I hope everyone has had a successful end to their seasons and although the temperatures have now become more Baltic, hope that hasn’t stopped everyone getting out on the course. Having worked at golf courses I’m sure it hasn’t, we golfers are a mad lot out in any type of weather. I apologise that it has been a few months since my last blog, it has been a very busy end to the season for me. For those that have followed my scores over that time via Twitter or the Alps Tour website, will know it has been somewhat up and down, which is probably an understatement, 3 wins, 1 top 5 and 6 missed cuts.
I had a frustrating couple of weeks following my previous blog, having to pull out of St Malo in France on the evening before I travelled, with a locked up SI joint in my lower back (anyone who has had this will back me up when I say it was very painful). Luckily I was only out for 2 weeks, but it meant I headed into Madrid a little rusty. Ironically I was -4 through 8 holes and 1 shot off the lead when I came to the driveable 9th, 270 yards long over water I hit 3 wood which landed pin high, landing on a sprinkler and bouncing 50 yards through the back and Out Of Bounds. I didn’t take it well and unravelled shooting +2 and going on to miss the cut. Then came the summer break, a month off from Alps events and a chance to practice back in the UK.
Playing week after week is great when you are playing well as it gives you a chance to get on a roll, however when you aren’t playing as you’d like the limited time between the events is taken up by travel days and practice rounds at courses you don’t know. Something I’ve certainly learnt this year is the value of a good schedule which allows for maintenance work on your game throughout the season. The summer break was a welcome chance to do just that, and it worked brilliantly (3rd Place in the Surrey Open, 5th in the Southern Open and Winning the Sussex PGA Championships) in my 3 events back here in the UK. I managed to take the form into the first event back on Alps as well, shooting 67,71,68 -10 to finish 4th, earning my first World Ranking points and up to 1500th in the World.
This was just the beginning of an end to the season which was one of the most bizarre few weeks and some of the most testing times I’ve faced in the game. Starting at European Tour Q School, I had travelled out the week previous with my coach to scope out the course, Hardelot in France. A beautiful tree lined course near Calais, it was in great condition and I was really excited to get going, my 2nd attempt at Q School after a disappointing effort in 2015. However my putter was stolen just before the first round and I had to rush to the pro shop to buy a new one, 385 euro’s was the cheapest and had little choice but to buy it. The stress obviously took its toll, Q School is brutal enough as it is without the putter situation and I had a sudden Migraine come on midway through the round, it stayed for 5 holes and I dropped 10 shots in those holes. I battled on for the next 2 rounds and played some good golf but was never going to make the 2nd stage from that position. It was hard to take missing out like that, playing bad golf you can accept but to have all that happen in a week you’ve worked towards for 12 months is gut wrenching. Everyone looks to Q School as their ticket to the big time, just 8 good rounds and you get to 3rd stage with your European Tour card within your grasp. But one bad round and it’s all over for another 12 months.
This left me knowing that my season came down to the penultimate event in Italy, make the cut and I am in the Grand Final and with it keep my card on Alps, miss the cut and I’m back to Alps Tour Qualifying in December. I travelled there fairly confident despite what happened at Q School, I was playing well and all I had to do is play solidly and make the cut, something I was more than capable of doing! When we landed however I felt terrible, whenever I get ill I always have a sore throat and on this occasion my throat was red raw. It turned out to be Tonsilitis and I spent the 2 practice days in bed, or in the bath trying to get fit to play. I probably should have pulled out but that meant I was guaranteed to miss out on the Final, so I chose to play. Coming to the 3rd I was Level par, 180 yards over water, I pulled my tee shot into the water. On the yardage chart it showed a drop zone and the previous year the drop zone was the same so I went about taking the drop, got up and down for 4 and moved on. It was only after the round I found out that the Drop Zone had
been taken out of use the day before, I wasn’t to know as I was in bed. I ended up with a 2 shot penalty for playing a ball from the wrong place unknowingly and a 2 shot penalty for signing the wrong score unknowingly, with that went my chances of making the cut. While what happened at that event was almost as tough to take as Q School, over the season as a whole I was not consistent enough. I missed cuts where I shouldn’t have and had too many rounds where I turned an average round into a poor one.
This year has been an emotional rollercoaster, I’ve spent nights questioning if it’s really all worth it had times on the course when I wish I could just walk off and never come back to this stupid game, but at the same time I’ve learnt more than I could have ever imagined. It’s shown me that when I’m at my best I can easily mix it at the highest level, but that I need to be more consistent. It’s shown me that my Short Game is at a very good level, my stats haven’t been far behind some of the best in the world. It’s shown that my Long Game is holding me back, and has allowed me to sit down with my coach and make some needed changes to make me less reliant on my timing and more consistent technically. Mentally I need to learn how to deal with bad situations and accept that not every round can be my best round, the best players turn their worst rounds into 72’s and I turn mine into 78’s. The biggest thing it has shown me is that I want it more than I ever thought I did, despite all the knockbacks, I’m more motivated than ever to make 2017 my best year.
I head into the winter, knowing exactly what I need to improve and exactly how good I need to be come February when the first Alps event starts. I’ve sat down with my coach and we’ve highlighted the parts of my swing that make me inconsistent, the parts that make the difference between my good shots and my bad shots too big. I’m in the gym working on being stronger and fitter so that I can deal with the travelling and sometimes gruelling schedule. Working with my Sports Psychologist on dealing with those bad situations, and focussing on the process of shooting a good score rather than the score itself. Obviously I have Alps Qualifying in December in Spain and I have to be mindful not to tear my game apart too much, but I have a good team around me and I trust that I will be in a good enough place to qualify, rather than relying on invites.
I hope everyone is taking the chance to do something similar with their game it doesn’t matter what level you are at, knowing exactly where your game is and what parts of the game let you down allows you to practice properly and see improvements. Too many people just hit balls on the range and expect to see big improvements that will only happen if it is your long game that is holding you back. I hope to see you all over the winter when I’m up there practicing. For those who haven’t met me yet, I’m the one who always has lots of tees all over the putting green haha.