What makes a good player become a great player?

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

It’s that age-old question. What makes a good player great?
I have pondered this question a few times recently.
One was following the win of a 16-year-old in my local club’s senior championship. It was the third time a 16-year-old had won the club’s main championship and it’s hard not to ask yourself: How far will this lad go?
I’m sure all of us have seen a bright, young sport star appear on the horizon only for that star to fade just as quickly as it arrived.
Often the blame is placed on girlfriends, alcohol and having to work. But virtually every top golfer has a girlfriend or wife, probably likes a drink or two and knows nothing but hard work.
I understand having to hold down a full-time job and play golf at a higher level is probably impossible but that’s the point where choices have to be made.
A club champion will probably go on to represent his region. He soon finds out there are dozens of players as good himself. Is it a bridge too far?
Then the good regional player tries his hand at national level. Once again there are dozens of very good national players. Is it a bridge too far?
Then the good national player moves to the international scene. Once again he finds there are hundreds of very good international players. Is it a bridge too far?
And we haven’t even got to the great players, which is massive bridge to cross.
I watched some of the action at the New Zealand Amateur in Wellington last month and was most impressed at what I saw. I watched Peter Spearman-Burn, Jonathan Cane and Shaun Campbell. All hit the ball magnificently, chipped well and putted well. But none of them won.
That honour went to a 15-year-old from Brisbane by the name of Louis Dobbelaar. I had not heard of him previously and I’m sure that would have been the case for many Australians.
Three of his wins were achieved in extra holes and it made me wonder: How far will this lad go?
Was he just lucky or was this a sign of a good player who could become great?
An example of greatness came at the Australian Open last month. Jordan Spieth ran out the winner but he never really looked like succeeding until the first play-off hole.
Spieth was four shots behind the leader after the seventh hole in the final round and many would have said a win was unlikely.
But win he did, despite playing below his best. He missed greens but made great up and downs and sunk putts.
One of those beaten in the play-off, Cameron Smith from Australia, summed up Spieth’s play.
“I think he’s shown everyone why he’s one of the best players in the world,’’ Smith said.
I asked former New Zealand Open winner Matthew Lane what’s the difference between a good player and a great player.
He had not hesitation in answering intensity. That’s just not intensity in the way they play but intensity in the way they practice.
They just don’t practice for the sake of it. They practice with purpose.
Pretty good advice, I would say, for a good player.