Since my last post, I have played in 4 separate events. Each of these has been a single-round tournament or qualifier somewhere between Dallas and Houston.
On March 23rd I teed it up at Cypresswood in Houston for the pre-qualifier to the Valero Texas Open PGA Tour event. I was feeling really good about my game and spent a lot of time visualizing myself playing a successful round making it through to play at the VTO. Unfortunately, I would come up a few shots short of the top 7 players to make it through that qualifying round. I shot a round of 72 (even par) and missed by 4. Even though it was disappointing to miss that opportunity I felt great about my performance. My whole process between the preparation and performance was really solid. I felt present throughout that round and my practice was transferring to performance and that gave me a boost of confidence leaving that qualifier.
The next day (March 24th) Morgan and I woke up early and drove up to Dallas to play an 18 hole handicap event at Mesquite Golf Club. I was excited to play and wanted to pick up from where I left off the day before. This course was in very different shape than what I had previously played and I had also never seen this course before. My lack of knowledge and preparation for this specific event would cost me. I hit golf shots all over that course not knowing the correct lines to take. I allowed myself to get frustrated and with a birdie on the 18th hole, I carded a 9 over par 81.. to finish somewhere deep in the field. As Morgan and I drove back home to Houston, we talked a lot about my game that day. I felt my game was in the same shape as the day before but I certainly didn’t perform at the same level. I was making mental mistakes and allowing emotion to fog my focus and affect my rhythm. We also decided driving 3+ hours on the morning of a tournament round to play a course I had never seen was probably not my formula for success. Always learning.
My next event came on March 2nd. Another 18 hole handicap tournament at the Bearkat course (where Sam Houston has their practice facility). This was also a course I had never seen before, and applying the lessons learned from the previous event, I knew I needed to spend time preparing for this course. I was unable to get a practice round out there so Morgan and I drove up to Huntsville early on the tournament day. I jumped in a cart and drove around the 18 hole track taking a few notes on every hole and paying attention to green complexes. This way I was at least familiar with the layout when I would be stepping onto the tee for competition. I started off the round with a birdie but quickly gave it back with some early bogeys on the front. I never felt a lot of momentum during the round but I kept the ball in play and trotted along until the 16th hole. A drivable par four that turned into a double… an uncommitted swing off the tee turned into frustration. As I stood over my tee shot on the par 3 17th, I couldn’t get 16 out of my head. I gave my shot on 17 an unfocused, uncommitted swing that led to another double. Compound mistakes add up fast. I was able to refocus and make a birdie on the 18th but I would ultimately shoot a 76 and finish tied for 6th. As I was looking at the results later, I got to experience another lesson. Had I just made a par on 16 and 17, I would have shot 72 and finished in solo 2nd (also getting to bring home a check $$ they only paid the top 5 in this event). I knew my game was still in good shape, but I was allowing emotion and score to cloud my focus on the present moment. In this event, it cost me at least 4 shots and a paycheck. Lesson learned. Play one shot at a time and add them up at the end. I can only control my commitment and my reaction.
On April 9th I teed it up in Plano at Watters Creek. We decided to make a short trip out of it so that I could play a practice round the day before. I had spent the week practicing and I knew my game was ready to go. I was also being mindful of the lessons I had been taking from the previous events and I wanted to build upon those performances. This round got off to a solid start. Other than missing a couple of greens and saving par, my first face-off with adversity was when I skulled a pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker that ran 40 yards over the green and into a hazard. I walked off that hole with a double wondering why I couldn’t minimize the damage but I knew from the last round that thinking too much on the double would only cause another one. I needed to trust my process off the next box and get back to my rhythm. After making a birdie on the 11th, I gave an uncommitted swing off the 12th box. I felt doubt in my club selection as I was transitioning into my downswing. In an effort to slow down, I chunked the shot and it rolled into the water. From where I dropped, I tried to play a hero shot to save par from 190 to a tucked pin. My high draw with a 7 iron hit the front portion of the green and rolled backwards into the water... I walked off that green with a triple. I wanted to berate myself over that, but I knew my game was sharp and there were still 6 holes left if I could just commit to what I was doing. I refocused and got right back on track. Birdies on 14,17, and 18 helped me post a 1 over par 73 and tie for 2nd. Erasing the double and triple from the round would have put me in first by 4 shots.. a big lesson on commitment from this round, but also a lot of confidence taken from the way I got back to my game after the double and the triple.
I have much larger goals than to play in 18 hole handicap golf tournaments, but I believe I am on the right track for what I want to accomplish. The lessons I am learning and the progress I am seeing in practice and progress from tournament to tournament give me the confidence I can continue trending from here to the highest level of the game. I am thankful to God for the opportunity and ability He has given me to play and thankful to my wife for her endless support and encouragement. My next event is on Saturday in Houston so I will spend the week in preparation. You can check out my Instagram for the day-to-day! Time to get back to work.