Sports psychologists describe something called a “flow state.” It’s what most people refer to as being “in the zone.”
Nobody said the zone looked pretty.
When a sportsperson enters the flow state, they become completely absorbed in the moment, and everything seems effortless. The activity taking place, whether competing in a golf competition or fighting in a boxing match, becomes the energised focus of the athlete’s complete concentration and their actions occur naturally, seemingly with no thought but raw instinct.
I have experienced this flow state only a handful of times, the most significant of which was when I broke my local golf course record low score, at the age of sixteen. It was and still is, my proudest moment as a golfer.
I was playing off 1 at the time, at Bishop’s Stortford and had ambitions of turning pro at some stage. But although I was a decent golfer, I was yet to have that magic moment that would convince me I could cut the cloth at professional level.
Young, curly Andrew Agnoli was just happy to be there.
“The Moment” arrived in a Junior Open at the club. I was expected to win the competition; I usually did. But winning your local junior tournament isn’t a sign of outstanding ability; it merely marks you as the biggest fish in a rather small pond. What I needed wasn’t just a win but an exceptional, stand-out performance.
And I got that performance. I knew, somehow, that it was coming. Everything just felt right. I hit 12 pars, 5 birdies and one bogey. I remember standing over my second on the eighteenth with the option of hitting over a circle of tall trees that shielded a ditch in one, or hitting it up past the trees and then clipping over in one. There was no doubt my mind that I could get over the trees and the ditch in one. I’d never taken that option before but again, I just knew that I could do it.
And I did. Everyone was surprised but me. I don’t know how I pulled it off so smoothly considering I’d never managed it before. I suppose I was just in the zone.
The only time at which I felt any nerves at all were as I lined up the resulting putt from my wonder shot. But again, as soon as I pulled the club back, I could feel everything falling into place. I connected sweetly and the ball rolled, curved and dropped into the hole exactly as I expected it to.
It was at that moment I thought I had what it took to become a tour pro. That never happened but I still hold the memory of breaking my course record at the age of 16 close to my heart.
It’s not my favourite golfing memory though. My best moment as a golfer, yes. But not in golf overall.
Happily preparing young golfers to beat my other records.
My greatest moment in the sport, as a player, spectator or coach came over ten years after my crowning round at Stortford when I received a phone call from the club’s junior organiser … to inform me that the record score I cherished so dearly had been broken by another player.
That player, I learned on the phone, was a teenager named Max Hopkins, who I had coached for four years as a junior, honing his swing and securing his fundamentals. All for him to turn around and erase my name from the history books in one fell swoop!
I couldn’t have felt any prouder. It’s one thing scoring a great round yourself but for me, nothing beats the feeling of helping another golfer achieve their potential, whether they’re winning national tournaments, earning their first handicap or even smashing a record set by myself.
If you want to improve your golf skills, or give your child a taste of the game, make sure to book a lesson with Andrew or another Topgolf Pro.