Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, June 5 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
Every April, we are reminded that Augusta is golf town. However, because of two recent events, I was further reminded of that fact.
On May 2, more than 700 supporters of the Augusta University’s golf program attended a celebration of AU’s (at that time, Augusta State) back-to-back NCAA Division I men’s golf team national championships in 2010 and 2011, and the individual golf national championship won by AU men’s golfer Broc Everett in 2018.
The fact that most of the players and coaches of the two national championship teams and Everett returned for the event, along with the turnout of more than 700, further demonstrates the importance of golf in Augusta beyond the Masters Tournament and the game itself.
In addition, in recent weeks, I have also been privileged to serve on the search committee for next director of golf and men’s golf coach for AU. During this time, I was fortunate enough to serve with a dedicated committee and interact with many candidates for the position, who clearly understand the importance of golf both to our institution and our community.
My fellow committee members and our candidates made it clear to me that golf is more than just a game, and its impact on those who play it, coach it and follow it is significant. Therefore, in the past month or so, I have been reflecting on how the game of golf can affect all who play it, but particularly what we can learn from golf that we can apply to the business world.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
Honesty and integrity
Golf is the only major sport where players are their own referees and call penalties on themselves. Therefore, golf teaches you to live up to a high standard of honesty and integrity to maintain the trust of those around you. In business, or in any other field, honesty and integrity are the foundations of outstanding leadership.
I was heartened to see how many of our former AU national champions had gone on to careers in coaching or successful careers in business, demonstrating the development of their leadership skills as part of their golf experience. We all can apply the fundamentals of honesty and integrity to our business lives.
Golf is a game where even the best players are going to fail fairly often. Whether it’s during an individual round, during a tournament, or during a season, all players are going to have rough stretches. However, the most successful players are able to rebound from a double bogey to shoot a good round; follow up a poor round with a good one; and keep striving even if they are not playing well.
Sometimes, you just get bad bounces or other bad breaks. The lesson of resilience is important for those of us in business, because things are not always going to go well. We need to be able to keep striving during periods of weak sales, high inflation or even a pandemic to keep our businesses going. Golf teaches us to not give up and to be resilient when things are not going our way.
Control what you can control
I think this lesson goes hand-in-hand with the lesson of resilience. Golf teaches you that there are factors on the course we cannot control: the weather, how the ball bounces, what our opponent does, to name just a few. The best golfers learns how to best put his or her ball in the hole without worrying about the things that are uncontrollable.
This is a great lesson for those in business. Be aware of things you cannot control and how they affect you, but don’t worry about them. Rather, control the things you can control, like how you manage your people, how you make your products, and you serve your customers.
Respect your competitors and the game
As I have watched or read about the greatest golfers over the years — from Bobby Jones to Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, the many in between and many of our young stars today — I have seen the common thread among them is that they treat the game of golf and fellow competitors with respect. They do not root for the failures of their opponents, but rather would prefer to win by beating their opponent’s best.
At this year’s Masters, I enjoyed watching both Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa holing out bunker shots on their final holes of the tournament. But, what was most enjoyable was watching how each of them appeared genuinely more happy for their playing partner holing out than themselves with Morikawa calling it ”the coolest thing in the world.”
I think as business people, we can follow these examples of golfers and respect our toughest competitors and our industry, by being the best we can be without undermining our competitors or our industry.
I think all of the lessons above touch on the fact that golf builds character and if we can adopt those lessons in business, we and our businesses will be more successful. If we start with a foundation of honesty, integrity, resilience and controlling what we can control and respect, our business will be more successful and we will also be more successful individually.
This all shined through to me when our double Hull College of Business alumnus (BBA and MBA), national champion, Everett, spoke at the May 2 celebration. During his speech, Everett touched on some of the lessons I presented above, but also demonstrated his high level of character and humility by crediting much of his success to his parents and his coach, Jack O’Keefe.
I am so proud to be part of Augusta University and Augusta. While we are recognized around the world for golf, I hope we are also recognized for how golf has made the people and businesses of Augusta that much better. It is a lesson I hope we have all learned.