February 1, 2013

Missie Berteotti: Training Golfers’Minds for Mastery

With a new book out, Missie Berteotti completes a goal she set after leaving the LPGA Tour to become a mother, teacher and role model for aspiring young competitors


Missie Berteotti left the LPGA Tour in 2000 to raise her newborn son, but never left golf. Berteotti teaches the game–the physical requirements of the swing plus the complex mental and emotional facets tournament play requires. A Pittsburgh native, she hangs her visor at two popular venues there: Rolling Hills Country Club and Cool Springs Golf and Family Recreation Center. The winner of more than $1.1 million during her 14-year LPGA career, Berteotti is the author of a new book titled Mental Mastery Program, which encompasses much of what she learned competing at the top echelon and listening to various mentors.

The beliefs and precepts of Dr. Bob Rotella and Fred Shoemaker have been particularly strong influences. Likewise, she has pursued competitive development from a fitness standpoint, studying yoga and golf fitness. She is certified to teach the demanding discipline of Lyengar Yoga. Her seminar credits include leadership coaching through Landmark Education, a global educational company that focuses on training and developing individuals and organizations. They say golf instruction is partly a science and partly an art, with learning styles and the teacher’s personality factoring in heavily. In this exclusive interview, Berteotti explores this concept, reflecting it through her roles as a teacher, a tour player and an at home mother.

Golf Range Magazine: You decided to retire after the birth of your son, Sam, in 1999. Why did you decide to leave the tour, instead of taking him along?

Missie Berteotti: A couple of my good friends out there–players who were my age–did that. They elected to stay on tour and raise their kids. I gave it a try and I didn’t like it at all. I would have my son in day care and I would be on the 10th hole thinking, “This is taking forever, I want to get off the course and get back to him.” That happened enough that I knew a change was needed, so I stopped playing competitively.

GRM: The right call for you?

MB: Yes, without a doubt. I’ve really enjoyed my 14 years at home with him. I have a great kid. Being home and cooking for him and attending all of his sporting events was the right choice for me. I didn’t want to hire somebody else to do that.

GRM: You focus a lot of your teaching these days on junior golfers. What appeals to you about that age group?

MB:I think my passion lies in juniors. I feel they want to be who I was–in that position, anyway, of being able to compete at the top level. They want to succeed and make it. I’ve lived that life. I know what hurt me and what helped me.

GRM: Are kids more coachable now or are they about the same as when you were growing up?

MB: I can give you two answers that are directly opposite. I would say on one hand that kids today are over-coached. They’re too open to having their swings fit a pre-set mold. Conversely, when it comes to other aspects of development, they are difficult to reach and persuade. Kids coming up now tend to be cocky. They feel entitled. I don’t think this generation has as much work ethic as past generations.

GRM: How do those two tendencies affect your approach to coaching juniors?

MB:To get their attention, I tell them they’re not unique. They are not the first kids to come along with some golf talent. I look them in the eye and say, in a caring manner: “I can predict what’s going to happen to you over the next 20 years. If you want to go alone and fly with the wind, you might get lucky; but if you want a firm foundation that’s going to give you a base, you have to develop yourself as a golfer and as a person.” I give them principles that have worked, such as taking responsibility.

GRM: You address a lot those subjects in your new book, Mental Mastery Program. How do you use the book to teach?

MB: We have seminars in the classroom. Obviously these lessons we have in the seminars can extend to the golf course and then to life. Whether you want to become a golf professional, a doctor, or just do well and enjoy your high-school years, it’s a matter of facing fear. We all doubt ourselves. Not everybody performs up to their potential. It’s about how we develop as a human being.

GRM: Here’s a question that moves up from the junior ranks to your adult students. What sort of approach do you see in them? Are they willing to do the work, or do see them falling into the quick-fix mode?

MB: Modern students, certainly in America, are too dependent on analysis. You have to know yourself and trust yourself on the golf course– whatever type of swing you have. I think that’s something the Europeans have demonstrated to us over the past couple of decades.

GRM: Do you find that some people don’t want to go through the mental aspect of the game and just say “Teach me how to swing?

MB: That’s not where improvement is going to come from. If you sit down in a classroom and learn and talk and have some ideas separated for you, it can really help your golf game. It’s not celebrated, but I think that’s really the foundation.

GRM:What are some of the tools you depend on most as a golf instructor?

MB:The diagnostics we have now are unbelievable–even in the area of putting. I’m new to a lot of that. Using those tools, I think, is great. What I really love are the practice complexes that have high-quality short-game areas. You can practice so productively at some of these ranges: Everything is just about perfect– golf balls, the turf, the bunkers, everything.

GRM: How do you network as a teacher?

MB: I feel like I’ve flown under the radar. I’m a mother first. My priorities have been such that I really didn’t want to teach that much. Word of mouth is about all I’ve relied on. I have a website but I don’t make a big push to generate traffic. But five years from now, when my son goes off to college, I want to do more, especially seminars on the mental side of the game. So as I do my networking in the future I’ll have that as a goal.