(Q) School of Hard Knocks: Lessons From a PGA Tour Rookie
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Chris Wilson and his caddie Adam Ellison practice synchronized chipping at the Travelers Championship

Thanks to Chris Wilson, a rookie on the PGA Tour this year, for writing a guest blog. (He also did a Q&A with WUP in the beginning of the season.) Chris is playing in the Children’s Miracle Classic, the final Fall Series event, this week. He’s 212th on the Official Money List, so to keep his job, he needs to win. Otherwise, he hopes to climb to top-200 on the money list to earn status on the Nationwide Tour, but he’ll be returning to the second stage of PGA Tour Q-school next week. Good luck, Chris!

Most of the time in sports, numbers do not lie. However, there are the rare exceptions when a team or players’ numbers contradict the outcome of the game. Golf is a sport where there is no team or team numbers, but rather only individual numbers. These numbers, or stats, are never big enough to hide behind if necessary.

In golf, especially at the highest level of competition in the world, there can be extremely lonely moments on the golf course and sometimes those moments can even define you after the round or tournament is over. This is why it is so important to have a solid foundation of people around you and that you yourself be a person of high moral character who is readily available to put others first. I learned these life lessons along with a few others in my rookie year on the PGA Tour.

Playing golf for a living is a blessing; seeing hard work pay off and having the opportunity to play on the PGA Tour against the best in the world is an honor.

In the beginning of my season I viewed my upcoming year as a huge opportunity (which it was), but after missing a few cuts and getting frustrated early on I allowed my attitude to take control of not only my emotions, but in turn my mechanics. This obviously created an irreversible downward spiral, which was hard to break. As the numbers show, I missed a whole bunch of cuts in the middle of my season. At the time, it was also a hard pattern to see myself because I was smack in the middle of the action. As any professional athlete who is in public view constantly, it is important to act professional at all times regardless of the current situation. This will ultimately lead to better performance.

After speaking to a few people with whom I had worked with in college as well as going back and reading one of the best books I had ever read, I began to re-adopt the mindset that helped me achieve my dream of playing golf at the highest level possible. That mindset was to have an attitude of gratitude. The book is called The Winners Manual, by Jim Tressel. Coach Tressel not only coaches Ohio State, one of the nation’s elite college football programs, he also plays mentor to his kids and most all wants them to leave college as better people who have a better understanding of the big picture in life.

I have been asked the question many times and in many different forms this year what has been the biggest difference, or adjustment, or lesson learned playing the PGA Tour. My answers have varied, but for the most part had the same general theme. The better I am able to understand that my job (in this case playing golf for a living) is an honor and opportunity, the better attitude I carry day in and day out and the more chances I will have to impact others’ lives positively. Ultimately this will make me successful and fulfilled.

Thanks, everyone, for reading and thanks to Stephanie for having me write a guest entry for her blog. I hope everyone learned something from reading the quick summary of my year and will be able to apply it to their own careers and lives.

–Chris Wilson

Some of my favorite quotes from The Winners Manual:

  • “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
  • “We must never let goals, adversity, or even success define us.”
  • “Goals spring from our purpose as a person, not our material wants.”
  • “Along with great blessing comes great responsibility to reach out and care and make a difference to others.”
  • “Enrich your life by enriching others’ lives.”