Eric Jones Closer Interview (part 1)

Dr. Albaugh’s Interview with a Closer:

2012 World Long Drive Champion Eric Jones

How do you hit a 369-yard drive? More importantly how do you do it under extreme pressure – on the last drive of the tournament – when you have one shot to win it all? Find out how Eric Jones won his second World Long Drive Championship title on his 6th and final drive. It’s all about focus, training, and an iron-clad pre-shot routine.

Eric Jones Wins 2nd World Long Drive Championship

What To Listen For

Eric’s ability to remain in the present and to focus only on what he needed was the key to his success. Listen to this interview to learn more about

  • How Contingency Practice prepares you for any situation
  • How a pre-shot routine allows you to stay in the moment no matter the importance of the shot
  • Why having a specific target is the key to your most athletic swings
  • What to focus on under pressure.
  • Purposeful practice and how important it is to training effectively

Eric Jones is a 2-time World Long Drive Champion. He is also a PGA Teaching Professional and has been honored as the PGA Teacher of the Year and was the Horton Smith Award winner for contributions to golf education. Eric played college golf and coached at Stanford University and he has a Masters Degree in Sport Psychology. He is the author of multiple best-selling golf books and founder of iGolfU.

In 2003 Eric won the Senior division title of World Long Drive Champion with a 381-yard blast on his 6th and final drive. He narrowly edged out Kurt Moore by a mere 29 inches. Then 9 years later Eric won his 2nd World Long Drive Championship title – once again on his 6th and final shot.

Eric developed a reputation as one of the top competitors in long drive. He was always in or near the finals when it came to crunch time. Capturing the 2012 Super-Senior title with a drive of 369 yards was no accident.

Eric Jones Closers Interview

Dr. Albaugh: [00:00:00]
Hi I’m Glenn Albaugh I’m a sports psychologist and I work with all kinds of top golfers and I have for about 25 years. I help them develop a mental game so they can play their best in the most difficult situations. I also work with all kinds of golfers all shapes and sizes and all ages and I help them develop the same thing – a mental game – so that they can play their best in the most difficult situations. That could be your Wednesday Nassau. That could be your club championship. Or that could be just playing your best when you’re trying to make a business deal. But these mental skills that the top golfers develop are the same ones you can develop so you can give yourself the best chance in crunch time.

[00:00:54] Now the interview today is with a very interesting character. His name is Eric Jones. He just competed in the world championships – Super Senior Long Drive Championship. And he prevailed. As he did 10 years ago. And he did it this time at the very advanced age of 54. And he’s got some very interesting things you can share with us that you’ll be able to use, that he used in this great competition with the elite long drivers from all over the world. And I think you’re going to find it really quite interesting.

[00:01:31] A little bit more about my friend Eric Jones. We met eight or nine years ago when he came to me, and he was working on his master’s degree in sports psychology at JFK. He wanted some mentoring and I certainly obliged.

[00:01:47] We had a great time sharing all kinds of things over a period of time until he got his degree. And then he decided that he was going to be at the same time a teaching professional. And now he’s a class “A” PGA person and he’s combining sports psychology and teaching. And he’s got a quite an interesting package there at Target Centered Golf – something you should look into.

[00:02:15] But more importantly for this interview we’re going to ask him to talk about some of the things he did to prepare himself for that competition. And I think you’re going to find it fascinating. I think you’re going to find it quite applicable to your game and for the next competition that you’re going to be in, it’s going to mean something to you.

[00:02:39] So Eric I just completed an article and we call it “The Closers.” And I borrowed some information from a great article in Sports Illustrated about the people that love to close the games. You know, just like you did. And they interviewed a number of people – they are all pretty good athletes as you can imagine. But there’s a very interesting thing that came out of all these interviews: Almost to a person to a man and a woman) they said “You know something? It’s not about the winning. It’s about being in the moment.” They said “I just want the last shot. I want the last putt”. Or with you, working backwards for your epic event that year completed “Hmmm – that last drive. I want the opportunity to have that last drive. My 6th shot here. And I’ve got to do it on this one. I love, love the moment.”

[00:03:38] So tell me Eric did you love the moment?

Eric Jones: [00:03:43]
I did Glen. It was certainly a unique moment. Very, very memorable for me and you really hit the nail on the head. When I was in my competition, you know we get six balls in long drive and I was up against a very tough competitor – a guy who had been hitting the ball really really well all day long. I got on the board and established an early lead. But halfway through the six ball set he took the lead away from me. I hit two really good shots coming down towards my last ball. But coming down on my very last ball he still had the lead. And there I was … Last shot and I had to do it.

[00:04:19] He had a ball out there at 366 yards and I was in second place at that point at 358 yards. It was just a magical moment because I had to do it. It was my last ball. It was my last chance. I really used a lot of the skills that, well, frankly you helped me learn about and to develop as we worked together with the Pros out in the field. And it all came through for me and on my very last shot I did it. I pulled it out and hit it 369 and beat him and took home the championship. It was a fantastic experience.

Dr. Albaugh: [00:04:56]
You said a couple of things that are really important for our listeners to consider. First thing is that it was great competition and the closers – and all of us can be closers – love to play against the best.

