Alistair Gray’s article investigates how a relatively small region like Northern Ireland can possibly produce a succession of major winners in golf at a time when the competitive intensity at the top of the world game is at its greatest in living memory. Below is a summary of his findings.
Over the last two years I have been privileged to gain access to various individuals, including the golfers themselves, who gave me special insight into what influenced the positive development of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in their early years. The attached article reflects Malcolm Gladwell’s theories in Outliers, and is also a story of faith, hope and love.
In an era where hard science and medicine are often preferred to soft feelings and emotions, process promoted over people, and facts valued over opinion, I found there are special ingredients that had a profound influence on the way both golfers developed, albeit reaching the top (major victories) by different routes. Those ingredients are faith, hope and love – tough love at times, but genuine love and respect as shown to both. Faith, hope and love were evident in a number of critical areas:
• Support and encouragement to inspire and sustain them delivered by family, community and clubs
• In a talent development system, relatively unique to Ireland
• The culture that challenged and supported them to succeed while at the same time respecting their need to learn to play over receipt of instruction
• Encouragement to adopt values and mutual respect, and honouring the great game of golf
• Regular inputs from coaches and mentors to keep their emotional tank full, at the low points, as well as celebrating the Major victories.
Leaders of performance management systems will draw a number of conclusions and lessons from the development of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. They would do well to replicate the environment described above that continues to deliver outstanding performers, now driven by real role models and champions. They would be wise to challenge the hard:soft balance of their talent and performance development programmes to make sure there is room for faith, hope and love to prosper.