There are some things in golf that just can’t be taught.
The natural ability to swing a golf club like Annika Sorenstam, Ariya Jutanugarn or Yani Tseng isn’t something that can be learned. They were born with that. But each of these champions realized that they could take that God-given talent and cultivate it into something even greater.
That’s where Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott come in. They’ve got the roadmap to getting there.
Sorenstam, Jutanugarn and Tseng are among the decorated roster of players who have worked with Nilsson and Marriott, better known under the umbrella of VISION54, which teaches life skills as much as golf skills. What unites the students that Nilsson and Marriott have taught is a common desire to want to learn more.
“The players that are born with natural talent can only go so far, and they don’t become big champions if they don’t learn and train lots,” Nilsson told LPGA.com via email. “With nature/nurture thinking, for sure nurture is most important.”
VISION54 nurtures what they call “MY54,” which they have defined as the five most common characteristics they’ve seen among top female and male golfers in the world - willpower, be you, focus, honesty, and self-esteem.
Nilsson and Marriott define “Willpower” as a champion knowing what they want, finding meaning in that purpose, and possessing an ability to remain dedicated to that task until it is complete. Sorenstam, a longtime pupil of VISION54, demonstrated this best in route to becoming the only woman to card a round of 59 on the LPGA Tour.
“Be You” is a concept that VISION54 sees in champions who are comfortable being themselves, who embrace their uniqueness and strive to be different. Once again, Sorenstam embodied this as she became the first female in 58 years to compete in a PGA Tour event in 2003.
The instructors define “Focus” as a champion’s ability to remain committed to only the things they can control. And while they may seek perfection in all they do, they do so while maintaining their focus on only the things they can change. Jutanugarn made a commitment to working with VISION54 in 2016. It transformed her life and her game as she became centered around finding happiness on the golf course. “I go out, fight, do my best every day, and focus only what I’m feeling,” Jutanugarn said in 2019. “I want to feel good, just focus on that.”
“Honesty” is a quality VISION54 defines as champions awareness of themselves. In doing so, they are able to manage themselves more efficiently. While the outcome may not always be what the player would like, they are content in knowing they have performed to the best of their ability. Moriya Jutanugarn, sister of Ariya and also a pupil of VISION54, echoed this sentiment after her breakthrough win on Tour in 2018: “I’ve been close so many times, and today is going to be another day that is a good practice for my future. I mean, no matter what's going to happen, it's going to be a good day for me,” she said.
And finally, “Self-Esteem” is a critical quality that VISION54 has identified as champions ability to separate what they do from who they are. Yani Tseng recognized this need for distinction one year after winning two majors, Player of the Year, the money title and the Vare Trophy in a single season, saying “I feel like golf is not everything in my life, but I want to keep doing it, keep working hard, do the best I can.”
Nilsson and Marriott are confident that players at all levels can aspire to these same five qualities depending on the amount of time and effort they want to dedicate to their golf game. That comes with determining the end game for putting in said time and effort.
“All players at first want to succeed for more extrinsic reasons (awards, recognition, money….)” Nilsson explains. “The extrinsic reasons are not sustainable, and always need to be balanced with more intrinsic reasons or reasons beyond themselves.”
Like natural-born talent, finding larger purpose isn’t something VISION54 can teach. But they can provide the roadmap to get there.