Jack Nicklaus, who at this writing still holds the title of Greatest Golfer Ever, advises kids not to focus on just one sport:
“You see kids specialize in golf. I think that is idiotic,” he said. “To play all the sports is great. I played everything. My dad played everything. Golf to me was just another sport until I was about 19. When I won the National Amateur at 19, I finally said, ‘Hmm, I must be a little better than I think I am.’ It was just a game – still is a game.”
His advice to young golfers?
“I think kids should be playing everything, doing everything,” he said. “Eventually, if you want to specialize in something, that’s fine. But go out and enjoy, and be happy to be able to play other things.”
I think its going to be interesting to see whether the current generation of young golf stars—especially those who have been focusing on the game since a relatively young age—will show the same kind of longevity as Nicklaus. I’ve long thought that Tiger would face this issue. Nicklas was very competitive into his 40s, but he didn’t play a full round of competitive golf until he was in his teens. In that sense, Tiger (and others) have a six to ten year head start on Nicklaus.
Seve Ballesteros perhaps is the poster child for this. He turned pro at 16, and won the last of his five majors at age 31. He was a physical and mental wreck by 40.
Tiger is such a freak of nature, though, that this probablky doesn’t apply to him. But others with lesser physical skills trying to follow in his footsteps may run into trouble.