Jon Rahm is now a winner on the PGA Tour. He’s been a pro for less than a year, and it feels like a long time coming.
I have a story from my only experience around Rahm that I feel every golfer in the world could learn from.
It’s simple, but filled with truths.
After holding his place atop the amateur golf world for some 60 weeks as the #1 amateur in the world, the Spaniard Rahm turned professional after the U.S. Open during the summer of 2016. His t-23 finish at treacherous Oakmont earned him the silver medal and placed an exclamation mark on a wonderful amateur career.
During those amateur days, Rahm was a standout for the Arizona State Sun Devil golf team under head coach, and now representative, Tim Mickelson. It was during his Arizona State days that the story comes.
Let’s roll the clock back…
It was the fall of 2015. Rahm and his Sun Devil teammates were invited to play in the Jackrabbit Invite, a college invitational hosted by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at The Prairie Club in Valentine, Nebraska.
I work closely with The Prairie Club and helped in running the event.
Before the event started, each team’s top player played alongside 3 to 4 amateur golfers in a “college-am.” The event was a fun way to allow people enjoying the resort to mingle with some of the top NCAA players and for the student-athletes to do the same. In the group, was my brother-in-law, Kyle Schock.
Kyle told me a story during his day with Rahm that may seem like nothing, but it showed that Rahm would indeed be something.
It was a best-ball. Rahm was treating the event as he should, as a practice round for his 3-day event to come. He was studying the course, hitting shots, and gaining a feel for golf on the Nebraska prairie. He was especially rolling long putts over the various mounds on the Tom Lehman-inspired greens.
For those unaware, the Dunes course spans over hundreds of acres of unspoiled cattle country and requires a different imagination for those not accustomed to experiencing golf on the prairie. Jon, naturally, was attempting to learn the course.
At the midpoint of the round, the group faced one of the course’s great holes, the par-5 10th. And this is where a subtle, but powerful story occurred that’s kept me eternally bullish on the future potential of Jon Rahm.
[As a note—I wasn’t even in attendance for this scene.]
My friend in the group, the aforementioned Kyle Schock, hit a drive alongside Rahm on the big, swailing par-5 into a collection area in the fairway, where both had 200-215 yards into the mounded and bunker-protected green.
The group was mulling over the approach shot together, and Rahm went first. He pulled out his 4-iron, and to a difficult pin location, left his approach 35-40 feet away, and on a slope. The ball then moved down the slope, a bit further away from the hole.
After Rahm, Kyle started preparing for his shot and asked Rahm about the quality of the strike. After all, for a top amateur, a shot to 40-feet isn’t the desired result.
Kyle inquired in between practice swings. “Hey Jon, did you hit that okay?”
Rahm shrugged, seemingly content with the shot, and responded.
“Eh, it was a 4-iron,” said Rahm.
When I heard the story, I loved the answer. “It’s a 4-iron.” At that point, even one of the top players in the world—and top amateur—had proper expectations for a long iron. Especially one on an unfamiliar golf course. His mind was placed in reality, a place where so many amateur golfers are unfamiliar.
“Eh, it was a 4-iron.”
Many people, when hitting shots to 35-40 feet, find an excuse. They look for the negative. They dwell on the less than desirable element of the shot. Instead of taking in the entire result and holding it in perspective, they view their game through a prism. A biased prism that all golfers live in, but must strive to work out of.
Jon Rahm understood his game with perspective. A 4-iron to 40-feet isn’t a bad shot. Even for one of college golf’s best players.
Now while I’m going here, I have another brief story you may appreciate.
The next day was round 1 of the event. Everyone in the field looked to Rahm as the favorite to win. This was a field with the eventual national champion Oregon Ducks and their star Aaron Wise. It was also an event with four other schools inside the top-15. Michigan State, Texas A&M and various other top schools. The field had talent.
Day one wasn’t what Rahm had hoped for, carding a birdie-free round of 75. I saw him after the round and briefly said hello. He was answering a few questions by coaches and such. Again, he gave an answer that left me smiling.
This tweet tells the story as I saw it, in real-time.
#2 amateur in the world, @littleJRmaza was birdie-free, but his attitude was amazing, “I’m happy with my round. It’s really hard out there.”
— Troy Klongerbo (@troyklongerbo) September 26, 2015
The future professional didn’t make a single birdie, but knew how to hold his round in perspective. And even if he wasn’t completely happy with his round, deep down he was learning and mastering his PR skills.
Jon Rahm is big, strong, talented and possesses all of the tools necessary to have the golf world at his feet. His game will go as far as his mindset and attitude allow it.
But these two stories—events which transpired in no less than 10 seconds combined—told me all I needed to know about the young man only a few years my junior.
Jon Rahm was going to be a special player.
And I learned a lesson for my game. I learned to have better perspective. To enjoy the great shots, as seldom as they come. To remain in the present and pull from the positives. To be truthful with oneself. Be your own biggest encourager.
Jon Rahm taught me that one can be a great player with proper expectations, a positive attitude, and being polite.
— The Prairie Club (@theprairieclub) January 30, 2017
Thoughts from Phil Mickelson, another former ASU great…
— Todd Lewis (@ToddLewisGC) January 30, 2017
The putt that sealed the deal.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 30, 2017