Faiyaz Amlani loves what he does – playing golf.
Faiyaz is a professional golfer who already has a mini-sponsorship with Nike.
You’ll hear from a young professional athlete who’s striving to be the best in his industry, and how presence of mind is a key to success.
Faiyaz:: Hi, this is Faiyaz Amlani. I’m a professional golfer and you’re listening to Prologue Profiles.
Faiyaz:: I’ve been a professional golfer now for two-and-a-half years.
Dan:: When did golf enter into your life?
Faiyaz:: My dad actually was a professional tennis player. It came to a time where his knees were starting to get bad. He started to pick up golf as a hobby and about that time I was born and he would drag me to the driving range with him and he’d sawed off a set of golf clubs for me and I was hitting golf balls since the time I was very young.
I was never pushed into anything. I was never told you’re going to play this sport and this is what you’re going to do. At a young age I played a lot of different sports and as I got older he let me kind of decide on my own.
Two, three years later I was developing an interest in golf and [my dad] asked me, “Do you really like golf?” And I said, “Yeah I enjoy it.” And he said “Do you prefer it over these other sports?” And I said, “Yeah”. And he said, “Okay well let’s try and hone your golf skills then and leave everything else alone.”
And that’s when it became a bit serious.
Dan:: So how old were you at that point?
Faiyaz:: So that was more along the lines of six or seven. So still quite young.
It’s an interesting conversation to have at that young age with your dad, but since I was born my father and I have had a really close bond and he knew that I had a passion for golf and he knew that I really loved the sport itself.
At that age once we decided that golf is what I wanted to do he immediately sent me to a golf boarding school academy in England, in London, and I trained out there.
So I went through high school, went through college. Once I got out of college I immediately turned professional but I knew that I was going to be a professional through high school. That was my goal.
Dan:: So you were committed to learning how to play golf at an early age. What was that like, balancing golf with being a kid?
Faiyaz:: It was tough. Especially considering the game is so mental. You’re constantly put under stress. There’s a fear that “Hey, what if I don’t make it and I’d spent all my life doing this?” That’s always in the back of your mind eating away at you and saying, “Hey look. I’m here if you mess up.” But you just kind of fight through it.
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned along the road is that you just can’t do this by yourself. You have to have a wonderful support system. My parents, my sister, were that. Between them and my coaches, my trainers, I had physical therapist, you go through injuries, I went through many injuries where you are put out for a certain amount of time and you’re thinking, “Oh will I get back into this?”
There are so many bumps in the road, but the idea is that everybody goes through these bumps, it’s who can track their way through, and who can continue to progress and persevere, those are the guys that are going to find glory in the end.
Dan:: Can you give an example of a bump in the road that you’ve experienced?
Faiyaz:: I had a couple of really rough years in college and people always said that I had a lot of potential, but finding it myself and believing it and trusting myself was very difficult for me.
I went through this period in college where I felt like I was losing my game. I felt like I was losing my skill. Just nothing was coming together.
There are so many intricate details and intricate parts about the game of golf. For example playing in front of a crowd or playing in front of cameras. You grow up and play on the golf course with your dad, that’s what I was used to. Then you get a little bit older and people start following you and they watch you a little bit, adding all these little variables, TV, media, all that stuff, it throws you off and you start thinking about all that more often.
Ben Hogan, great golfer, said it best, he said, “If you’re going to play good golf, you have to play it without tension.” And all of these things are little tension-causing variables. And you start thinking about cameras in the back of your mind, when you’re getting ready to swing a golf club or you’re over a golf ball and you have all these things floating through your mind and my struggle was with that.
Dan:: Tell me more about that.
Faiyaz:: I went through this slump and I just didn’t think that I could get out of these little moments. Here I am trying to make a cut and in the back of my mind rather than thinking, “Hey, you need this ball should go here, I need to hit the ball to go left or right, I need to make this putt” I was thinking about people around me watching me and it just causes tension, builds nerves, and it took me so long to break through that.
Dan:: How long did it take you to get through it?
Faiyaz:: Yeah, it took me, I would say close to two years. I had to go through that and get tournament experience and prove to myself that I was good enough to play with these boys, let alone beat them and persevere and get better.
