Johnny Miller’s Seven Lessons for a Lifetime

Johnny Miller offers the seven best lessons he's learned about golf and life.
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I've won 25 Tour events, raised six kids, and called thousands of shots on TV. Yep, I've learned a lot in my 65 years. Here are seven lessons about golf and life.

1. Honor Your Natural Talent
I turned 65 this year. Looking back, I wish I had practiced more. I relied on my talent. For a guy who got into the Hall of Fame, I probably hit fewer practice balls than anybody ever. I thought practice was unnecessary and boring. I didn't play a lot. I took my talent for granted. I won 25 times, but it could have been 50. I had six children, and I felt I needed to be home to be a good father and husband. I wouldn't change that, but the time I did have? I wasn't single-minded. I fell in love with racing cars, ranching, fishing. I could have honored my talent more. I should have said, "You have a heck of a talent — you can do great things in golf and still be a great husband and father." Golf has been good to me. I'm proud of my two majors. But when someone asks, "Did you get all you could out of your talent?," it's a huge "No." I did it my way, but I don't know that it was the best way.

2. To Play Like a Champion, Act Like One
My dad was a creative thinker. He had an amazing mind. He taught me to act like a champion at a young age — down to the way I put my glove on, buttoned my shirt, held my hat, thanked the gallery. Also, the way I walked into a shot — the way I walked with confidence. [Pauses, chokes up] My dad called me "champ." He made me look and feel like one. He turned me into a champion with his unique way of practice. He made me one confident golfer, and there's nothing greater in golf than confidence.

3. Golf Makes Good Citizens
Golf is an amazing teacher. Even if you don't make it on Tour or shoot the kind of scores you'd like, golf teaches you the most valuable things: decorum, manners, interacting for business, how to get along with people. It teaches you that cheating is wrong, to play by the rules. Golfers are usually good citizens. Golf can help you get a good job. When you play by the rules, people notice. You become someone others want to be around. And if you get your kids into golf, you won't have problems with them because they learn selfdiscipline. They learn how to handle triple-bogeys. Because we all have to deal with triple-bogeys, in golf and life.

4. What Jack Nicklaus Taught Me
Over the years , Jack Nicklaus taught me a lot of things. I once asked him, "Jack, how did you win 18 majors when they're the hardest tournaments to win?" Long silence. He said, "You're exactly wrong. They're the easiest to win. People get so nervous, and the courses are so tough, that you only have to beat one or two guys. Just play conservatively, hit layups off the tee, hit irons into the middle of the green, and value par. Do that, and you're either leading or you're behind one guy, who's probably gonna gag — and you win." Unfortunately, when he told me this I was already announcing. I said, "Dang, Jack — why didn't you tell me this when I was 22?" [Laughs]

5. Give Your Kids the Ultimate Gift
You learn from your children. They all have different talents and gifts. They taught me that the best thing I can give them is my time. I can feel when they want my time. There's nothing greater than giving them that. My life has been divided in many directions, being pulled here, there. The time I gave them — golf, fishing trips in Alaska — was what they wanted most. With my 21 grandkids, I understand that even more now than I did my first go-round. That's what they really want. Your time.

6. Give Yourself a Chance to Fail
Sometimes you have to take chances, to give yourself the opportunity to succeed — or fail. I have a pet peeve about other golf announcers. A lot of them aren't willing to make predictions. A guy never says, "It's an easy putt, I think he'll make it." Nobody says that but me! If you feel a guy's gonna miss a putt or duck-hook it in the lake, why not say it? Most people don't take the chance. I want people to say, "Oh, really? He's gonna duck hook it? I hope you're wrong, Johnny Miller!" Announcers say what's predictable. The player hits it 10 feet right of the hole, and the guy says, "It's 10 feet right of the hole." Well, thanks — I saw that. Tell me something else.

7. You're Never Too Old
My 63 at oa kmont might have been my most thrilling moment on a golf course, but it wasn't my happiest moment. Back in 1972, an old pro named Paul Harney won the San Diego Open Invitational, at Torrey Pines. Paul was in his forties and retired. He hadn't won in years. But he shows up out of nowhere and beats Hale Irwin by a stroke. As a kid in my twenties, I thought, "That was cool, to just show up and beat all the youngsters." I always had that in my hip pocket. In 1994, I had been an announcer for four years, playing one or two events a year. So it was a dream to step down from the booth and win the AT&T pro-am at Pebble, when I had no business doing it — and on my favorite course against my archrival Tom Watson. It felt so great to show the young guys, "That Johnny Miller must be pretty good." That was golfing joy to the max!