chasing scratch

Listen to Kobe

How the Chasing Scratch podcasters plan to use the best piece of advice they’ve ever received

Editor’s Note: In 2023, more than 4,000 Broken Tee Society members committed to improving their games and their lives through The Index Experiment. It was a global exercise in community-driven improvement, and the results bore out the hypothesis: Golf is hard, but progress is easier together. It’s a lesson that Mike and Eli from Chasing Scratch have been preaching for years. So as we move into Year 2 of this grand experiment, we asked them what they’re taking into the new year. We were shocked by their honesty on how they nearly cancelled the show, and the mindset change that led them to a renewed commitment in 2024. Take their words to heart, and start working toward your best golf by joining the 2024 Index Experiment here.

“What’s the name of your podcast?”

For the first six years of our show, it was the question I always tried to avoid. But it was my job, and my young daughter loved to loudly advertise this fact to complete strangers.

“Chasing Scratch,” I would say, cringing inside.

I never really examined why I had that reactionuntil last year. The year our show almost didn’t happen.

During the first few seasons, Eli and I felt great about ourselves as we quickly shredded our 11 handicaps down to 3s. But that improvement stalled over the next few years, and in 2022, our handicaps started going in the wrong direction. The sense of constant failure started to take its toll. We thought we were out of levers to pull, out of things to try, and just about out of belief that we could accomplish our goal. At the end of that year, we seriously considered calling it quits.

Then Dr. J stepped in. Dr. Jason Novetsky is our mental coach, and he made a plea to us at the end of Season 5 that we redefine success. He implored us to focus on growth over outcomesto focus on what we learn rather than the number on the index.

Our initial reaction to this was not good. We thought we were above it. Redefine success? That’s just a nice way of saying give up. What we heard was, “Guys, we’ve all seen that you’re obviously not capable of reaching this goal, so why don’t you just try to have fun while you fail.”

Luckily, Dr. J brought reinforcements. Enter Kobe Bryant.

He sent us this YouTube video, which features author Brett Ledbetter describing Kobe’s mentality and includes a few clips of Kobe discussing failure. You should watch it, but in summary, Kobe claims that failure doesn’t exist. Because in his world, as long as you’re learning, you are progressing. And that is a win.

Finally, it hit us: If Kobe Bryant placed growth over outcomes, who are we to be above that?

Mike (left) and Eli, pictured at Chicago’s Highlands of Elgin GC, before the Mamba Mentality entered their golfing lives. Photos: Kohjiro Kinno

It turns out that there’s plenty of YouTube videos where Kobe goes deep on his Mamba Mentality, and Eli and I spent the next few weeks consuming all of them. Our mindsets changed. As soon as we started looking for ways to grow instead of ways to get to scratch, we found myriad new strategies for improvement. All the barriers that seemed insurmountable suddenly disappeared. We even added a piece of (hopefully) uplifting background music to play whenever we jumped into a Mamba Mentality segment in the show.

This mindset led to a newfound blunt and sometimes brutal honesty with ourselves. Every week, live on the podcast, we uncovered mental baggage we didn’t know we had, learning that the biggest issues holding us back in golf were the same ones holding us back in life.

The 37 episodes of the 2023 season chronicle our improvement into better friends, husbands, fathers, coaches, employees, and yes, golfers, due to this mindset shift. For me, perhaps the biggest change came from this Kobe quote:

“The greatest fear you face is yourself, because we all have dreams, and it’s very scary sometimes to accept the dream that you have. And it’s scarier still to say, ‘OK—I want that.’ It’s scary because you’re afraid if you put your heart and soul into it, and you fail, then how are you going to feel about yourself? Being fearless means putting yourself out there and going for it, no matter what—not for anybody else, but for yourself.”

When I heard this, I immediately realized that I am not fearless. For my entire lifegrowing up, in school, playing sports, at work, as a parent—I’ve been afraid to accept my goals. It was how I protected myself against failure. When I had a stated goal, I would subconsciously—but purposely—under-prepare to meet it. I always held something back, even if it was just 1%, to build an excuse. That way if I didn’t achieve it, I could tell myself that I didn’t really try.

I could suddenly see this everywhere, even in the name of our podcast. It may sound bold and fearless: “Chasing Scratch.” But right underneath the name, in the description box, we wrote this: “Two guys. One goal. Zero chance.”

It was clever, we thought. But in this new light, it was a clear subconscious defense mechanism. It gave us an out. It was this little subhead of protection saying, See, we knew we were going to fail—we called it from the start!

And then it hit me: That is why I cringed when telling people the name. Because it sounded fearlessbut I wasn’t. It stated a goal I didn’t have the courage to accept without a self-deprecating subhead to protect my ego.

So, for the 2024 season, we got rid of that subhead. No disclaimer needed—we’re officially Chasing Scratch.

chasing scratch

Join The Index Experiment

For more life and game advice from Mike, Eli, Dr. J. and Kobe, check out this TGJ podcast episode with Chasing Scratch:

Episode 130: Still Chasing Scratch The Golfer's Journal Podcast