Dan:: I mean that sounds like a lot better pressure on your shoulders? What’s helped you focus?
Faiyaz:: I like to quote a lot of these old golfers because obviously they did something right.Jack Nicklaus used to say, “The most important shot is not the one you hit, or the one you’re going to hit next, it’s the one you’re working on at the moment. It’s where you’re at right now, concentrate on the moment, the now” and I kind of like to live my life that way.
I mean you have to worry about the past a little bit and you have to worry about the future slightly, but you can’t focus on it too much if you’re going to focus on something, focus on the immediate situation and that kind of gets me through a lot.
Some great golfers, they can go two, three, four, five, six and play absolutely perfect golf. But golf is not a game of perfection. Golf is a game of misses. How do you miss? How do you recover? A lot of young golfers seem to dwell on previous shots and they don’t understand that that ruins the rest of your round. You can’t go out there and say, “Look, I am going to play perfectly from tee to tee.” You just can’t do that, it’s very difficult.
So they go out there and start playing, they play wonderfully…they hit one bad shot and all of a sudden the world is over and they carry that with them to the next three or four holes. Well after three or four holes passed without your focus you’ve shot yourself out of the tournament.
So if I could give any advice to young golfers, it’s stay in the moment, stay in the now, let your past go and move forward. And isn’t that the motto of life, anyway?
Dan: What would you say is a typical day for you?
Faiyaz: A typical day that I’m not in a tournament for example, like I’m not playing an event? Yea you kind of just wake up, eat good breakfast and you start going.
Dan: When do you wake up?
Faiyaz: [Laughs] I have a natural alarm clock that throws me out of bed at around 6am or 6.30am.
The first thing I usually do is get into the gym. Since I’m just out of bed, my coaches, my trainers always like to lift weights in the morning and do a little bit of strength training. And you don’t really want to bulk up too much but you want to stay fit, you want to be healthy.
Have some lunch afterwards and then go out and play a few holes. Go out and put yourself in some situations where you might see yourself being in in the next tournament. A lot of these golf courses we continuously play each year so I’ve had a bit of experience on them.
Dan: Faiyaz, what would you say you like about being a professional golfer?
Faiyaz: I like the fact that I can do something that I enjoy for a living and I have the opportunity to go as far as I want with this.
You get from it what you put into it and if I’m going to go out there and work my butt off and go practice and train and make myself better as a person, as a golfer, as an athlete, I’m going to get that out of this sport in the end on the other side, you’ll start seeing results.
It’s uncanny! You talk to so many professional golfers who win these tournaments quote Bubba Watson, he just recently won The Masters this year. This guy never had a coach, he’s completely self-taught, he’s got the most funky-looking swing you’ll ever see and the guy’s gone out there and won The Masters and that’s the pinnacle for any golfer and he says himself, “Look man, it’s out there and you just got to go get it.”
Dan: How would you describe the lifestyle of a professional golfer?
Faiyaz: It’s not glamorous. [Laughs] A lot of people think there’s a lot of glamour involved in it. I guess there is if you play on a superior level, maybe there’s a little of glamour involved, I’m not quite there yet myself. Hopefully I will be at some point.
But as far as my life is concerned, it’s rough, it’s not easy. There’s a lot of travelling involved, especially if you play on international tours, I’ve got a bit of exemption in Europe, a little bit of Middle East exemption.
Dan: What does that mean “exemption”?
Faiyaz: Means that I’ve got the opportunity to play and earn money and I have the right to play these tours.
Dan: So how often do you travel would you say?
Faiyaz: Last year, there’s 12 months in a year right? I was out of town for around seven months. You don’t get that much time at home. You don’t get that much time really to do anything else. Golf is, you eat, sleep and wake up to it, you know? So that’s about it. But it’s busy, it’s hectic. You know you’re constantly trying to improve, you’re constantly trying to balance out family life, your social life.
Dan: So you’re sponsored by Nike…
Faiyaz: At the moment I’ve got what’s called a mini sponsorship through them. And what that is, it’s for the smaller tour players. For the guys, basically who are not on the PGA tour or the European PGA tour. They kind of have my back. They offer me equipment, things like that, and we’re out there playing, travelling, they cover some expenses and stuff like that.
