On Saturday, February 11th, I played in my second tournament of the 2023 season. The tournament was put on by the Fairway Golf Tour at Lincoln Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City. It was a pretty small field of players because its early in the year but there were still a handful of low handicap players coming to get their game sharpened up for the season.
If you read my blog about the first event I played this year, you know my takeaways were focused on the mental side of the game. I need to have an unbreakable mental strength if I am going to play at the highest level of the game. Leading into this event, I was putting forth time and effort every day to my mental game as well as the usual routines of physical practice and training. I felt confident as I was heading into this event and I could clearly visualize myself winning. As I reflect on my performance, I believe my efforts are proving to be a step in the right direction.
This was only an 18 hole tournament. Everyone paid $240 to enter and the winner would take a $1100. We played on the west course of Lincoln Park which stretches close to 7000 yards from the tournament tees as a par 71. The temperatures were cold but the sun was out and the wind was calm setting up for optimal weather conditions in early February. The course had recently received a lot of rain so even though the fairways and greens are dormant and very tight they were playing fairly soft.
I got off to a steady start making my first birdie on the third hole. After placing my tee shot in the middle of #5 fairway, I hit my approach shot fat leading to my first bogey of the round. It was a soft bogey. One that is easy to beat myself up about, but I knew I would have to deal with adversity during the round and this was the first opportunity to show how I can respond. I stepped up on the 6th tee box and striped a 3 wood into the center of the fairway. Knocking down a 9 iron from 134 yds, my approach shot landed on the green and rolled to within an inch of the hole leaving an easy tap in birdie to erase the bogey and get back to 1 under par. Smooth sailing followed as I made pars on the remaining front 9 holes.
I have always felt the back 9 on the west course was very score-able but it still demands good course management to take advantage of the birdie opportunities. As I made the turn, I felt determined and I knew my game plan was in place. I stood on the par 3 12th with a five iron in hand. 205 was the number to the front right pin. The wind was sightly hurting and left to right. I set up for a patent cut shot that would bleed towards the hole. Instead, I double crossed the swing and hit a shot starting left of the hole turning left into the far edge of the green side bunker. Clearly out of position. I now had a slight downslope lie in the bunker needing to cover a 4 foot lip and land on the green sloping away and hard left to right. The length of the shot was about 23 yards total. My mind was calm and as I stepped into the bunker, I knew it was like me to hit great shots out of green side bunkers. I do it all the time in practice. I executed the shot perfectly and poured in the putt for par which felt like a great momentum saving up and down.
I continued steady play with birdies on 13 and 15. As I was now coming down the stretch, thoughts about my score and results began floating around my head. I knew efficient play on the last few holes could post a pretty competitive number and winning was maybe within reach. But I also knew the only way to successfully close out the round was one shot at a time. How mentally strong could I be? A poor shot into the 17th would leave me on the very front of the green somewhere around 60 ft from the hole cut in the back. 3 putt.. as I watched my second putt from 5 ft subtly change direction as it went around the edge of the cup it was hard to not feel frustration. But too much emotion on the 17th green could pour over and affect performance on the 18th, so I remained unfazed.
The 18th hole is a short par 4 reaching 320 yards. There are fairway bunkers protruding from the right side at 255 yards cutting off the fairway and requiring the player to either carry them or lay up short. My game plan was the more aggressive option taking driver over the bunkers directly at the green. The hole was into the wind and I knew I would have to smash driver to reach the green but covering the bunkers shouldn’t be a problem and that would leave me with a pitch from somewhere short. I hit a great drive and came up 22 yards short of the front hole location. A pitch to 2 feet and a solid stroke gave me birdie on the last to shoot a 3 under par 68 finishing in 2nd place two shots behind the winner.
It felt good to post a red number on the scoreboard and finish in the top 2. I felt I had made progress from my performance in the first tournament to this one and its progress I will continue as the season gains momentum. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to play in this tournament, the results, and experience I gained. And of course walking away with a pay check from the day feels great and helps with the expenses of the season. God has provided exactly what I have needed and I move on from this event with peace, confidence, and determination. My game was solid but there are certainly things that can be cleaned up and improved upon after this performance. I will continue working as hard as I can and sharing my journey in this game as I chase my biggest dreams and ride the wild rollercoaster of professional golf!
I am hoping to tee it up in competition again next week but my schedule has changed a little bit as we are now going on 6 weeks that our truck has been in the shop and we have been unable to move the RV to follow the tournament schedule. Crossing our fingers we can get back on the road soon to ramp up the 2023 season! Going to be a big year.
Back to work!