Mind over Matter – Pablo Larrazabal

IJGA Alumni Pablo Larrazabal in 2003

We had an opportunity to catch up with IJGA Alumni, Pablo Larrazabal. During the Alfred Dunhill Championship (ADC) at Leopard Creek in South Africa, the golf course where he made his debut as a pro golfer twelve years ago, Pablo accomplished something remarkable. A blister on his right toe caused him pain which affected his ability to swing, putt or even walk. But Pablo kept his mind on a positive note. He recalled Tiger Woods in 2008 winning the US Open with a fractured tibia and injured ligament in his knee. Pablo kept thinking: if Tiger did it, so could I! and remaining focused, he birdied the last hole to win by one stroke.

There is a lot to learn from this victory. Pablo was not just fighting his physical pain, but self-doubt and shattered self-confidence, after missing the cut in Dubai and struggling over the last 4 years.

Pablo attended IJGA before turning pro in 2002 – 2003. We had the opportunity to reconnect with him to understand what champions are made of.

 You showed a lot of grit during the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the physical pain must have caused you a lot of mental stress. What was the most difficult part and how did you manage to control your mind?

 Well, during the last round at the ADC I had two problems. The first problem was a big blister behind the left foot which caused me to struggle to walk, it was very painful. The second one was a big blister on the right toe that didn’t let follow through with my swing. The second one was the bigger problem, I had to change my swing on the back nine to put the ball in play and let the short game win the tournament for me. It was a total mindset change. It worked very well…

What did you think when things didn’t work as planned on the golf course?

  I played very good tee to green all week. That’s why I had a nice lead. But on Sunday, I was not be able to swing due to the pain. After the ninth hole I was +6 for the day but only 2 behind the lead. I said to myself “well, I am only 2 behind and I have played the back nine very well all week, let’s put it in play from the tee and let the short game win the tournament for me” and that was exactly what happened.

How do you keep yourself motivated when facing setbacks in your career?

 This is the start of my 13th year on the European Tour and I always have short term goals that I follow. I keep motivated by wanting to get better every day. I want to see how far I can go.

Do you have any rituals or pre-tournament routine you like to follow?

  I prepare for tournaments the same way, doesn’t matter if it’s a small tournament or a major. I talk a lot to my caddie Raul about the course, play the practice rounds and then we make a game plan. Then every tournament day is the same. I wake up around 3 hours before my tee time. It includes 30 min to shower and get ready, 30 min transport (normally), 30 min breakfast, 30 min warm up in gym or looker room, 10 minutes putt, 10 minutes chipping, 25 minutes long game, 5 minutes putting and be on the tee 10 minutes before my tee time.

What’s your favorite course in the world? and in your home country?

 That’s a good question, I always say that my favourites golf courses are the ones I win golf tournaments on, so I am not going to change that! And in Spain the place I want to win at is Valderrama, it is a very special place.

When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career as a Golf Pro? Was your family supportive?

  I really felt like I was good enough to be a pro golfer when I was 17/18 but I decided to turn pro in 2003 when I came back from IJGA. I turned pro in November 2004. I got lucky because my family love golf so they were happy and supportive of me.

What is your favorite memory from your time at IJGA?

  IJGA was a big step for me. For first time in my life I could play the game every day and that was a step forward. Then, the friends I made over there were special. I am still in touch with some of them and they come to see me at the PGA Championship. My best memory was my coach Dick, who was an incredible man, he was a talented player and the way he coached us was great. I really miss him. He was awesome.

What advice do you have for current IJGA students who want to play golf professionally?

 To play professional golf and be successful it’s NOT easy. You must work harder than the rest to beat them. But it’s very important to love practicing. The process of getting better is the biggest problem we all have. Having the best team of people to help you get better and believing in them helps. Play your way and then enjoy the road. But if I can give only one advice, it would be: To have fun playing the game!

   That’s it from me. I hope you all enjoy IJGA and I see you all out there somewhere around the world.

   Smile to the game of GOLF and golf will smile back at you!

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