I was watching ESPN today. It’s spring in North Carolina, early April to be specific, and the Masters golf tournament is scheduled for later this week. So there’s a build up of golf buzz related to it.
I’m not much of a golfer, but even I pay attention to the Masters. It seems to be one of those golf tournaments that have seeped into the fabric of American life. And the Augusta, GA course is incredibly beautiful as well.
But enough of that.
There was an interview today with Bubba Watson. Bubba is a 2-time champion and he won the tournament last year – 2014. Early predictions from the pundits give him a more than reasonable chance to repeat.
As I listened to the interview, I became more and more intrigued with Bubba Watson – the person. And I started to see a correlation between some of his answers and the agile principles and mindset I’ve come to know and love.
Let me share a few of my observations.
Key to the last 9 holes – Focus
The back 9 holes at Augusta are notoriously difficult. When he was asked about them, Bubba spoke about focus. He said that he was most successful in negotiating the holes when he had focus. When he could “silence his mind” and simply focus on the next shot.
He spoke about 2013, when he had a terrible time in the tournament. One of the causes of that was his inability to focus. His mind was “all over the place” and it affected his performance.
There was a notion of staying in the moment and always focusing on the task at hand as a winning formula for him. And an awareness of the factors that influenced him in losing focus.
Long hitter, 25 2-putts on the course
Bubba is one of the longest hitters on the PGA tour. That allows him to take a different strategy for the Par-5 holes at Augusta. These are the holes where you can (potentially) shoot under par and where the tournament is usually won (or lost).
I believe I heard a statistic where he had 25 2-putts on the Par 5 holes streak going. It’s his length off the tee that helps put him in a position to win. But it’s also accuracy.
And another part of this strategy is risk-taking. You see with risk comes reward. So you have to be a courageous golfer at Augusta, ot only trusting your skills and practice, but also trying something that might frighten you a bit.
Respectful of the Green Jacket
Someone asked him if he had any funny stories surrounding the Green Jacket. If you’re not familiar, the Masters Champion receives a green sport coat as an indication of his winning the tournament. It’s a very visible “trophy” representing golfing excellence.
His reaction was serious. He said that he had worn the jacket to his elementary, middle, and high schools. He also wore it to the University of Georgia, his Alma Matter. He was trying to motivate young people of what hard work and perseverance can do.
In fact, he said that he keeps it secure in his own home. That nobody touches it and he takes incredible care of it. I also got the feeling that Bubba is incredibly thankful and respectful of the honor bestowed on him. You can clearly see it in his eyes as they occasionally “mist up”.
And beyond the green jacket, Bubba seems incredibly respectful of the game of golf. It has been his vehicle to greatness and I get the feeling he is fully aware of that and very thankful for it.
Throughout the interview I was touched at how humble Bubba was. I didn’t get the impression that he’d grown up on a golf course with a silver spoon in his mouth or a very wealthy family behind him. I think he comes from a simple middle/working class family and that he found he was good at golf.
So he worked hard at it and became a champion. But his humble beginnings have prevented him from taking his successes for granted or himself too seriously. In fact, he seems to be, using southern US slang – just a good old boy named Bubba who has kept his ego in check.
Continuously looking for improvement
Apparently there had been an informal anonymous “likeability” survey run by ESPN about a week before the masters. One of the questions was:
If you stumbled upon a person in a parking lot in a fight, who wouldn’t you help out of this difficult situation?
Bubba Watson’s name came up 22% of the time. The second place finisher achieved 11%. So Bubba “won” the least liked golfer award from his peers.
One of the interviewers brought this awkward topic up in the interview. If I would have been confronted with this “on camera”, I’m sure I would have stumbled. But Bubba handled the question with grace.
He simply said that he had to work on improving as a man - that the feedback made him think about his actions on and off the golf course and inspired him to improve.
When asked if he disliked any of his fellow golfers, he simply said, of course not. He said that he didn’t like losing to them on the golf course, but that he respected and genuinely liked all of his competitors. So he didn’t reciprocate any animosity or get defensive. He took it courageously in and focused on what he could do to improve himself.
How cool was that?
Clearly I paid attention to this interview and I was moved not only by the answers, but by the person I saw through the answers. I was also surprised at how simple, honest, genuine, and articulate Bubba was.
I never realized he had such character.
But bringing it back to agile approaches, what were the compelling factors that made me think Bubba Watson would make a wonderful agilista?
- He’s all about continuous improvement
- He can take critical feedback, see the “truth” in it, and leverage it
- Golf is incredibly serious to him, but so is his family. He works hard to achieve a healthy balance between the two.
- He works hard
- He doesn’t take himself too seriously; he’s incredibly humble
- He respects the game, i.e. the principles and history of golf.
- He understands his influence and how he is a role model
- And finally, I sensed that he would be a down-to-earth and fun guy to be around. That I could easily sit down and have a beer with Bubba
I know, I know, what’s happened to me. Have a “lost it”? Perhaps. But I was very moved by the interview and the correlation to agile methods and the mindset I try to bring into play every day.
Thank you Bubba!
Stay agile my friends,