Tom Lehman has had a long and distinguished career on the PGA Tour, but despite his longevity and victory in the 1996 British Open, he has (only) won five times on tour. The cumulative percentage of his victories per tournament is barely 1 percent. Kenny Perry has won thirteen PGA Tour events in over nineteen years, which accounts for about 2 percent overall. Arnold Palmer won sixty-two tournaments over his nineteen year PGA career for a winning percentage of 8 percent. For comparison, Tiger Wood’s PGA winning percentage is obviously the highest at approximately 27 percent. The lesson here is that we often lose much more than we actually win. Jack Nicklaus once stated “People don’t realize how often you have to come in second in order to finish first.”

We learn from our negative experiences way more than when we actually play well. Seriously, when we play well, what did we learn that we are great? This belief is perpetuated often at the youth and high-school level when some kids and teams win all the time. Since they are continually winning, they can easily become infected by their success and stop improving as a result. Now, winning is much more fun than losing and it is better to win ugly than to lose looking pretty. But then again, it is far easier to pat oneself on the back after winning than it is to look oneself in the mirror after a loss.

When we play poorly, don’t execute well, or even “choke,” it is no fun at all. However, it is not supposed to be fun, it is intended to hurt, but it is also supposed to teach. Since we are not getting what we want, and the experience is painful, we often complain, make excuses, dismiss it, and fail to examine what we learned.

Experience is the best teacher and we must properly learn from all of our failures. We should even welcome these periods from time to time because it serves as a bench mark. Learning experiences shows us precisely where we stand and what we need to do to improve.

“That which hurts, instructs”-Benjamin Franklin
Rob Bell, PhD, Professor of Sport Psychology at Ball State University, can be reached at (865) 591-7730 or
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Excerpt from-Mental Toughness Training for Golf-Due out in May

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Bell is a professor, sport psychology consultant, and caddy on professional golf tours. Dr. Rob Bell is committed to helping athletes and coaches develop the mental toughness necessary to acheive their best.