Written by Carl Vigeland, this article first appeared in Sports Illustrated, Vol.93 Issue 25 pg. G21 (December 18, 2000).
Sometimes the greatest gifts in golf are the ones we give ourselves. Last week at the PGA Tours Q school, 39-year-old Jeff Julian of Norwich, Vt., gave himself back his career. He did it using an unusual technique that is popular with actors and musicians.
Julian was mini-tour and regional golfer for six years until he earned his card at Q school and participated on the Tour in 1996. However, his neck and shoulders were in constant pain; he made only nine cuts in 26 starts and lost his Tour card.
Back on the Nike your, the pattern persisted. Julian won one tournament and missed many cuts. This year he had only a provisional exemption on the Buy.com tour and won a measly $2,880. Then a friend introduced him to the Alexander Technique.
Nearly a century ago British actor F. Matthias Alexander found that when he recited Shakespeare he experienced stress and lost his voice. The problem became so acute that Alexander quit the stage. Seeking answers to his malady, he gradually developed the therapeutic technique that carries his name. Focusing on the physiological benefits of relaxed neck and proper posture when sitting, standing and walking, the Alexander Technique emphasizes body over mind as the path to the calm inner state needed to perform well.
“I could feel fine and suddenly have neck aches, backaches. Competition was creating these pains,” Julian says. As he practiced the technique, his neck started to feel better and his game began to improve. At PGA West La Quinta, Calif., last week he reached the final hole on the final day of Q school after consecutive bogeys at 16 and 17 dropped him to 17 under. The top 35 at 15 under and better would earn their cards, but at the time Julian figured 16 under was the magic number. After a poor drive and approach shot on the par-4 18th, Julian left himself an eight-iron to the green.
Focused, breathing calmly, Julian summoned from his study of the Alexander Technique a sense of being open to that moment. He felt his shoulders widen and his arms lengthen. He made a good swing. The ball landed on the green about 20 feet from the pin. With two putts for a bogey, Julian rejoined golf’s most exclusive fraternity.