I recently overheard a group of four young golf pros talking about what it takes to be a champion. As it happens, the discussion was not limited to golf. They were talking in more general terms. Who are the people destined to make it to the top in golf, in business or in life? What is it, these young players wondered, that makes it possible for an otherwise average person to raise his performance to championship levels? What determines who will be the ones to shoot in the 60s, lead the sales figures, head up major corporations and generally live life on their own terms?

It seemed obvious to one of them, in spite of his lack of worldly experience, that the qualities that make a champion in one area are likely to parallel those in any other field. He was in good company on this point. Shortly after Ben Hogan won the British Open in 1953 to complete a hat-trick of major championships for the year, a reporter asked him to name the greatest player that ever lived? Hogan wisely replied, “I have always felt that a man who can be champion in one era could be a champion in any other era, because he has what it takes to reach the top.?

As the conversation progressed, the second of the young men gave his opinion. He suggested the only thing that separated the winners from the losers was luck. “Some people have it -- other’s don’t,?he sighed. He apparently felt that he didn’t

have his fair share of this mythical attribute!

The third maintained he would have done much better if his father had been rich and able to support him like some of the other guys?dads. He had been forced to work at a range and sometimes as a part-time bartender in order to make ends meet while he was trying to qualify as a competitor. What chance did he have he against the rich kids who could play golf all day and every day? They never had to worry about the rent, or putting food on the table.

The fourth young player declared that racial prejudice had kept him from

getting a golf scholarship at a major university, and this had impeded his progress. He believed his career would have been much further along the road to success had he been able to experience the competitive challenge of college golf.

Champions are the people who decide they are going to be champions I realized a long time ago that the people who “make it?in life are the ones who decide to make it! The people who become champions are those who dream big dreams, set tough goals for themselves, put some plans on the table, and “go for broke!?It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, black or white, young or old. The people who reach the pinnacle of success in this

world, the men and women who become champions in whatever field they choose, are the people who accept that they and they alone are in charge of their own destiny.

I smiled as I imagined myself telling Chi Chi Rodriguez, Walt Zembriski and Calvin Peete they wouldn’t have qualified as champions if rich parents, luck or ethnic descent hadn’t given them a helping hand. They serve to demonstrate that many champions are everyday people who produce superior performance for I don’t believe champions are born. Champions are made, or, to be more accurate, they make themselves.

Champions aren’t invariably the product of elite country clubs, as was Nicklaus. They don’t always appear from behind the caddie shack, as Trevino, did and they don’t all start at the age of three, like Tiger Woods! Sometimes champions have their origins in places you would least expect, but the traits and qualities that enable them to convert their talents from raw coal to fine diamonds remain the same.

Calvin Peete was born in Pahokee, Florida, which is one of the poorest, least attractive, beat up little towns on the planet! Surrounded by swampland, Pahokee is the reason that the State

bird of Florida is the mosquitoe. There were no less than, count them, nineteen children in the Peete household. With very little option, Calvin dropped out of school in the 8th grade to pick fruit and bring in a little more money to help the family survive. At 18 he bought an old station wagon and went into business for himself. He drove up and down the rural areas of the East Coast, selling clothes and a variety of other goods to migrant farm workers. In an effort to express his individuality, Peete had diamonds inserted into his front teeth. The people with whom he traded knew him simply as “the diamond man.?

At the age of 23, never having played or caddied in his life, and with no desire to learn, a couple of friends coerced him into playing a round of golf with them. He was instantly hooked on the game and although he seemed initially to have no real aptitude, he decided he was going to become a golf pro. For the next five years he practiced every spare minute he could find, continuing to hit practice shots each night, after dark, on floodlit baseball fields.

It took Peete less than two years to become a scratch golfer, and he turned pro three years later. Not content with teaching others or looking for a club job, he decided he wanted to play on the PGA Tour. It took him three attempts to make it, but eventually, at 32 years of age, he graduated from Q-school and received his player’s card. For three more difficult and discouraging years, Peete didn’t win enough money to meet his travel expenses. His wife, a teacher, supported both of them and their family of four children. Finally, in 1979, he entered the ranks of tournament champions by winning the Milwaukee Open. He followed with three straight years of earnings in excess of $100,000. Although he was never renowned for his power, he led the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, and, in 1984, won the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest stroke average for the season. Before long he had joined the elite group of players with over two million dollars in career earnings and! at least 10 Tour victories -- 12 to be exact.

This notable level of success was achieved by a man born into abject poverty, who broke his left elbow in a fall as a boy and was partially crippled as a result of poor corrective surgery, which caused his left elbow to be permanently locked in one position.

Can you imagine the remarks he had to listen to? “You want to be a what, son?.... A golf pro?.... I see.? “Say, have you been smoking some of that funny stuff?? “You say you’ve learned the secret?.... Well don’t keep us all in suspense. Let us in on it!? “Is that a fact?.... All you have to do is start with a big dream, then add mental discipline and countless hours of practice until you can do it every time, automatically. Just keep it simple, you say.? “OK; if you say so, Calvin.?

Follow your dreams; they may come true! Indeed, the first trait of champions regardless of profession is to dream big dreams, for it is only big dreams that can produce the level of motivation, dedication and desire needed to become a champion in whatever your game may be!

(From the new book by Brian Tracy & Andrew Wood The Traits of Champions)

Andrew Wood is a sales & marketing expert & author of: Selling With Confidence, Building A Legendary Reputation, Making it Big, Legendary Leadership, and The Traits of Champions. He can be reached at PersonalQuest.com 352-527-3553 or andrewwood@personalquest.com Visit our site at www.PersonalQuest.com

Author's Bio: 

Andrew Wood is a sales & marketing expert & author of: Selling
With Confidence, Building A Legendary Reputation, Making it Big, Legendary Leadership, and The Traits of Champions. He can be reached at PersonalQuest.com 352-527-3553 or andrewwood@personalquest.com Visit our site at www.PersonalQuest.com