Ah Memphis, the city of blues, barbecue and beale street. What many of you may not know is it’s also the home of Colonial Country Club, the site of the greatest round of golf ever played. The golfer behind the feat was Mr.59 himself, Al Geiberger. On a steamy, hot ,100 plus degree day, in the 1977 second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, Geiberger became the first player in history to post a score of 59 (-13) in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of following Al, now in his early 80’s, along with two OnCore sweepstakes winners, and Al’s son John, for a round of golf back at Colonial. I was really curious about Al’s mindset that day back in 1977. Was he in a state of flow? Had he achieved his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice? Did he read up on peak performance? I wanted to unlock the secrets of shooting a 59, and just maybe it would trigger that breakthrough moment my golf game desperately needed… Like a great detective, I sought the causal link that tied together that historic performance, what combination of habits, mindset, and swing thoughts contributed to that fantastic round. Turns out I learned quite a few amazing tidbits about that round and Al’s mindset throughout.
1) Nutrition During The Round
Al’s concern with diet and maintaining a solid blood sugar level throughout his round was novel for that time period. Al always had a peanut butter sandwich or snack handy midway through his round.
2) Don’t Keep Score….in your Head that is
For the most part of Al’s round he had no idea just how good he was playing. He obviously knew he was playing well, but he didn’t stop to add up how many under par he was.
3) Stay Aggressive, Attack
With 5 holes left in Al’s historic round the gravity of what he was on pace to do started to creep into his head. Members of the gallery were shouting 59 with a few holes left. He remembered what his coach Stan Wood told him in moments like this “stay aggressive.” He made a promise to himself to stay on the attack.
When Al shot his 59 it was over 100 degrees, he admitted he was more focused on surviving the heat than breaking a PGA Tour record, this comes back to not counting his strokes and the ability to distract oneself while maintaining a state of flow. Next time you tee off in inclement weather, remember you may just be on track to shoot your best round
5) Understand the Greens
Al talks about the grain and vividly remembers the details of each green over 40 years after his incredible feat. Back then they were a coarse hybrid of Bermuda, now they are much smoother and faster, making his round even more remarkable. Make a point to study the greens and talk to regulars before a round of golf.