And yeah so we’re at a point now with them where the better results I produce, the more there is available for me through Nike. And the good thing about Nike is that they see my potential, they see that I can be something special.
Dan: And how does that make you feel?
Faiyaz: I mean, how would that make anybody feel? [Laughter]
For a group like Nike, a company like that to see a lot of potential in you in your sport, that’s something really special. It adds to my confidence. I go out there I feel better, I feel stronger knowing that they have my back. You can’t beat it.
Dan: What motivates you?
Faiyaz: I have a very strong drive and I think that is my gift.
I don’t think I was gifted with prodigy-type golf swing. I don’t think I was gifted with an unbelievable short game game or anything. But what I do have is I have a strong drive and a strong will, and I feel like I can do whatever I put my mind to and I can achieve whatever I want when I really want to.
So my motivating factors I guess would probably be just to say that I’ve been there. I want my name to be remembered or I want to go win a major, I want to go win The Masters, I want a green jacket. Those kinds of things motivate me.
Dan: How in touch are you with those things that drive you?
Faiyaz: When I was younger, one of my coaches used to say, “Hey, what do you really want out of this sport? What do you want to gain out of it?” And I said, “Well I want to be a major champion, I want to go win tournaments. I want to make money, make a living doing what I love to do, playing golf.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you go find some pictures of what you want and bring them to me?” And I said, “Okay.”
So I printed out a picture of a green jacket, printed out a picture of the US Open trophy or something like that and I printed out some pictures of some of my favorite golf courses in the world. And I brought it to him and he said, “Okay, I want you to put a tack on these pictures and put them up in your room somewhere where you see them every day before you leave your room.” And that’s what motivates me.
I still do that, I still got pictures of what I want, what I want to achieve somewhere in my life, where I see them on a consistent basis and it’s good to remember what you’re trying to do. You start remembering again what you want out of this and you kind of reset your drive. It starts it all over again, and every day you go there and you got this push, you’ve got a reason to be fighting.
Dan: And how confident are you that you’re going to achieve these goals?
Faiyaz: I’m 100% confident. I mean, you have to be. No doubt in my mind, just like my mother used to tell me.
I feel like one day, sooner or later, I will be there, I will be in a position to win The Masters or I will be in the position to win a US Open, a British Open. You have to be confident, otherwise you’re just going to get steamrolled.
Dan:: Is there a special moment you’ve had on the golf course so far?
Faiyaz: My grandmother, my dad’s mother, she was always on my side. She was always for my career, for me becoming a professional golfer. She was happy to see that I was going out there trying to achieve something I love. And she passed a few years back, unfortunately.That was something I took with me to the golf course when I went and played various tournaments.
And I remember I went out there one week and I dedicated my golf week to her and I came through that week winning. And to have that feeling, to have that secure-ness in your body when you win, and say, “Hey look, this was for you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and I want to give this back to you.”
It’s something super special. It makes me emotional as we speak. She made me a better person, a better athlete, a better golfer, and today I still carry her with me and I think you gotta have things like that.
Dan: And Faiyaz, what advice can do you give to people out there who see what you’re doing and wonder if it’s possible for them?
Faiyaz: I think what I’d like to say to people in the end is whether you’re an athlete or not, whether you’re a golfer specifically or not, don’t cheat yourself out of what you want to do. I think I would be the first person to tell you, “Hey look, there’s a lot of people out there that will be practical and think, ‘hey go do something different’”. But, go do what you want to do. Go fight for what your heart desires because if you want to be a pro golfer, if you want to be a doctor or you want to be a professional football player, whatever it is, go fight for it and work hard while you’re doing it, and I think everything, anything and everything is achievable. You can go earn whatever you want. Have these dreams, because it’s possible for you to achieve these. Don’t grow up thinking that, “Hey, I wasn’t meant to play golf and I wasn’t meant to be a professional athlete.” Have these dreams and go catch them because they’re there for you to take.
This post originally appeared on PROLOGUE PROFILES.