Yesterday I played a qualifier for the KornFerry Tour’s Wichita Open happening later this week. There were two qualifying sites around the Wichita area and I was put in the field to play at Sand Creek Station in Newton, KS. There were 161 guys between the two sites and 8 spots up for grabs (4 from each site). The weather was perfect, the course in good shape, and every player ready to go low in true “Monday Qualifying” fashion.
Morgan and I arrived in Newton, KS, on Wednesday June 7th. We set up at the Cottonwood Grove RV Park about 15 minutes away from the golf course and over the next 4 days I spent time on the golf course and the practice facility preparing my game for the qualifier. Thursday was a heavy day of mechanical practice, Friday I played the front 9 as well as a full game practice session, Saturday I spent my time working around the practice green on short-game and putting, and Sunday was an 18 hole practice round. By the time Monday rolled around, I knew my game was in good shape and all I needed to do was trust it.
I played the practice round on Sunday with a guy named Brad Golden. I met him a few years ago in the Oklahoma Open and over the last year and a half he has helped me a lot with my swing and developing game. I have never met someone who understands the swing as well as him and he has gained a lot of wisdom throughout his career so time with him is well spent. More importantly, he is a devout Christian, and I admire his devotion to the Lord and his journey of faith as I learn more about his story. He and his wife graciously invited Morgan and I to dinner with them Sunday evening and I’m thankful for their company and encouragement!
So far this year, I have played some steady rounds of golf. My consistent play has awarded me a few top 5 finishes in smaller events, but my game has been lacking the power and flow of momentum. I am often hitting many fairways and greens but settling for rounds of 69-74 because I don’t allow myself to make putts. I stand over a putt with hesitation and fear because I have convinced myself of a couple things : 1) strokes on the green are worth more than shots from the fairway or tee box, therefore, a missed putt is more detrimental to scoring. 2) only a perfect putting stroke will get the ball in the hole. Because of these thoughts, it has become difficult for me to let go and stroke the putt just like I do on the practice green. Even during the practice round, Brad noticed I was tense and tentative on the greens. If I could just hold a little more confidence in my ability, my performance could change for the better in a hurry. This qualifying round painted that picture clearly.
As I went into my 11:40 tee time, I was keeping in mind some truths that we discussed over dinner the night before. I am a great player. The putting stroke (and golf swing) do not have to be perfect. My identity is not found in the number on the scorecard. I wanted to play this round as freely as possible. In total trust and peace with every swing and stroke. There was nothing to lose!
I got off to a nice start making par on the first and birdie on the second. My swing was good and even though my nerves were a little heightened on the greens, I was producing a slightly smooth and relaxed stroke. Good progress. I got tense on the 5th green and stabbed a putt from 2 ft that hit the lip hard and remained out of the hole. 3 putt bogey. I told myself it was only 1 shot and I moved onto the sixth tee box with peace of mind. My next tentative stroke came on the 8th after hitting my approach shot to about 10 ft. Birdie opportunity missed. The same thing would happen on the 9th, 10th, and 11th. Even though every shot has a value of 1, I was starting to feel them add up. I remained calm and focused on the moment. The next few holes I continued a streak of pars until I made birdie on the par 5 16th. This birdie brought my overall score back to even. I knew even par would not be good enough to qualify, but I still wanted to give every shot my full attention and effort. I 3 putted hole 17 from about 25 ft and I walked to 18 with a little frustration. Trying to hit my bread and butter fade down the fairway, I got the ball sliding right too hard with the wind. It would end up bouncing OB. I tapped in for double after missing a 5 ft putt for bogey. 3 over in the last two and a 3 over par 75 to finish.
9/14 fairways. 14/18 greens. 35 total putts. 1 ball OB. Two 3 putts. And 7 putts missed inside 10 ft.
As I move on from this event, I am not discouraged but rather encouraged and motivated as I head straight into the next one. I have seen improvement in my physical game as the year has passed and I know there are some good weeks ahead. My main objective is to play with a little more freedom and peace so that I can access my true fluid motion and get the most out of my ability. I also believe playing with more confidence equals more faith and confidence in the Lords plan for me. I know that is where my identity comes from.
Morgan and I are now on our way up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the start of the 2023 Dakotas Tour season. I will play most of the events this tour is putting on between now and the first week of September. Follow my Instagram and subscribe to his blog if you want to keep up with the journey! Back to work!