Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Jul 11, 2007 – Eric Heyl – No one is suggesting an intervention. Not just yet. But given his increasingly compulsive behavior, it has become obvious that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has a condition for which he should seek help.
The mayor is a problem golfer. Someone had to say it. Might as well be me — or maybe even an expert on such matters. We’ll see if we can locate one a bit later. Ravenstahl managed to keep his love of the links hidden during his first months in office. But that was during the fall and winter, where the word “handicap” to local duffers usually means a course covered with snow.
The first sign that perhaps Ravenstahl, 27, takes the sport a bit too seriously surfaced in May, with reports that he had crashed an Oakmont Country Club event to meet Tiger Woods.
A situational sand trap arose for the mayor when country club officials told him that the American Express-sponsored soiree with Woods was private. Ravenstahl got out of it by showing up anyway.
He missed par on good manners that day. But the incident was nothing compared to the mayor’s recent common sense double-bogey.
The mayor skipped a June 28 City Council hearing on the promotion of three police officers linked to allegations of domestic violence or disturbances.
The outrage expressed by many women’s groups at the time was further fueled last week, when the Tribune-Review reported that Ravenstahl missed the hearing to play in a charity golf tournament in which the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center paid $27,000 for the mayor and two UPMC executives to participate.
That would be the same UPMC that until recently employed David White, the mayor’s new $88,000-a-year director of public affairs and frequent — you saw this coming, didn’t you? — golf partner.
I related the above circumstances Tuesday to John F. Murray, a nationally renowned sports and clinical psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. I sought Murray’s opinion on whether the mayor’s golf habit has spiraled out of control.
“People can get so enamored by a sport that they might not always think clearly as to what their responsibilities are,” he said. “In this particular case, as you presented it, there appears to be a minor– if not a major — obsession.”
Murray believes he can help Ravenstahl tame that obsession, and he offered the mayor several free counseling sessions over the phone.
“He’s apparently dealing with insecurities about his game,” Murray said. “The mental skills lessons I teach can help him focus better and play more efficiently.”
Might those lessons apply to other aspects of life?
“I get that question a lot from parents who hire me to work with their top junior athletes,” Murray said. “The lessons learned in golf psychology can increase confidence. They can teach people to set their goals properly, to be resilient, to maintain passion but control emotion. The principles definitely are applicable to other areas.”
Lest he continue to let what should be a harmless preoccupation interfere with what should be his primary occupation, Ravenstahl might want to give this guy a call.
Eric Heyl is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.