Bob Duval’s new book offers tips on golf, life

Bob Duval was born to play and teach golf. Raised in central New York State, Duval’s father, Hap, was the town’s local golf pro. By the time he was 10 years old, his life was focused exclusively on golf. Whether it was shagging balls on the course for his father or practicing with his high school team he set his sights early on winning a golf scholarship to Florida State University.

Decades later, encouraged by his son David (himself a dominant member of the PGA Tour), Bob Duval joined the Senior PGA Tour after 30 years as a teacher and pro in Northern Florida. In 1999, Bob and David made golf history by becoming the first father-son combination to win on both the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour on the same day.

It is the lessons learned through these experiences as golf student, teacher, mentor and father of a PGA Tour professional that Bob Duval brings to his stirring new book, “Letters to a Young Golfer,” (Basic Books; on sale April 2, 2002; $22.00.) Written with Carl Vigeland and including an Afterword by his son David, this meditation on the game offers practical instruction on how to realize your true potential on the golf course as well as in life.

In this third book in basic Books’ “Art of Mentoring” series, which is modeled on the famed “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke, Duval sets forth his feelings about life on and off the golf course in a collection of correspondence to his family, friends, students and colleagues.

While the letters have never actually been sent via the U.S Postal Service, the recipients are all important members of Duval’s world with whom he shares his innermost thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects culled from his rich golf history including its highs and lows, joys and sorrow.

Duval dispenses his realistic advice with a mix of humor and illuminating anecdotes about his and David’s life and career.

The 23 letters that makeup “Letters to a Young Golfer” are broken down into three parts: “Letters to My Son David;” “Letters to My Friends and Family;” and “A Letter to My Dad.”

In his encouraging and sensible voice, Duval offers mechanical and physical guidance for golfers of all ages and skill levels which they can easily apply to their own game:

“Your score is just a succession of numbers. Don’t add them up until your round is done … Don’t dwell on what just happened, whether it was great or terrible. Move on. Play the next shot.”

* Play what’s in front of you.

“… you have to develop a routine, you have to practice that routine so that it becomes second nature … Once you’ve done your routine, you’ve made all the decisions about the shot you’re going to hit – and all that is left for you to do is visualize. Pick up the club and go. You do your analyzing, your checking when you’re practicing, not when you are playing.”

  • Don’t over-analyze your game during the round.
  • Don’t fear failure.

“I think inevitably you must fail before you succeed, not just because there is no such thing as perfection in golf but because success – or more accurately, fulfillment – rests so much on your response to the myriad of problems built into the game. It’s easy to get lost in the vast and conflicting schools of thought regarding technique and mechanics. But that all goes out the window anyway once you’re playing. Then it’s just you.”

  • Understanding the game.

“The struggle, all the effort to learn and prepare and then – the seeming ease when it comes – that is the game.”

In his Afterword, David Duval reflects on the special relationship he shares with his father and the lessons they have taught each other over the years – many of which are found in the book.

“Letters to a Young Golfer” provides readers with a deeper admiration and affection for this celebrated sport and one of its most respected father/son teams. It’s a must-read for anyone who has experienced the challenge and the joy of this exhilarating – and humbling – sport.

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