the tournament scores aren't what we hoped, it's tempting to overhaul our swings or switch up our gear. But Jon advises striving for simplicity over constant tinkering.

"I'm always striving for simplicity and being in that state where you're kind of like letting it happen versus forcing it. And that's really hard to do in this game."

Rather than making drastic changes based on short-term results, focus on:

  •  Maintaining your existing game
  •  Fine-tuning weak areas through focused practice
  •  Sticking to a consistent process under pressure

The 80/20 Rule of Good vs. Bad Rounds

It's easy to fixate on our worst tournament scores or meltdown holes. But Jon reminds us that for most golfers, the bad stuff is only a small piece of the overall puzzle:

"The more difficult tournament rounds, I would say is probably between 15-20%, maybe even closer to 15%. There's also the opposite side of that - rounds that you're just so proud of. There's nothing like it."

Cherish those incredible shots and clutch moments under pressure. Use them as fuel and motivation to keep chasing the dream, even when the going gets tough.

The Courage to Keep Putting Yourself Out There

It takes guts to keep entering tournaments when the results aren't what you hoped for. But as Jon and Tori both attest, persistence and the willingness to fail are key to improvement and ultimate success.

A Balancing Act

Of course, tournament golf is just one piece of a balanced life. Jon aims to compete in 8-10 events per year - enough to challenge himself and keep the competitive juices flowing, without detracting from family time and other priorities.

His advice for maintaining that balance:

  1. Schedule tournaments that align with your work/family obligations
  2. Be selective and prioritize the events that matter most to you
  3. Keep checking in with your overall enjoyment and fun level

The Foundations of Winning Golf

Can't get enough of Jon's wisdom and insights? He literally wrote the book on succeeding in tournament play! In his latest book, The Foundations of Winning Golf, Jon distills hard-earned lessons like:

"It's a big game of disassociating yourself from the results. So if you're saying, 'I wanna shoot a 73, that's my goal score' - that's the kiss of death."

Instead, focus on:

  • Process over outcomes
  • Acceptance over resistance
  • Fun over forced results

With the right mindset, strategies and experience, any golfer can learn to bring out their best when the pressure is on.

Tee it Up and Enjoy the Ride

Tournament golf is an incredibly rewarding journey of self-discovery and personal growth. It won't always be easy or comfortable, but it just might bring out the very best in your game and in yourself.

As Tori and Jon reiterate, you truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting yourself out there:

"Just go there and gain experience, learn about what you're gonna feel, and then adjust from there. Let's have fun with it and not be jerks either!"

So seize the opportunity, sign up for that next event, and embrace wherever the journey takes you. With a commitment to learning, laughing, and loving the process, there's no telling how far you can go - both on the course and in life.

Some key final takeaways:

  • Define winning for yourself
  • Focus on process over outcome
  • Embrace discomfort as the path to growth
  • Maintain balance and perspective
  • Never stop challenging yourself

Here's to your golfing success and breaking free from whatever has held you back. See you on the links!

Purchase Your Copy of The Foundations of Winning Golf Here: 



Head over to Jon's website to check out his Masterclass and his International Best Seller: 

Four Foundations of Golf 

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