By Mark Herrmann

As a counselor to PGA Tour pros, Michael Lardon has talked major champions through the agony of ruining a whole week with one double bogey. As a golfer who grew up in Huntington, Lardon plays with a buddy who can shoot 79 at Sunken Meadow one day and 106 the next.

And as an author of a new book, Lardon tells how some of the best lessons a golfer can get are the ones that deal with the mind game.

“One of the first things to understand is that this is not as big an enigma as you think,” said Lardon, a psychiatrist who now lives in San Diego when he is not on Tour with a client.

Davis Love III, David Duval, Fred Couples and Dr. Lardon.

His advice to a pro is the same as to his lifelong pal at Sunken Meadow: Prepare diligently; focus on the process, not on the final score; be mindful only of the next shot; and no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. That is his advice to the pro on the double bogey and the buddy whose score can fluctuate so wildly.

Lardon even suggests that golfers use two scorecards, one with the actual number of strokes you took on each hole, the other keeping track of how many shots on which you executed the best you could. The key to lowering the former is raising the latter, and you can do that if you have the right mindset. A lot of that revolves around not over-thinking. “Anxiety is the gap between the here-and-now and worrying about the past or future,” he said.

That is the crux of the book that will be released June 3, Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life.

“When you’re loose and not worried about your score,” he said, “that’s when you have a great score.”

The book, of course, goes into more detail. It is based on a lifetime of study about getting in what athletes call “the zone.” Lardon became fascinated with it when he was a Long Island teenager good enough in table tennis to train for eight weeks with a champion team in Japan. His interest grew when he got to know his pre-med chemistry lab partner at Stanford, Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden.

Then he started caddying on the PGA Tour for his brother, Brad, who is now director of golf at a posh club in Texas. “People ask me how I got this job as a shrink on the Tour and I say you need to caddie for your brother,” Lardon said. “I sort of grew up organically with so many of the players because of my brother.”

All the mental coaching in the world can’t turn Brad Lardon into Tiger Woods. What Lardon suggests to his clients, including former PGA champion Rich Beem, who is quoted in the book, is that they work with the physical and psychological tools that they have, and not let other stuff get in the way.

He writes about an amateur trying to break 90 for the first time getting tense down the stretch until he realizes he will shoot in the 90s that day, then relaxes and starts hitting the ball well again. He tells of a pro at the Las Vegas tour stop, distraught that his wife was on a shopping spree, buying $400 jeans. Lardon reminded the golfer, a $3 million winner the previous season, that it had nothing to do with his round that day.

“He went out and birdied seven holes on the front nine,” said the doctor/author, who insists the game is a lot more fun once a golfer finds his or her own “zone,” and that they can find the “zone” by having more fun.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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