Talent is an immeasurable element of human nature. At the very top level of any sport its really quite irrelevant and somewhat over shouted about. I mean, to be a top flight Touring Professional its a given, they all have supreme talent. Only what separates the best from the rest is without doubt the shape, strength and force of ones mental attitude towards everything that goes with it. Not just in golf but in all walks and evolving situations in life, its all about how one perceives and ultimately reacts to this that makes them the person, man, golfer or human they are today.
Anton Haig is without question a hugely talented individual, a strong player with boundless yards off the Tee and a presence of such strength one can't help but expect to see him encounter one of the most awesome of golfing adventures. Still only 23, his first victory on the European Tour came in 2007 when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic to secure his European Tour Card. Its fair to say its been an adventure from then on, well off the golf course anyway, though I'm afraid on the course the powerful youngster has battled tirelessly with little hope of finding the form that brought him that first win in 07. Quite clearly an extremely procurable character, evident last year at the start of the 2009 season whilst playing in the Joburg Open he decided to play bare foot, that's right! NO SHOES! He's either been reading 'Sam Snead on Golf', felt he needed to be a touch more grounded, or just wanted to feel in touch with the earth on a kind of new age eco warrior kind of wave. Then again I guess his shoes probably just didn't fit him anymore, I mean he's a big guy, bigger than an Els and leaner than a Goose.
So what is it with this guy?
What gives him the right to do whatever he pleases with the talent he has to play golf?
That's just it, Talent, for as long as he can remember I would guarantee all he has ever heard is how hugely talented he is. Over the course of the first 20 years of this dudes life, everything he did with a golf club would of been the easiest thing in the world. His ability to play golf would of centered totally around the essence of SCORING, dropping that ball into the hole, CONTROLLING THE BALL around the course with ease, grace and no doubt a touch or brawn to boot! His clearly evident mass of raw talent has carried him swiftly to the top flight of the game.
So what's happening to Anton Haig?
Lets start from the top of the spiral, his massive win in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket shot this sensation to the top of the potential South African greats list and with it came cash, endorsements, fame and that invincible feeling of supremacy. Life never tasted as good, though I'm afraid never been as sweet since, well, on the golf course that is. Away from the game Anton has become known more for his infamously excessive habit for partying, and boy does this dude know how to party. I recollect one story shared by a Sunshine Tour Player who claimed Mr Haig once spent three weeks at a European Tour event, arriving a week before and leaving a week after. Had this been Tiger Woods you wouldn't be surprised to read such preparation strategy, so on first reading you could be fooled into thinking Mr Haig was following suit and preparing like a pro. In the space of three weeks the total figure in question amounted to approx. 32,000 and he missed the cut! That's right his bar bill for that week in Spain was a staggering 32,000 Euros, how on earth he ever figured he would perform to any kind of level is beyond this viewer.
He, like so many hugely talented individuals appear to pay the price for their gift with a fragile state of self awareness. This trade off for talent can sometimes be to the detriment of hard work and dedication. Where by those less gifted individuals more limited in talent are forced to work much harder, more committed to pushing themselves from the word go and so continuing their careers well into their latter years. Those seemingly born with an exceptional ability to perform well at this game or any sport with less effort in their early years could argue to having greater difficulty achieving to their fullest potential. They can fall victim to their own talent, never having to work hard at ones game as a youngster can prove to be a players biggest hurdle when they are faced with a slump or loss of direction. As an effortlessly impressive junior, Master Haig no doubt cruised through the ranks of Club, Provincial and National Champion with relative ease before quickly discovering the self belief to achieve at the highest level of Professional Golf. To of achieved so much, so soon and with such ease brings its sometimes painful pitfalls. Most notably in the form of expectation, which in turn brings pressure, that vitally potent ingredient that all high achievers must love and constantly strive to taste. The problem with talent is its inconsistent nature and the level of pressure stacked with it, one mans worry can be another mans bliss. How we perceive various situations is a matter of individual self awareness and the confidence one has in his own ability to handle that situation, that's the very nature of pressure. So as you can see, ones talent has a big influence over ones ability to handle various levels of pressure. For Anton, with so much talent and so much awareness of that talent so young in his career is it possible to accept his biggest issues today are merely a matter I realizing just how much he has achieved on mere talent alone? Is it time to now start working, ignoring the hangers on, the locals, the aspiring Antons that line the ropes each week?
I would say it is.
Its time to move in favor of a more single minded approach to actually maximizing the potential of his talent before its lost to the vortex of his own emotion. Its time he, like so many of the worlds up and coming talented players of the world, realise the very essence of talent is what keeps them in the game long enough to even consider life as a professional. Talent is the equalling force that levels the playing field and completes the bubble that is Professional Golf, but what makes the best so much better than the rest from week to week is the complex tapestry of MENTAL ATTITUDE.
Tiger Woods talent is what brings him into line with every other competitor the world over, Anton Haig included, but what separates them both is Tigers level of preparation and the level of belief this creates. Talent does not separate them, it challenges them both to compete against one another, the desire to overcome, to destroy and conquer is what so few modern players actually possess.
TALENT is the seed from which potential greatness is born.
ATTITUDE is the source from which that greatness is realised.