Armchair Golf Pro: DA Points, Bill Murray, Carl, Etiquette

The Armchair Golf Pro writes about PGA Tour events. Like you he is watching from his comfy armchair, enjoying the competition and drama, but also pulling lessons and observations you can use to your advantage on the course to play better golf.

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 12:  D.A. Points w...

Getty Images via @daylife

DA Points won his first-ever PGA Tour event at the AT&T Pro-Am, and he and his amateur playing partner, comedian Bill Murray, also won the Pro-Am. Points won by two shots at -15 under, and unquestionably the shot of the tournament was holing out a wedge from 100 yards on the par-5 14th hole for an eagle three. Hitting that shot to an elevated green and that postage-sized, rock-hard landing area is such a difficult shot that holing out is practically miraculous. So congrats to DA.

But this tournament’s lesson is about etiquette – one of the things that make golf such a great game.

Stars turn out for the movie Get Low at TIFF 2...

Image via Wikipedia

Bill Murray is justly famous for creating the character Carl in the iconic golf classic movie Caddy Shack. Carl is the slovenly, bumbling, witless groundskeeper whose antics wreak havoc around the golf course and in the final big match.

Murray’s Carl-like exploits at the AT&T are legend: crazy attire, eating spectator’s hot dogs, dancing with a woman in the sand trap … At times PGA Tour players have objected, claiming his antics are distracting. But he is so popular he often draws bigger crowds than the high-profile pros, as everybody wants to be there to see what he’ll do next. After 20 years of playing in the event, stories of Murray are part of the lore and appeal of the tournament.

But where do you draw the line? When do your antics, or the actions of other players in your group, become distracting?

At the beginning of the tournament DA Points told Murray he wanted to have fun. In effect he gave Murray permission to cut loose. It helped. In fact, facing a tricky par putt on the 16th hole with the lead that final day, Points cracked a joke with Murray that helped him relieve some of the tension and make the putt. But with two holes to go and the tournament on the line, Murray knew that he could have been a distraction.

To his credit Murray the honorable thing – he got out of DA’s way, saving his “Cinderella Story” antics on the putting green until after DA had holed out for the win. He was Bill Murray the gentleman, not Carl the crass.

What do you do when there is a Carl or Carlotta in your group? Someone who distracts or upsets you? It’s a ticklish situation because often the Carls don’t know they are a distraction, and they get offended if you ask them to stop. I get asked this question frequently, and I have two pieces of advice.

Control: First, you need to understand what you can and cannot control. You can control you, but you cannot control another player. That’s what makes the Carl situation so frustrating. You want to tell him to shut up or stop moving or stay out of your line, but you can’t force him to do it.

Reframing: So here’s option 1: Reframing. Since the only thing you can control is you, you can decide to look at the situation in an entirely different light – called reframing. Tiger’s dad used distraction techniques as part of their concentration training. He would talk, rattle clubs, drop balls, or start walking just as Tiger was about to play. The distractions weren’t annoying – they were a challenge. So instead of getting mad at the Carl/Carlotta in your foursome, you can take him/her on as a challenge. Think of it as an opportunity to work on your ability to concentrate. The worse Carl acts, the stronger you’ll become.

Secret Alliance: Reframing works well, unless Carl has already gotten under your skin. Then it’s tough. So here’s a second way to handle the situation: form an alliance.

Explain to Carl that your golf pro has been working with you to improve your ability to concentrate on every shot, and you’d like to ask if Carl would do you a favor: You’d like their help in developing this important skill. It’s a strange effect, but those same people who don’t like being told what to do will bend over backwards to help you with a favor. It’s all in the way you say it.

Use “I” statements: It’s important in these situations to use “I” statements. Make it about you, not them. For example “I have a hard time blocking out other conversations, so you could really help me improve my concentration by making sure I have quiet during my shot.” Use a similar-type sentence and substitute not talking with not moving, giving tips, or doing whatever it is that is annoying you.

So remember, understand what you can and cannot control, reframe or form an alliance, and use “I” statements to make it about you, not them. You can help the Carls in your group understand how to be more like the gentleman Bill Murray.

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  1. Jim Merwin
    7 years ago

    2-19-11

    Hi Eric:

    I agree with your approach to handling distractions in general but I doubt I could actually do it on TV, when I am trying to win my first PGA tournament and when those distractions were deliberately created by someone in my foursome. I admire DA Points for having the extraordinary self control (enabled by self confidence) to pull that off!

    A problem I have encountered many times occurs when a member (or, rarely, members) of your foursome play too slowly which could cost everyone in the group a stroke penalty, a two stoke penalty (second violation) or disqualification. It is not so much the fact I have to slow down so the partner can keep up that bothers me but rather the fact that I feel I am under extra pressure to play more quickly than I already am playing to make up for this person’s slow play. And I live in fear of a visit from every marshal I see and those I am sure are just out of view. Inevitably, I switch my focus from making good shots to making them quickly — with predictable results. Then I fume about wasting shots which makes the situation even worse.

    Suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Jim Merwin

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