[00:05:11] They love those opportunities when everybody there has really made a commitment. They’re all great performers. Everybody’s playing to win. And of course everyone knows that everyone can’t. You happen to, and that was terrific.

[00:05:26] We know that practice is really important and one of the ways to practice that all the great coaches and athletes tell us is contingency practice. You practice for every possible situation that might come about. So how do you go about doing that Eric?

Eric Jones: [00:05:43] Well, very interesting the way I did that. I’ll go back to some of the lessons you shared with me about your time with Bill Walsh and how successful he was with the 49ers and how they used to get prepared for games. You know those two minute scenarios. The whole idea behind that contingency practice is whatever situation you face, you need to be ready for it. And although I spent probably four to five weeks working on my equipment and working on my technique, the last two weeks before the event I stopped all my technique work and really worked on just contingency practice. It is a great skill that I learned, from you. What I did was I imagined every possible scenario that I could face up on the tee. I put myself in that situation, even though I was on the practice range, and said “OK. What would I do in this scenario?”

Dr. Albaugh: [00:06:37] Did you actually practice that last drive? Said “OK. This is it. And there’s my last one. It’s my last chance.” Did you go through that? Did you imagine it? Did you feel the emotions and thoughts as you practiced and prepared for this event?

Eric Jones: [00:06:55] Yes I did. I would get up, I’d pull six balls out, and then I would pull five balls away. And then I’d tee a ball up and I’d say “OK. Here you are. It’s your last ball and you’re in second place. What are you going to do?” And there are a couple of really key things that I learned about myself as I did it. And one of those was the importance of my routine and how my routine could just get me centered in the moment.

Dr. Albaugh: [00:07:22] You felt was really important that you develop a pre-shot routine. Why don’t you tell us about what you did, and how you prepared, and what were the components of your pre-shot routine? It would be my guess, and most likely everybody that’s listening will listen really really closely so they can apply some of those principles to their pre-shot routine.

Eric Jones: [00:07:46] Yeah absolutely. Without a doubt one of the keys to my success was the routine that I had established.

[00:07:53] What I do is I actually practice my routine deliberately. I write the steps down on a piece of paper. I put them on the ground in front of me, right next to the ball that I’m going to hit, and I review them. I go through them in exactly the same order, in exactly the same pacing, at exactly the same time, for every single one of my shots. That automaticity of the routine is what allows you to really stay in the moment, which is so critical to performing in the moment. And it’s also the thing that gets you set up so well to perform well.

Dr. Albaugh: [00:08:26] OK. So you said a couple of things there that I want to jump upon. First of all I do want to make sure everybody understands that fact, and both you and I really agree, that having the proper equipment and working on technique is really important. We never undervalue it. It’s really important you put it in place.

[00:08:49] But as Eric said the closer and closer he got the competition, the more simulated the practice became. In fact at the end, the last two weeks, that’s all it was. And that is the way, I guess, that you were certainly developing the kind of automatic play that you have to have so you can be totally totally engaged, you know, on each shot.

[00:09:12] Now with that said, tell me: I know that in your routine … And I know that in the routine of all great players, and probably all of us when we play our best, we develop a very astute target awareness. Tell me how you went about developing that so you could really really be aware of your target and engaged to it with every repetition of your swing.

Eric Jones: [00:09:38] Well this is a really fun thing because the grid that we hit on in Mesquite, where we have the championships every year, has a certain set up. At the very far end of the range there were a couple of wind socks at the very end. There was one just to the right center of the grid. And what was really fun for me – and I realized as the day went on – is that became my target.

[00:10:07] The first time that I hit in the morning – it was a long day of competition – but the first time that I hit in the morning I went up on the tee and I found that wind sock at the far end of the range. And that allowed me to hit up the right center with a nice little draw down the middle of the fairway. When I was on the tee getting ready to hit my body totally knew where that target was.

[00:10:30] So it was so clear in my mind that that clarity really sent a clear picture to my body and that really helped me to know where my target was and just let that club release to the target.

Dr. Albaugh: [00:10:43] Did you also see the fly the ball?

Eric Jones: [00:10:45] I didn’t see the shot so much as I really felt it. I could feel my club going out to the wind sock out there. But I could also feel my ball coming back into the middle towards the big Remax balloon at the very far end of the range.

Dr. Albaugh: [00:11:00] In my experience with top players and other players too, the more they become aware of targets and people see targets, they see shapes of shots, or they see both. In fact sometimes, Eric, people tell me “You know, I really can’t see that. But I can really feel something out of front of me. You know that really it’s almost something magnetic that draws me to the target.” And apparently that was happening with you. But the practice leading up to it – developing a target awareness – was really really a critical part of your practice, wasn’t it?

Eric Jones: [00:11:36] Oh without a doubt. It took about a six week period to gear up and get ready for this competition. I have a training program that helps me hit the ball farther. It’s called the Five Keys to distance. I took myself through my own training program.

[00:11:49] But the closer I got to competition, the more I focused on targets. And so even though I created an artificial grid if you would on my practice range, there was always just one specific target that I would aim towards and sort of feel in my swing so that my body really knew where that was. The closer I got the competition the more attention I paid to knowing where my target was.