The road less travelled is usually the most unconventional, but rewarding at the end. The invaluable lessons learned from a non linear path bolsters character and resilience.
John Lawson’s pathway to professional golf was far from linear, but he wouldn’t change it for the world. Lawson’s unconventional journey only strengthened his love and passion for playing and teaching the game.
The complex game of golf came relatively easy to Lawson, who first picked up a club at seven years of age.
Lawson’s progression within his first four years was truly astounding! The Shediac, New Brunswick product shot some impressive scores for his age and had gotten down to a 14 handicap. Nevertheless, Lawson’s quick ascension in the game would eventually come to a grinding halt.
The self-taught talented long hitting youngster had hit a wall.
Lawson’s journey in the game was in a stall pattern until he started working at Country Meadows Golf Club.
At 20 years old and after spending his first full summer working, playing and practicing at the Meadows, Lawson decided to take a swing at his dreams and become a golf pro.
The outgoing fun loving Lawson spent the next three years at Camosun College in Victoria, BC taking Professional Golf Management. Lawson returned after each school year, and continued to hone his skills under the watchful eye of CPGA Pro/Life Member and owner of Country Meadows Golf Club `Doug Sullivan.
“In my opinion, Doug is one of the best teachers in the history of Atlantic Canada,” Lawson said.
“When I showed up at the Meadows at 20, I had a 10 handicap, two years later I was a scratch golfer.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard, but Doug had a lot to do with that,” admitted Lawson.
“Doug motivated me like no other person ever had.”
From a teaching perspective, Lawson learned the tricks of the trade from Sullivan. “I taught a lot with him over those years from individual lessons, group beginner clinics and junior programs,” Lawson said.
“To this day, when Doug starts teaching, I wonder over and listen in, I always pick up something new or something I can use in my teaching,” said Lawson.
Lawson will never forget his playability test experience and the adversity he faced throughout his journey to the pro ranks. “I was playing very well that year and getting better and better, but I think if I had missed that putt it would have been harder and harder afterwards to get my card,” admitted Lawson.
The putt Lawson refers to was all of eight feet for Par on 36th hole of qualifying at Amherst Golf Country Club in 2002.
“What I remember the most about that day was waiting for thirty minutes on the 17th tee and deciding whether to hit a 3 or 4 iron or the driver off that tee.”
“We decided that if I couldn’t hit the driver on that hole that I didn’t deserve to get my card,” explained Lawson.
“I had to hit that tee shot almost 310 yards.”
“I hit it way to good, and it ended up going through the fairway underneath a tree and my caddie said whatever you do don’t go over the back of that green sure enough that’s where I ended up.”
That sequence and Lawson’s performance on the back nine set up a dramatic finish up the last. “I needed to Par the last hole to get my card.”
“I remember hitting a two-iron off the tee, a decent second shot that rolled into the left rough which was about four inches deep. I wanted to hit a 9 iron while my caddie suggested to hit wedge as hard as I could.”
“I chose the wedge and subsequently hit it over the back, chipped it up, and hit the pin on the way by.”
8ft stood between Lawson and his dream of professional golf. “I just remembered sticking to my routine, making the putt and feeling a sense of relief,” Lawson said.
Lawson’s dream had come true, but he will never forget the lessons he learned along the way. “I think my game improved significantly from that point for the next four years,” admitted Lawson. “I look back at it now, I was definitely a little naive.”
“I never had a lot of tournament experience, just a few NB amateurs, and club tournaments,” Lawson added.
18 years later you can still find Lawson teaching the game he loves at Country Meadows Golf Club. “The Meadows and all the people are the reason that so many golfers from the course are so successful, it’s a great place to learn,” Lawson said.
Lawson points to some the Meadows finest golfers over the years like Greg Jones, Leanne Richardson, Sue Sullivan and Heather Wilbur as being major catalysts for his progression and subsequent success in the game. “There’s so many people at the Meadows that I owe my success in the game to. I feel I’ve taken something from all of them from over the years.”
“Having people to play with that share the same passion as you do for the game really makes a big difference,” stressed Lawson.
Lawson’s professional playing career took a hit after a series of hip injuries, however his passion to teach the game is stronger than ever.
From beginners to young up and coming golfers, to elite players, Lawson has taught them all.
Lawson’s teaching philosophy for beginners is clear; it’s all about communication. “Saying the same thing six different ways, is the best way to teach in my opinion,” Lawson said with smile.
Lawson’s big three teachables for beginners are entrenched within his philosophy and approach to the game. “For beginners it’s all about the turn, getting them to turn their shoulders, is everything,” Lawson stressed.
“Most beginners have to realize that the fastest aspect of the swing is eight inches after they make contact with the ball, they have to learn how to hit it hard and far first then worry about hitting it straight,” explained the longtime teaching pro.
The third fundamental that Lawson stresses for beginners is alignment and ball position. “Beginners have to realize to play the ball off the center of their chest, they will become more consistent and have more success when they understand that aspect of the game,” Lawson added.
“For players aspiring to be elite, it’s all about enjoying the game, but you have to love to practice,” Lawson said.
“They really have to know how to compete, it takes everything, you can possess one or two of traits to be to be good at the game, but to be elite you have to have them all,” Lawson stressed.
“It’s great to see twelve and thirteen year olds spending close to 40 hours a week playing and another 20 hours practicing, because they love it and it’s still pure,” Lawson added.
“You have to possess that determination, a very strong will and mind set to handle the ups and downs of the game.”
“Golf isn’t linear,” Lawson concluded.
John Lawson’s non-linear path to professional golf continues to inspire young golfers and beginners alike. “By far the best part of teaching the game for me is seeing the look on people’s faces when they hit one properly, it’s amazing, just watching them succeed and get better is very rewarding.”