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Reid Sheftall, M.D. received a physics degree from M.I.T. in 1978 and became a member of the University of Southern California faculty at age 21

























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Bad Tempers and Golf

by Dr. Reid Sheftall

A young father writes: "My son is having trouble controlling his temper on the golf course, much as you wrote about in your book. He is a high-strung ten year old and a very good student but very competitive in all sports which he loves. At home he is a sweet boy and even a little shy. I don't want to destroy his love for competition and sports but I want to reprimand him for his behavior. What advice do you have?"

Dr. Sheftall's response:

You may have a little perfectionist on your hands. Its hard for me to be more specific than that without meeting and getting to know you and your son but perhaps I could speak in generalities as a doctor and someone who went through the same thing growing up on the athletic field.


There have been several athletes through history who had to learn how to control their tempers on the playing field and later became model performers. It may surprise you to hear that the stoic tennis great Bjorn Borg had a hot temper when he was a kid. He wrote that he was a terror on the court; cheating and beating his racket on the ground when he missed a shot. Eventually, Borg's father, Ruun, locked his racket in the closet for 2 weeks. That was a such a shock to young Bjorn that when the 2 week period was up, he changed his ways for good. We all know about his success and comportment after that.


Bobby Jones- the Bobby Jones- also had a fierce temper and he had to learn how to deal with it. Tommy Bolt. The list goes on and on. Even Arnold Palmer tells a story of how his temper got the best of him once and his father came down on him in a way that makes him tremble to this day.


That was Deke's style and Arnold benefitted greatly as a golfer and human being from his father's tutledge and guidance and stern reprimands when young Arnold got out of hand.

Not everyone (I'm talking about fathers now) could handle the situation as Deke Palmer did. I know I couldn't. I have a hard time reprimanding children. Perhaps you are torn between doing what you know is right for your child and your own personality. I sense that from your letter. You may be like me in that regard.
Perhaps you could have a quiet talk with your son away from the golf course. He wants to do well from what you have described in your letter (in school and so forth). Tell him about the other great athletes in history who became champions because they overcame their personal struggles on the athletic field. Tell him the story af Bjorn Borg and show him a video of one of Borg's matches. Explain how Borg may not have been able to come back and take the match had he let his temper get the best of him. But most of all, when he completes a round of golf in which he has behaved appropriately regardless of score, tell him you are most proud of the way he conducted himself. Let that be the focus of your pride. He will get the message.


I hope that helps.


-Dr. S