As the competition gets younger and stronger, the 44-year-old Cink is showing no signs of slowing down. With three top-10 finishes and $1.46 million in earnings in 2017, the former Open champion enjoyed his best year since 2010.
The secret to his success? A somewhat-disciplined workout regimen, mental exercises, and stealing a few nutrition habits from his younger competitors.
“The younger guys seem to buy in to the connection between nutrition and performance,” Cink said. “I definitely see a shift happening.”
During a recent email Q&A, Cink expanded upon several topics, including his diet, staying fit on the road, and the resurgence of Tiger Woods.
Q: How do you train to maintain your stamina and strength?
A: My training is a mix of cardio and resistance training. For cardio training, I seek programs that have regimented schedules. Like so many people, I lack discipline to do it on my own! Orange Theory is a favorite of mine. It’s open daily at many varied times and has locations around the world for easy access.
Q: How do you prepare mentally before a tournament?
A: Mental performance in golf is one of the areas where you can separate yourself from the talented tournament fields we face week in and week out. A significant component of mental strength is knowing yourself well. One major goal of mine each week is to use experience to learn and grow as a golfer. I’m constantly going over what went right and what went wrong in the most recent events. I like to combine the recent feedback with time-tested experience to be ready for anything during a tournament week.
Q: Do you have a workout routine you follow while on the road?
A: I feel like I get most of my good work done while on the road. My trainer, Joelle Daniel, keeps me in line. At home I’m less consistent. But even if you can’t do it all, it’s better to get in something than nothing.
Q: How does your diet impact your performance and ability to compete?
A: I learned early on in my career how sugar spikes and drops can have seriously negative impacts on performance. I try to keep constant levels during competition rounds. So I don’t eat large meals beforehand, and I try to eat a little along the way throughout the round. In the long term, we are just beginning to uncover the links between nutrition — especially gut health — and such competitively sensitive factors like focus and energy.
Q: What specific foods do you eat during a round?
It’s easy to carry bars in my golf bag, but those are dangerously high in fat and sugar. The best on-course snacks are moderate in both fat and sugar, and also have some protein. You want foods that the body will metabolize slowly. About the worst thing you can do is down soft drinks, sports drinks, or alcohol. Specifically, I like to carry Julie’s Real Grain Free Granola, and bars by GoMacro. I’ll also eat an apple most days.
Q: Have you picked up any healthy habits from more senior golfers?
A: Actually, the habits I’ve picked up have been from younger players. Players are eating during the rounds, and eating clean fuels that are a balanced source or sustained energy, and not just grabbing whatever is available. It just seems like the younger generation is a little more informed about what they eat. That applies to golfers and non-golfers alike.
Q: How have your training habits changed as you’ve aged?
A: The main thing that’s changed has been where I do most of my training. When my kids were young and in school, I was traveling on the road alone most every week, so I wanted to do my training on the road and be freed up at home. As they went off to college, my wife began traveling with me, so I shifted my training more to home, so I could be freed up to spend more time with her on the road. Nowadays, I’ve gravitated back to getting a majority of training sessions in on the road.
Q: What does a typical training session on the road look like?
A: We’re fortunate to have a fitness trailer that travels on tour and functions as a full-service gym on wheels. It’s really nice to have the same equipment week to week. My training is tailored to what equipment I have available on the trailer. That being said, the trailer is well-equipped so we aren’t limited in very many areas at all. Typical workouts include some band work, core and balance exercises, and a ton of center-of-gravity adjustment drills that work all of the above.
Q: Do you set wealth + health goals tied to how long you want to play or the number of events you play each year?
A: I really don’t. Obviously, I try to hit the usual baselines and checkups for health upkeep. Our financial advisor makes sure we have a solid plan in place. This is my 22nd season, and I’ve settled into a naturally comfortable schedule. I usually play between 22 and 24 events per year — not by plan but it just works out that way.
Q: Are there benchmarks you use based on past tournament winners at different ages?
A: No benchmarks, but there are certainly names that I draw some confidence from. Players who have competed — and won — well into their 40s and even 50s. Guys like Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh, and Steve Stricker. More recently Phil Mickelson and even ... Tiger?
Q: So, we’ve gotta ask … what does it mean to the Tour to have Tiger back in the mix on a consistent basis?
A: It feels almost exactly like it did back in the late 1990s when Tiger was bursting on the scene. I’m happy for him and also for the fans, many of whom may have thought they would never get to see Tiger compete again.
Q: Are there any wealth + health tips you wish someone would’ve given you as a young golfer starting your pro career?
A: If I were able to mentor my “Rookie Year Self,” I would probably advise him two things financially. One, I would say mind your travel budget. Two, I would say carry the least amount of debt possible. I’ve done a very good job at both of those things especially as I’ve gotten into my 40s. Health wise, I would say the old adage applies today like it has for centuries: You are what you eat! I believe our nation has a food crisis right now and most people are unsuspecting victims. My wife has a slogan she picked up from one of her courses. It says “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s a simple mantra, but very difficult to do in our society.
Q: How does that mantra conflict with your skills on the competitive barbecue circuit?
A: As it turns out, we’re in the competition business of cooking barbecue and not eating it! Seriously, we don’t really get to eat much of it when we compete. It’s one bite that will win over the judges. So we try to mimic that one bite when we’re testing our turn-in samples.
Q: What indulgences do you allow yourself to have during the season and offseason?
A: Ski trips, chocolate, and coffee! I absolutely love to ski and try to schedule at least two trips to the mountains each season. And chocolate has become a passion (addiction?) of mine. Not just any chocolate but high cacao content (70% or more) dark chocolate. Several years ago, my wife and I gave up sweets and soda temporarily. In place of those nightly fixes, I began brewing decaf coffee. The soda embargo became permanent, but I added the good dark chocolate back in and now it’s almost a nightly ritual to brew a decaf and take down a few squares of that silky dark stuff.
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