Roll back the clock eleven years and my life was very different: Early morning gym sessions, three hours on the practice range, lunch, two hours of putting, two hours of short game practice shadowed by more practice on the practice range and the one final gym session. Eleven years ago I was fortunate enough to play golf for a living, competing as a professional golfer.
I started playing golf at the age of nine – the same time as my dad (who still plays off a handicap of 21, something I never let him live down). I was always very sporty as a child, playing football and tennis to a decent level, but I took a particular liking to golf. The complexities of the swing and the many variables drew me in.
I’ll always remember one of the defining moments was when playing with a couple of fellow juniors who were considerably older than me. We were chatting and the topic came round to what we wanted to do when we were older, to which I replied with “I want to be a professional golfer”. They responded with laughter and mockery. “You’ll never be a professional golfer” they giggled. This gave me all the motivation I needed.
Fast forward a good few years and I had turned professional and I met my sponsor whilst competing in the Russian Open, a European Tour event at the time, who supported me financially in return for a percentage of future earnings. For the next 18 months, I travelled the world competing on many different continents and began working with a coach based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
With this I was able to plan longer term, make decisions for a long-term gain despite the short-term impact. An example of this was to make critical swing changes which would take time to settle. I was also able to plan my schedule based on what was best for my performance rather than the cheapest most cost-effective option. It was all going to plan.
Regrettably after 18 months his business fell into hard times meaning he had to terminate the sponsorship agreement. Over the next six months I tried to fund myself, but the financial burden was too great and decisions made solely on cost took their toll. This is where I reached a crossroad in my life, did I want to continue to pursue a career as a professional golfer or explore a career in business.
Making the switch from sports to business
I made the decision to explore a career in business. This was made slightly easier by the fact I had a passion for marketing/advertising and so, with my sporting background, it made perfect sense to explore opportunities in sports marketing.
Luckily, I had made some great contacts in the golf industry which opened doors, giving me opportunities that led to me working for two other brands before ending up at adidas.
I was fortunate that I had a degree to fall back on; nevertheless, the transition from a professional to the world of business was tough.
I would be lying if I didn’t say there were days where I struggled, usually when it was glorious outside, and I would be trying to remember why I decided to work in an office. However, for the most I enjoyed the new challenges. Challenges that required me to adapt rapidly and learn quickly.
Being part of a team can strengthen individual performance
Don’t get me wrong – not every golfer thrives in this sort of set-up, however it is a dynamic I truly love. I was fortunate enough to represent Lancashire and England Schoolboys growing up, which were similar formats to the Ryder Cup with fourballs, foursomes and single matches. I believe these experiences in my childhood stood me in great stead for my unforeseen career in business.
This is no coincidence and was on occasions the case for me. I enjoyed every element of this team dynamic from helping others keep their heads up when they were behind in a match, to ensuring my game plan was aligned with my playing partner and team mate.
These skills are applicable to business and to learn these from such a young age was invaluable. You never know what the future may hold; however, the skills you develop along the way are surprisingly transferrable and will shape you as a person for the years to come.