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Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Player and you

October 11, 2010

Where is the connection from those Hall of Fame golfers to you?

It depends if you have something simple - conviction.

Conviction is a rather simple thing - do you have a firm belief in what you are doing?

This is not being convicted like a criminal, whether a purse snatcher or worse.

It is about taking what you know, what you have been taught and transferring it onto the athletic fields.

I witnessed that Saturday at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

We took our Jefferson County Christian volleyball teams to watch the Panthers take on the University of South Florida.

It was a great match with the Bulls winning in five games, 26-28, 25-21, 23-25, 28-26, 16-14. They came back from 14-11 in the fifth.

They were led by senior left-hander Allie Boaz who was set 51 times and registered 28 kills.

In the first game, the score was tied 14 times and the lead changed hands seven times. In game four, it was 12 and seven.

We watched young women giving every ounce of energy they had.

We watched USF players play tough and aggressive, even though they were down in the fifth, 6-1 at one point. We watched them, down, 24-20, in the first game, rally to make it 24-24 before Pitt pulled out the game.

"We wanted it to be about the effort, not about the outcome," said USF coach Claire Lessenger.

We watched both teams run their offense and players swinging with everything they had. They did not play it safe. They did not play not to lose.

They did not play scared. They did not play careless.

Both played to win.

"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day." - Abraham Lincoln

You know those four great golfers because they were successful for a long period of time.

At certain times, they were the best in the game, although Nicklaus had the longest stretch.

The Big 3, as they were called, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player had the largest galleries.

They were mentally tough.

Nicklaus shot 30 on the back 9 in 1986 to win the Masters at age 46. He is the oldest winner in Masters history. Nicklaus played the final 10 holes 7-under par with six birdies and an eagle.

He won 18 majors, finished second 19 times and third nine times.

Palmer drove the first hole, a par 4, at Cherry Hills Country Club in 1960, made birdie, and went on to win the U.S. Open, shooting 65 to beat Nicklaus by two.

Beginning with the 1960 Masters, Palmer won seven of the 20 major championships played through 1964.

Player is the only golfer in the 20th century to win the British Open in three decades. The last of his nine major championships came at the 1978 Masters, where his final-round 64 raced him up the leaderboard from a 7-shot deficit to a 1-stroke victory.

Trevino later stared Nicklaus in the face and won the 1971 U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff.

Trevino was nearly killed when he was struck by lightning in 1975 during a tournament. He recovered to win a Vardon Trophy (the lowest scoring average on Tour) in 1980 and the 1984 PGA Championship.

"There is no such thing as a natural touch," he said. "Touch is something you create by hitting millions of golf balls."

The four have something in common - conviction.

Their swings were completely different, but each believed in their method.

That belief - that conviction - is what made them successful.

"He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions." - Louisa May Alcott

Playing hard takes no talent.

It takes attitude.

It takes a conviction to go out there and play hard, whether it is for a golf state championship or your first Friday night win.

There is no talent involved in working hard.

The players with the least amount of talent can work as hard, or harder, than those with more talent.

It's about the effort, as Lessenger said.

Concentrate on the effort, the process, not the outcome.

Once you concentrate on the outcome, the process and effort gets forgotten and that's not good.

There is no shame in losing.

It happens every day.

Why can't the coaches in the stands get it?

Why must you question the play calling? Why must you question this and that? Why must you question this defensive call or that decision to kick a field goal?

Last time I checked, not one coach makes a decision that is in the best interest of their athletic teams to fail.

It's OK to lose.

It's OK to fail.

You are better for it.

No one likes to do either because it's not fun.

There is shame in how you lose and how you fail.

Do you lose because you don't listen to the coaches?

Do you lose because the other team is just better?

Do you lose because you feel like your team played better, but mistakes hampered the performance?

You win with a lot of class.

You lose with even more class.

And, that means those in the stands and those who want to berate people on message boards.

"Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." - Thomas Carlyle

Your walk is louder than your talk.

What is your conviction during the week of practice?

Do you bust your tail or go through the motions?

Coaches and other players notice both and react to both.

Do you get down 21-0 and go through the motions or bust your collective tails and win a football game in triple overtime?

Conviction in what you do makes it easier to do it successfully.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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