At Exabeam we know our customers want to win because losing against today’s cyber adversaries is not an option. Keeping up on the game, taking advantage of the latest technology, and staying focused are some of the ways to protect precious data. It’s a lot like golf. So, we thought we could learn a few things from a golf pro about how an elite athlete prepares for a PGA TOUR and stays ahead of the competition.
We asked JJ Spaun if he would tell us about his outstanding career that exceeds $4 million in winnings and nine top-10 finishes. His impressive performance playing college golf for San Diego State University led his team to match play at the 2012 NCAA Championship. During the Mackenzie Tour, his outstanding play helped him secure a coveted spot on the Web.com Tour where he then played his way onto the PGA TOUR. And since Spaun says he was inspired by Tiger Woods, his thoughts have special timeliness considering Woods’ remarkable comeback to win the Masters this April.
Exabeam: You keep placing well, including a number of top-five finishes, but haven’t yet had a win on the PGA TOUR? What do you feel you need to do to break through?
Spaun: Well, winning is why we play. Every player who tees it up on any tour is playing to win. But I’m not too worried about not having a win yet. If you play well, the win will come. I was a rookie not so long ago. It took me a couple of years, but I started to get those one or two shots that I was missing out on. In 2015, I had seven top-10s on the Mackenzie Tour, and I finally got a win. I also won the tour’s money title, and right now my money ranking is looking good on the PGA TOUR with almost a million dollars this year. The next year, I finished runner-up twice on the Web.com Tour before capturing the News Sentinel Open. That win locked up my PGA TOUR card. But placing in the top five or top 10 is also huge for me to have those kinds of finishes and puts me in the spotlight for multiple weeks. It just makes me want to get back there again soon and shoot to win.
Exabeam: Tell our readers how you prepare for a tournament. What does your typical week look like?
Spaun: Well, if I’m playing hot one week, I try to keep that momentum rolling into the next week. So mentally, that’s a big part of the preparation because doing well feeds on itself. Then, every day I work on preparing for the next course. Each one is different and there’s no getting around doing the work to learn everything you can about the course. Sometimes you don’t have to bomb it, but just plot your way around the course and look for a path to victory on every hole.
Exabeam: Competing in golf— if we may make an analogy is like protecting corporate networks against adversaries—requires a lot of mental focus. What do you do during the match to play smarter?
Spaun: I just work on growing my focus, like learning how to contain a lead and I try not to get too ahead of myself. I always want to up my game by seeing shots in my head, and then trying to execute. That includes considering the course conditions, not yesterday but every moment now. Like if the wind comes up and you have to play low, that makes tee shots and getting on the green more difficult so you have to pull out every trick like adjusting your stance and so on. Plus, you don’t let it get to your mental game because everyone is having the same challenges in windy conditions, and scores will go up.
It’s about being prepared like your company says and being smart. I think golf is actually like cybersecurity where you can’t predict what may come at you, but if you’ve done your work you can deal. If you think about it, you can’t let your guard down mentally and in how you execute the play. You assess, respond and shut out everything but the play.
Exabeam: Tell us a little more about what it means to play smart.
Spaun: Well, playing smart in golf sometimes means respecting some holes. There are some holes you need to attack and some holes you need to respect. Staying patient out there is key. And adjusting your mental stance. That also means respecting the course conditions, especially in the wind or other rough situations, you start thinking of pars, not birdies, and that’s one way I often find I can finish in the top. I guess you have to be aggressive and confident but also humble.
Exabeam: Can you share how you stay ahead of the competition?
Spaun: It’s bringing everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve practiced together on the same day. When it works, when everything is firing on the right cylinders you naturally feel it clicking. On those days, when I’m driving it well, hitting my irons well, finishing up with some good putts, that’s when you stay ahead of the really awesome players on the PGA TOUR. You just keep looking at the best players and watch how they play. Like I saw Tiger Woods win the Masters when I was just six, and he inspired me and a whole generation to compete and be the best.
Exabeam: You had some health challenges recently; a recent diagnosis of diabetes and a knee injury. Can you tell us how you approach these issues?
Ironically, in a weird way, both issues were connected. Back in August, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which led me to make drastic changes to my eating habits. Because of that, I started taking better overall care of myself by eating right and exercising on a more regular basis. As a result, I lost a good amount of weight which impacted my golf swing. In a short period of time, my body shape changed dramatically and I lost the usual “feel” I have with my golf swing. This led to me practicing a lot more than normal and the more balls I hit, the more I felt discomfort in my knee. It was just from overuse but it got to the point where I couldn’t play or practice. I saw a knee specialist and he told me to take a couple of weeks off and the swelling would go down. It was nothing serious and it is 100 percent now. I also think I have figured out my golf swing and am starting to play better!!
Exabeam: What advice would you give to golf players that would work for both beginners and seasoned players?
Spaun: Prepare, stay calm, practice more than you think you need. Then when you’ve got the game in you, just trust it. It’s all about consistency and sticking to what you know you need to do. And, of course, playing smart as we talked about.