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Opinion: The bumpy road from zero to hero

Golf with Godbout

Each week this summer, Citizen editor Neil Godbout will share his experience learning to golf at the Prince George Golf and Curling Club. Want to get in a free round with Neil? Just drop him a line at

Week 7

In Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning, psychologist Gary Marcus wrote about his experience taking a year to learn how to play guitar. He took lessons, practised faithfully and attended a summer camp with children learning to play.
He was able to unpack a few clichés by doing regular scans of his own brain during that year to map the changes as he was learning. Old dogs can learn new tricks but it’s harder. Younger brains are more flexible, more easily absorb new information and are more adaptable. On the flip side, there are no shortcuts for young or old on the road to mastering a skill. Practice really does make perfect and everybody has to put in the time and the effort. It does come easier for some but, whether it’s playing guitar or learning golf, commitment is an essential ingredient.
At this point, my commitment is being tested.
When trying to pick up any new skill, it’s demoralizing when you feel you’re making progress, your teacher compliments you on your improvement, practices are going great and then you go out to do the real thing and fall on your face.
It wasn’t that bad when I shot a round last week with Lorne Calder, the recently retired Integris CFO and current Rotary District 5040 District Governor, and Cameron Stolz, the current Yellowhead Rotary Club president.
There were good drives, good approaches, good chips and good putts but they were the punctuation to the many all-too-familiar mistakes and frustrations of poorly hit shots.
The effort is there but the biggest part of commitment, as Marcus found out learning to play guitar, is putting in the time to master the fundamentals. This can be dreary, repetitive work or it can be joyful, engaging learning.
The choice is yours.
Prince George Golf and Curling Club pro Blair Scott has been working on those fundamentals with me and it’s been fun. All of my golfing partners have been fun. As Marcus found out as well, it can be hard when you think you’re getting so much better and then you realize the journey has just begun.
In the end, however, it’s all worth it, Marcus stressed at the end of Guitar Zero. As we get older, it’s more valuable than ever to learn new skills. It keeps our brains sharp and it pays big dividends for our mental health. Finding a new passion, at whatever age, adds some pep to everyone’s step.
Despite my sloppy play with Lorne and Cameron, I know what I did wrong, I know what I have to work on and I can’t wait for my next lesson with Blair and to get out onto the course again. I’ve also committed to more practice time and more playing time for the rest of the summer. 
It’ll be nice to play better and shoot more respectable scores but the journey to get there needs both effort and enthusiasm.
I’m up for that.