Tee to Green
September 16, 2019

Butch Harmon's checklist for overcoming first-tee jitters

GD100119_PLAY_Butch_02.jpg

This summer, I got to experience baseball’s version of the first-tee shot. As honoree of the PGA Tour’s 2019 Houston Open, I threw out the first pitch at the Astros game on July 23. With a few deep breaths and a little advice in my head (Aim high), I chucked a pretty good one, as Bob Uecker said in “Major League,” just a bit outside.

People ask me if I was nervous, and what I was thinking about out there. On the walk to the mound, I told myself, One of two things is going to happen here—a good one or a bad one­—so just do it. The first thing that struck me was how high it feels to be on a pitcher’s mound. You’re really throwing downhill. As for my nerves, I didn’t have much time to think about it. It had been a long day of meetings and media for the Houston Open, so I didn’t even have a chance to throw a few balls to warm up—exactly what I tell my players never to skip!

In the weeks before the game, I’d gone to an indoor training facility a couple of times with two ex-baseball players who live near me, Tyler and Cooper Kitrel. They gave me some pitching tips: Forget the windup. Just turn, rotate your hips and go. Release it higher. The one thought I ended up using on the mound was, Throw it over the catcher’s head. I’m convinced that’s how I got it to the plate. One thing was for sure: I wasn’t going to throw it in the dirt and get booed.

GD100119_PLAY_Butch_01.jpg

You can see me here in my honorary jersey. Why No. 75? My age. With 38,000 fans in the stadium, I’ll tell you, I was happy with the result. My takeaway for golfers is, when you’re in a tight spot, don’t over-think it. The more you delay, trying to control the situation, the more tension you create. Like I said, a few deep breaths and a positive thought. Try that on the first tee next time.

—WITH PETER MORRICE


You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. Please upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 or use a different web browser.