Sunday, August 21, 2005

Put a Tiger in your tank

With Tiger Woods tearing up the golf world again, it's time to look back at a story I wrote for PROFIT awaaay back in 1998: Business Lessons from the world's hottest golfer.

Some of the references may be dated, but the messages remain relevant.

A phenomenon since he scored 48 on nine holes -- at the ripe old age of three -- Tiger Woods isn't just the golfer to beat on today's PGA tour. He's an inspiration for achievers in any line of work. PROFIT looks at Tiger's brief career so far to identify six rules of entrepreneurial success:
* As a teenager, Tiger excelled at baseball, basketball and the 400 metres. That shows the importance of getting experience in diverse fields, right? Think again. Tiger eventually gave up his other sports, because they interfered with golf practice. Which shows the overriding importance of focussing your efforts on the activity you most enjoy, or the one that offers the most potential.

* Earl Woods has become notorious for pushing his son to become the world's top golfer, but his lessons were sound. When Tiger was just a cub, he would bang his club on the ground whenever he hit a bad shot. Earl taught him not to blame errors on his club, his lie, or any outside distraction -- but to take responsibility for every shot he made.

* When Tiger won the prestigious Masters title in his pro debut last year in Georgia, his not-so-secret weapon was a long drive that tamed some of the toughest holes in golf: the Augusta National's par 5s. His drives (averaging 323 yards) sailed high over the bunkers that have intimidated most long hitters. Lesson: Make your first shot count.

* Before competing in the Masters, Woods got to know the heart-breaking Augusta course by playing several practice rounds. So this moral must be about preparation, right? Wrong. Preparing smart is the lesson here. Woods didn't just practise with anybody. He teamed with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw and other former champions. He watched and listened carefully to the men who knew that course better than anyone. Moral: Preparation is important, but true success comes from seeking out the best teachers -- and paying heed.

* At the Canadian Open in Montreal last September, an errant Woods shot hit a fan in the elbow. Despite bogeying the hole, Tiger walked over to the spectator, apologized, and gave him the ball. The next day, after two subpar rounds, Woods was out of the tournament -- the first time he hadn't made the cut since turning pro. But he bowed out with grace, answering every media question, praising the course and saying how much he looked forward to returning to Canada again this year. The moral: Class counts.

* When arch-rival Ernie Els was preparing for this year's Masters, he summed up the impact of Woods' success. "In the past, I've gone in and shown the course too much respect," Els said. "You've got to freewheel, let it fly and go for every pin. That's what Tiger did last year, and that's what I'm going to do." Lesson: True champions bring out the best in everyone around them.

©1998, PROFIT, The Magazine for Canadian Entrepreneurs

For more Fun With Business Lessons, see:
Business Lessons from Star Trek
Leadership Lessons from Reed Richards

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