“What do you want for your birthday”, came the annual question from my wife back in March of this year. “Oh, I don’t know”, came the usual response. “Oh, you’re so hard to shop for; you buy everything you need or want”, came the reply from my wife. Then she put on her thinking cap.
She recalled a story I shared with her from one of my students at a recent Impact Zone Golf School in Florida who was involved with a charity in Northern California called “ITP” which stands for Integral Transformative Practice. I didn’t remember too much about the organization but did mention to my wife that the author and well-known speaker, Michael Murphy (author of Golf in the Kingdom and founder of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA) was involved. My wife and I had both enjoyed reading Golf in the Kingdom and were familiar with the Esalen Institute (center for the Human Potential Movement) but had never visited before.
A few weeks later came my birthday surprise. “I think you’re really going to like your present this year”, she announced. “After Ken Venturi’s birthday celebration, we’re going to spend an afternoon and evening with Michael Murphy and his wife and are his guest at the Esalen Institute.” “You’re kidding”, I exclaimed! “That’s awesome, what a week this will be.” I later discovered that Ken and Michael knew each other and Ken once beat Michael in the San Francisco City Junior when they were kids.
We arrived at Esalen in the mid afternoon and were directed to our lovely cabin on the cliffs overlooking the Big Sur Coastline. After settling it, there came a knock on the door. It was Michael Murphy himself; dressed in casual slacks and a shirt that gave me the impression he was still well connected to his Irish roots. “Welcome, come join Dulce (his wife) and me for a glass of wine. We’re next door!” The next three hours passed in the blink of an eye. The discussion moved from our upbringing on the Monterey Peninsula to playing golf, to discovering that Burningbush Golf Club was really St. Andrews, to world religions and the history and movement of Esalen. After sharing a wonderful, organic dinner in the main dining room, we returned for more discussion and good wine. Before long, I was sharing my stories with Michael of “being in the zone” or describing to him my experience of “when it all comes together.” This topic was of specific interest to Michael who has authored many books centered on the study of what leads human to reach their potential, including “The Life We Are Given” and “In the Zone”.
After breakfast the next morning, we engaged in some last meaningful conversation, before Michael left for the classroom to lead one of his workshops. I left Esalen pondering deeper the mind, spirit, soul, body connection that leads athletes to perform at our very best level. Michael and I both feel that we (humans) have merely scratched the surface of what is really available here. Upon leaving, I sensed that we had connected on a deep level that a friendship was born and more would come from this encounter. My senses were right.
Within weeks, my wife and I were made aware of an inaugural fundraiser “Golf in the Kingdom” golf tournament that was being planned for September in San Rafael, CA to raise money for ITP. Michael was to be the featured guest. The opportunity to spend more time with Michael and Dulce was initially the carrot, but we would discover so much more. The timing too was right. The Boeing Championship would be concluded in Seattle, making it reasonable to come to Carmel for a couple of weeks of rest before going to Korea for the next Champion’s Tour event. At the time, I was an alternate for Korea, but my sense was that if I created a lot of intention about going, I would get in. As synchronicity and fate would have it, I would be the last man in the field!
We had told Steve and Shari Pate (friends who were playing with me on the Champion’s Tour) about our encounter with Michael Murphy and the golf tournament. Steve and Shari decided to join us. On our drive up to the Bay Area, my long time friend Ted Antonopoulos (head professional at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, CA) called. “Bobby, we’ve just had some last minute cancellations and we have a couple of villas for you and Steve if you want them”. Having been there before, I knew the decision was an easy one. “We’ll be there in two hours Ted, thanks so much!” Mayacama is one of my favorite golf clubs in the world. It is truly a “Golf in the Kingdom” experience. What an opportunity to play and practice in a great spot and see my long time friend, Ted. Steve and I would also play a match on Saturday, after Friday’s Golf in the Kingdom tournament. The week was a great warm-up for Korea.
At the conclusion of the “Golf in the Kingdom” tournament on Friday, Michael and I began a discussion in an “Open Forum” for the group. The topic was centered on golf, sport and the mind, soul, spirit, body connection that leads one to optimum performance. Michael also introduced us to “the strangeness curve”. Some of the discussion was recorded (in it’s raw, unedited format) for you to enjoy. Simply click on the videos at the end of the article to view.
The discussion hit a new ceiling the following night at dinner in Sausalito, Ca that lasted into the wee hours of the night. I shared many of my magical moments on the course, such as the 9 iron recorded by the golf channel on the 11th hole on Sunday of this year’s 3M Championship. To see the video, go to http://impactzonegolf.com/impact-zone-video-library/. No one wanted to leave. All were beginning to get insights into why famous coaches like Bill Walsh (SF 49ers 3 Superbowls), Phil Jackson(11 NBA Championships), Pete Carroll (2005 National Championship at USC and now Seattle Seahawks Head Coach) had brought Michael into their inner circle and created a winning recipe. Discussions are now taking place to continue this exploration in a workshop format at Esalen. Stay tuned.