I played in the Willow Creek Club Championship this past weekend. This is the golf course I became a member at after moving down into Houston 8 months ago. I was excited to compete on this course and find out the level of play other members would bring. The course is short and fairly tight. It’s kind of an old-school design and a bit quirky, definitely made for good ball striking but very scoreable if you keep it in play.
I was able to practice and prepare for this event just like any other. I spent some time playing the course and practiced all parts of my game to sharpen up before the competition. I expected myself to win the tournament because I know I am a great player and, in my experience, club championships do not bring high levels of performance from the field.
Unfortunately, I did not win and the experience from this event was nothing I could have dreamed up. Here is how it all unfolded:
The first round got off to a shaky start. I was a little loose and all over the golf course. Made several compound mistakes leading to 2 double bogeys in the round and with only 2 birdies, I never gained good momentum to shoot a solid score. 12 out of 18 greens and 32 total putts brought me to a weak 5 over par 77. I couldn't believe I shot 5 over as I walked off the course that day, but this was just the beginning.
For the rest of the day, I spent time with my fiancee and tried not to think much about golf. I figured I would be out of the mix but within reach shooting a low final round, so I knew I would need to play solid the next day. That evening, I got an email with the scores and pairings in which I learned I was leading the tournament! I wasn’t even sure how to feel about it (because 5 over par didn’t feel like I earned the lead), but I was at least excited and thankful I would get to experience going into the last day with the lead and playing in the final group.
A little after 8:30 PM I received a voicemail from the "golf course" wanting to confirm starting times and pairings for the next day. I called back to confirm and I was informed some members of the club were not happy with me. Apparently, they had found my content on social media, learned that I play pro golf and that I give lessons and people were starting to get mad about it.. or for some other reason that I didn’t quite understand. I was told to show up at the course the next morning with some thick skin for whatever might be said to me upon arriving. I was VERY confused about the whole situation and it certainly caught my attention but I wasn’t worried and I just wanted to focus on playing.
As I was on the way to the course the next morning, I got a text stating that the phone call I had received was a prank call.. and after arriving at the course I learned that new members are pranked as a form of welcome. At this point, I just wanted to tee it up, play some golf, and take care of the competition. With only a one-shot lead, I didn’t have a lot of room at the top, but a solid round of golf would get the job done.
I started off the final round with steady play. Made pars on the first 5 holes without any stress and I was starting to feel a good flow. It began to rain as we were starting the 6th hole and play became suspended for 30ish minutes. After play resumed, I had a lot of trouble finding my rhythm and previous focus which caused some errant play. I was all over the course again and struggling on the greens. My round progressively got worse and I tapped in on the last hole for an 84.. ouch.
I am so disappointed in my performance for this event and it was very hard to swallow throwing down 77 84. I am not discouraged as I move on from this event and I know there are some valuable things to take away:
First: My struggle on the course is not physical. I perform at very high levels day in and day out in practice. It is my mind that is the problem. My mentality during competition is not allowing me to play at my best. Once I step into a tournament, I have a hard time trusting myself and my ability which causes a lot of high scores. Also, I showed mental weakness in the way that I handled the prank call. As I progress in this game, people are always going to be messing with me or trash-talking, etc. there will always be noise and the level of golf I expect myself to play at will only increase. I need to be mentally strong if I am going to handle the noise of being a professional golfer and play at a world-class level consistently.
Second: I am not in control. I have played golf for a little over 11 years now. Competing as a junior, high schooler, college athlete, and now professional for 2 years. The opportunity I have had in this game has been a blessing from God and I want to be a good steward of what He has given me. I work very hard and I believe this is what He has made me for, but that doesn’t mean my career will unfold as I see fit. Over the last few years, I have played a lot of bad golf with a few good tournaments sprinkled in. My struggle has been a huge motivator and I have a competitive hunger for success, BUT I know success will come when God knows that I am ready for it and when it is according to His will. He has a perfect plan. All I have to do is be disciplined in my trust, obedience, and patience.
This tournament was unlike any I had experienced before, but I don’t look back on it with negativity. I love to play golf and I had a great time playing. My fiancee got to ride along in the cart with me for all 36 holes which was a blast. She has been so encouraging and supportive and I am SO thankful for her. This was another piece of my journey in this game and now I can move on with gained knowledge and experience to continue chasing after my biggest goals.