This past week I played in the Golf AM Tour Nationals. I thought it would be useful to my readers to share my experiences of the past week here, and the lessons that it taught me.
Day 1: Leading up to the tournament’s first round I was very anxious, worried, and nervous about how the first round would go for me. The funny thing was, in the days leading up to the tournament I had good practice sessions and rounds, but a couple of days before Sunday, I felt my confidence in my putting slipping. I was making a lot of good putts, but they were not falling. During the first day, I got a good pairing with two nice fellows. I drove the ball well but could not score. I was making lots of pars but had some costly bogeys, a triple bogey, and no birdies. I was coming out of shots which really got me frustrated and upset with my game. After shooting 82 on the TPC Stadium course, I was not at all pleased with myself. I could have just left the golf course and thrown in the towel but I knew this was a 4 day event, and my focus was to try to improve the next day. So I hit some golf balls for about an hour, and started to feel good on the driving range.
I reflected to myself on the difference I felt at practice, versus how I felt when I had been on the golf course. Upon reflection, I discovered that I was doing a few fundamental things wrong on the golf course. I felt those on the range and was able to make those changes for the next round. Since my short game was not up to par, I hit a lot of pitch shots, and I also focused on my putting, since nothing fell for me on Day 1.
Day 2 - My focus was to make better swings and do the same things I was doing right on the range the day before. The day went better – I started out with two birdies on the first two holes, and for the most part I was doing the things I needed to do. I got some putts to go in, and I had better mental focus in the shots. The most challenging thing for me on Day 2 was one of my competitors. He wondered out loud what I shot yesterday, and then observed loudly about what a start I was having. I do not know if he was trying to get into my head or not, but I really had to bear down and not let him distract me. The next time this happens to me, I will tell the person to just mind his own game (which, as a player, is the only thing you should be doing), and not worry about mine. The course we played was the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West. With Day 3 approaching, my goal was to focus on one shot at a time, and to do the things that need to be done in order for me to hit quality golf shots. I was relieved that I played better in round 2. I carded a 73.
Day 3 – Since I had played reasonably well in Day 2, I decided to use a Caddie for my third round. I figured I needed someone with some experience to help keep me going since it had been about 20 years since I last played a 4 day event. It turned out to be a good choice. He kept me relaxed and helped me read the greens right and make good choices for the most part. I had a couple of errant shots and a couple of missed putts, but all in all it was a good day. I shot a 76 and was tied for 12th place. By this point, I was a little mentally fatigued, but physically fine. The main thing that I needed to go into Day 4 was a good night sleep.
Day 4 - Since having the caddie worked to my advantage on Day 3, I decided to go with him for round 4. I came out hot, birdied the first 2 holes, and shot the front nine in one under par. My goal of making the top 10 was within sight. Starting on the back nine, conditions got rough and winds picked up between 40 to 50 miles per hour. They were swirling winds as well, due to the fact we were on the back nine of the Palm Private Course at PGA West, which is tucked way back into the Santa Rosa Mountains.
I always try to learn something from these tournaments. The biggest lesson came from a fellow competitor. He took a 10 on the Par 5 6th hole. As the round went on, he stayed true and started making birdies. After he got his fourth birdie, I congratulated him on coming back. He told me that I shouldn’t quit. His goal, like mine, was to make the top 10, and he did because he did not give up.
He really started to make a lot of putts after his 10, and because of his perseverance, he made a top 10 finish. It was really great to to witness and learn from that great attitude. It was truly a Black Belt Golf moment, and I was happy for him. As for me, I played the back nine not as solidly as the front; I had two bad holes on the back nine. But I did make my goal for a top 10 finish. The last four holes for me were very challenging. I had played so hard and was so mentally drained that by the time the 15th hold came around, I was ready to be done. The physical and mental pressure, as well as the nerves, and having to focus completely and give it my all for 4 days was a challenge. Anyone that plays competitively in 4 round tournaments knows what I am talking about.
All I could do on the last 4 holes was try to focus on my routine, and on each shot. Unfortunately, the mental fatigue did not allow me to hit the greatest shots coming in, but this is how things go. The good thing was that my attitude was right, especially coming after the bad first round, and this experience was a very positive one for me to draw upon for the future tournaments ahead of me.
I believe no matter whether you are playing a friendly round of golf or a competitive tournament, if you learn something about yourself, your game, or you take a positive lesson from someone else’s game, you come out ahead. I believe that I came out ahead in this tournament in more ways than one.