Emmett Cary Middlecoff was a golfer on the PGA Tour from 1947 to 1961. His 40 tour wins place him 10th all-time and he won three major championships.

But Middlecoff graduated as a dentist from University of Tennessee in 1944. He gave up his practice at age 26 to become a full-time tour golfer. Back problems and struggles with his nerves during competition ended his career in the early 1960s, when he was only in his early 40s.

Middlecoff, who died at age 77 in 1998, became a top player despite having one leg slightly shorter than the other. After retirement, he developed a reputation as one of the best early golf TV analysts.

So, while most professional golfers couldn’t do a root canal to save their life, the message here is that we all have opportunities to change what we do.

A classic Dr. Cary Middlecoff 4-wood golf club.
A classic Dr. Cary Middlecoff 4-wood. (Photo courtesy of Dr. David Slobodinsky)

Who we are today is not who we have to be tomorrow. Most people won’t change because it takes effort to do so. I hear dentists say the future isn’t what it used to be because of corporate dentistry.

“I always think before an important shot: What is the worst that can happen on this shot? I can whiff it, shank it, or hit it out of bounds. But even if one of those bad things happens, I’ve got a little money in the bank, my wife still loves me, and my dog won’t bite me when I come home.” – Dr. Cary Middlecoff

Many students I talk to want a fee for service practice but aren’t willing to put the effort needed to do so. They talk about the high cost of continuing education and taking the time to train a team. My only regret in my journey was that I didn’t start sooner in my career.

How much money is lost by not living your dream? What is the amount of lost enjoyment by not living your dream?

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

I always ask the students I work with in Spear’s occlusion workshops how much of the “Facially Generated Treatment Planning” workshop they had incorporated into their practices. Most give excuses why they have not incorporated much.

I believe you should take twice as many non-clinical courses than clinical courses if you want to be a successful leader and have a great team and practice. More importantly you need the time to plan how you will get these things into your life.

If you share your vision with your team and they understand why, it is very likely the transition will become a group effort and everyone will have fun and be more profitable.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

For Dr. Middlecoff to realize his dream of becoming a professional golfer he had to spend many hours practicing with a coach to hone his skills to compete at a very high standard. Are we any different?

I started golfing at age 40 and became a nine handicap in three years. Then injury and lack of time doubled it. Now I am committed to practice twice as much as I play and meet with my teacher regularly.

I am working to have more free time. Trying to improve my golf is part of my plans. My handicap is going in the right direction and I am having fun again.

Carl E. Steinberg, D.D.S., M.A.G.D., L.L.S.R. (www.DentistryinPhiladelphia.com ) is a member of Spear Visiting Faculty and a contributor to Spear Digest.