George Mack Jr. is closing in one of the most important golf tournaments of his accomplished playing career.
Black Butte Ranch’s longtime director of instruction will tee it up on Thursday, Oct. 15, for the 2015 Senior PGA Professional National Championship at Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, California.
The competition for Mack should be fierce. Not only will the field be filled with 264 of the very best PGA club professionals age 50 and over from across the nation, the stakes will be high. The top 35 golfers after four rounds of stroke play earn a berth into the 2016 Senior PGA Championship in May at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Mack, 53, is taking his preparation seriously, of course. But with a sore wrist, Mack can no longer spend hours upon hours on the driving range.
Instead, Mack is preparing the Senior PNC by being smart about his golf game. And in that there is a lesson for all golfers, no matter the skill level.
“I try to find the rhythm of my good shots,” Mack says. “That’s a big focus: What’s happening when I hit it good and how do I repeat it? And I don’t pay attention to my bad shots too much. I’m not a person who says ‘What did I do wrong?’ I am more focused on what I did right.
Take last week, when Mack competed for four days at the Fall Tour, an annual tradition with deep Black Butte Ranch roots. Instead of going through the motions for four rounds, Mack was dissecting his game in his head, trying to search for weak spots.
For him, his normally consistent chipping and pitching was a touch off. So he has chosen to focus on that part of his game.
More importantly, though, Mack is trying to find the right frame of mind. He wants to stay in a positive state of mind.
“That’s the building block of improving your game,” Mack says. “I really believe that. Too many people focus in on the bad and emotionalize the bad, so that is what they get.”
A positive state of mind certainly helped him last month when he dominated the rainy Pacific Northwest Section PGA Senior Championship by four shots at The Home Course in Dupont, Washington.
He made nearly mistake free and hit some greats shots along the way, he says. He played so flawlessly that he did not recognize how well he was playing.
“It felt great,” Mack says. “I was shocked that I found myself so far ahead, because I figured I wasn’t doing anything that special.”
The foundation for the win actually was laid last winter in Arizona, where Mack spends the majority of his offseasons. He played often, usually with former PGA Tour players who Mack considers friends. (Among them was Pete Jordan, who spent nearly a decade on the PGA Tour.)
Playing with better players, whether you are a club professional or a high-handicapper, can help a golfer identify his or her own weaknesses, Mack says. And it helped him, too.
“Playing with them got me thinking about my own game a little bit,” Mack says. “That kind of carried over even though I didn’t play over the summer really at all. I think playing with those guys for four or five months over the winter really helped me get my game back.”
Now he has a chance to play his way into one of senior professional golf’s major championships, fulfilling a dream for Mack.
“That is the whole goal,” says Mack, who plans to return to Arizona after the tournament. “I’m not going there to win. I’m going to play a fairly conservative game plan and try to keep the ball in lay and put the ball on the easy part of the green and let my putter do all the week.
“I just want to be in that top 35.”
The preparation, of course, will be the key.
For more information on how to take a lesson from George when he returns in spring 2016 or any of our Black Butte Ranch instructors, visit blackbutteranch.com/golf/lessons-and-instructions. To follow George as he takes on the best club professionals in the country, visit PGA.com.