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Interview: Mike Gray from Life in the Rough

Written by  on Thursday, 03 February 2011
Blogger and golf fanatic, Mike Gray, 36, writes for Life in the Rough - a blog charting his quest to become a golf pro. He answers Leaderboard's questions and tells us about striving for perfection, overcoming the ceaseless hurdles and how blogging keeps him on the straight and narrow to achieveing his goals.
 
How did you get into golf?

 
I've always been interested in sports, so it was probably inevitable, but the catalyst for me was getting a job at a golf course during the summer while I attended college. That made it easy to get immersed in the game, even though I was a college student without a lot of money to spare. I worked there for four or five years so naturally, I got in a lot of rounds in that time.
If you had to name one thing you love the most about golf, what would it be?


I love that golf is a continual challenge. There's really no way to achieve perfection so, no matter what level you rise to, there's always more. A weekend player might be looking to break 100 or 90 or even 70, while Tiger Woods is looking to break Jack Nicklaus' major record. If and when they meet those challenges successfully, there's always another challenge around the corner. It never gets old because whatever the next hurdle may be, it feels so close that you can't bear to not keep trying.
 
What has been your favourite golfing moment personally?


It's hard to pick a particular shot or round, but I always find it most satisfying when I'm working on my swing at the range and after a long while something just clicks. There's kind of a moment of euphoria where the hard work pays off. Of course, that's a short-lived thing and there's always something else to improve or fix, but those are the moments that keep me coming back.
What has been your favourite professional golfing moment?


Some of the dominant major wins that Tiger Woods has had are among my favourites, like Pebble Beach or the Masters, but I just can't get over Tom Watson's performance at the Open Championship in 2009, even though he didn't win. I was becoming a fan of the game at the tail end of his career on the PGA Tour. By then, a lot of the greats from the 60s, 70s, and 80s had faded into the sunset or were close to doing so. Getting to watch Tom Watson in the hunt that week felt like having a taste of those other decades that I wasn't really a part of, in a fan sense.
 
How did you get into blogging?


A friend of mine encouraged me to do it. I was always talking about wanting to become a golf pro and I've always liked writing but didn't really have an outlet for it. He encouraged me to take up blogging about becoming a pro because it gives a level of accountability to my goals. It forces me to be honest with myself about my goals and what I'm doing to achieve them because there are people watching. Since then, it has become something more. I've come to enjoy it on its own, instead of just a means to an end.
Which other golf blogs or news sites do you read?

 
There are a lot of really good golf blogs out there but I have a relatively small number of them in my RSS reader because it's just too difficult to keep up. I really like Waggle Room. And I've also followed Ryan Ballengee as he transitioned over to NBC Sports from there. I read Stephanie Wei. Also, Golf Girl's Diary. One guy that doesn't get enough credit, or maybe he does and I just don't know it, is Neil at Armchair Golf Blog. His writing is engaging, informative and clever, especially when he delves into parody and satire.
What makes a good golf blog?

 
Without a doubt, it must be genuine. Pretending to be something else is a no-no because people see right through it. For instance, I'm trying to become a golf pro, so naturally I give tips, but I don't try and pretend that I know everything about the game and I certainly don't pretend that I'm already a pro, because I'm not. If I took that approach, it would be transparent and people would see through it. There are a lot of golf blogs out there that write in a more journalistic way. It works when they put a unique spin on the events of the day. It doesn't work when someone pretends to be a journalist and just regurgitates information gotten from other sources.
Do you follow any golfers / golf fanatics on Twitter?


I follow a ton of golf people on Twitter. Outside of my relatively small network of family, friends and co-workers it's mostly golfers for me. There are a lot of good ones out there. I especially love the banter of some of the tour pros. I love watching guys like Westwood, Poulter, Watson, Fowler and others giving each other a good ribbing. It shows that they're not a bunch of uptight, starched-collar guys.
Do you think the golfing industry is using social media well?

 
The golfing industry is certainly using social media, but I'm not sure how well. There's a fine line between promoting a brand and engaging in spammy behaviour. Engaging people is a good thing, but it can quickly become a nuisance.
 
Do you think golf courses could benefit by using the internet and social media?

 
I think every golf course can benefit from the internet. I should be able to visit the website for a course, get information about it, see photos, find out what the rates are, how much a membership is, see what kinds of other services they provide and be able to easily contact someone if I desire.  Social media is a different animal, to me anyway. Social media helps to reach a very broad audience. Unless a golf course is (or wants to be) a travel destination, then the vast majority of effort they put into reaching people should be focused in their region, where almost all their play is going to come from. Places like Myrtle Beach bring in players from all over the world, so courses there can probably benefit from social networking. But my home course isn't really bringing people to town so spending time on Twitter probably isn't going to provide as much benefit. At least until social media becomes more pervasive. In the meantime, tweeting today's green fee special to five people that might realistically play there is probably not worth the effort.
Do you buy golfing equipment online? What are some of your favourite places?


I spend most of my online golf equipment money at www.tgw.com. They have everything I want, the prices seem good to me and it's easy to get clubs customised there.
Do you watch golf tutorials online? If so, where? What is great about them?

 
Occasionally I'll watch instructional videos on YouTube. It's convenient because I can just pop in and find something specific that I want to see. There's a lot of instruction, but not a lot of good, comprehensive, golf instruction online. My theory on that is that it's much more lucrative for well-known pros to sell books and videos than to create tons of content for the web. And the pros that aren't well known can do much better standing on the range all day giving lessons. However, I do think technology is going to change that trend, so I'm expecting more good golf instruction on the web in the next five years.
 
What are your golfing and blogging goals for 2011?

 
My short-term golfing goal is to make a couple of specific changes to my swing that need to be made to increase my consistency and control. Aside from that, I'm just going to keep learning and working on my game to continue to score lower. My primary blogging goal for 2011 is to include more video and audio content. I experimented with a podcast last year that I enjoyed doing, but never made it a regular feature. And I want to do more video analysis of my swing to underscore the things that I like to write about.


Mike Gray writes for http://www.lifeintherough.com  - a blog about his journey turning pro.

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Paul Gibbons

Paul Gibbons is responsible for the overall running and development of the company.

Paul originally started Leaderboard in the late 90s, after selling his share of the Auto Trader. He gradually added new sites to the roster and now Leaderboard are the proud owners of four courses and the Leaderboard Golf Centre.

Paul enjoys being the Chairman of Leaderboard Golf profoundly and finds his role highly engaging and rewarding. He particularly enjoys working with his great team and developing new and exciting ideas for the Leaderboard brand – for example Paul has been instrumental in Leaderboard's quest to become 'The Authority for Golf Online'.

Paul states that his work is made all the more enjoyable due to the support, creativity and vision that his wife Jennifer offers. She created the Oxfordshire Hotel, was responsible for the refurbishment of Dale Hill, the rebuild of Chart Hills and designed the new Hotel that is in planning at Sandford Springs.

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