Last week I returned to Amateur Golf in emphatic style, a similar fashion as to how I left it over 3 years ago. With flashes of brilliance and confidence, but soon to be brought back to the harsh reality with what could only be described as an imploding of the decade and one that may very well sit up there with my all-time career best.
Last Saturday I played in the prestigious Berkshire Trophy, a 72 hole event over 2 days (cut after 36), split between the Red and Blue Courses and sits on the tail end of the Amateur Championship each year. It was my first competitive round in just over 15 months, not only in a National setting but returning this time, as an Amateur. All the natural feels came rushing back, excitement, anticipation, second-guessing, just trying to manage expectations and go out and have fun with it! Although it was short-lived this time, I must say, it felt good to be back!
As a quick segway and refresher, I made the decision back in April last year to reapply for my Amateur status, it felt like the right time for me to take a step away from Professional golf and switch my focus to other areas of my life for the interim. Transitioning to living and working in London now, doesn’t present me with an awful lot of time to play and practice as I once did, but, pandemic aside, it’s been a real treat being down here for the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing what year two entails.
So back to the tournament… not really knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to open my first round on the Red Course with a 70 (-2), with only a single blemish on the card, putting me in the top 15. Feeling pretty comfortable, I was excited to try and replicate the morning round on the Blue Course this time. However, as golf has, and will always continue to do so, gave me the reality slap to effectively say, welcome back… With the afternoon round starting smoothly, gaining some momentum and getting things to -4 through 25 holes after making an eagle on the par 5, 6th hole, things temporarily felt solid. However, following on from that and what can only be described as hitting a wounded mallard of a tee shot into Narnia on the tight 8th hole, resulting in a lost ball and a double bogey, quickly tainted the excitement of the eagle and scrambling a par on the short par 4, 9th, meant I was still in good stead, just steadying the ship through 27 holes. Now, what proceeded over the final 9 holes of not just the round, but ultimately, to my entire bloody tournament, would bring nightmares and shivers to the best and worst golfers, globally. A cool run of triple bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey, par, bogey, bogey, par and a final bogey, just for good measure, meant for a swift departure from the car park after missing the cut.
Now, I’m sure some of you are naturally thinking, my God, what on earth happened? How can things go so drastically south so quick? And I would rebuttal that with, great question, I can only put it down to a lack of practice not just on the golf course but also the mental and physical fatigue that comes with competitive golf, and in time, the more I get back into competing, the more I expect that things will improve and events like that won’t haunt me in the future.
So, the long-short of it is, although my back 9 in the afternoon was an absolute shambles, it was ultimately my first tournament back and I played a lot of good golf and hit a lot of great shots before that. I managed my game and attitude well and loved being back out there again. I may be one of the more ‘senior’ players in these events now, but it was a blast. I’m no longer trying to make a living out of it and as the mentality shift comes to just playing to see how well I can do, rather than carrying the burden of trying to put food on the table and make the next step up. Hopefully with time and more practice and playing, I can look to achieve the goals I’ve set myself as an Amateur again.
These past 7 months have been pretty chilling. Globally, it seems we just transitioned from month to month with one jaw-dropping event after another. I must hold my hands up, for those frequent visitors to my website, my last post did not age well. I genuinely believed on the face of it, 2020 was going to be a great year, full of optimism and exciting things to come, but as everyone knows, we’ve had a looming grey cloud of hellfire lingering over our heads and we’re just waiting for the sun to burn through it. I do believe every cloud has a silver lining and as we have already seen and will hopefully continue to see, a lot of positive change and outcomes come from this pandemic, but as always, only time will tell if we continue to take positive strides from these lessons and experiences.
No doubt, lockdown has been a challenging time for everyone and we must especially give thanks to those heroes who just had to roll up their sleeves and rally, despite the dangers to themselves and their families to enable us to start to return to normal. COVID-19 has, as you know, affected the entire world, it’s been a time for everyone to stop and widen their vision, reset and become aware of how fragile life is but on the same hand, appreciate how lucky we are, the power of a focussed group effort and being able to reconnect with family and friends when we might not have had the time before because we’ve been so caught up in the rat race. As the world starts to wind up its engines for takeoff again and we figure out our agile approach to the new normal, it’s important to keep an open and educated mind to things, look at facts and figures and not to be influenced by clickbait headlines for our approach as we tiptoe back into the world. The year 2020 will certainly be remembered for many years to come and will have a firm place in the history books, hopefully, we can salvage some positive events for the remainder of the year and carry that momentum forward into next year.
On the golf front, with a long period of lockdown and after some hard thought reflection, I came to the comfortable decision it was time for me to step away from professional golf, it’s certainly not the end of that chapter, but for the time being it’s something I know and feel is the right decision and I’m very much looking forward to returning and playing amateur golf again. It also gives me a chance to focus fully on a career outside of golf and as mentioned in my previous post, an opportunity for me to broaden my horizons and achieve successes and give back outside of the game. I’m scheduled to have my status back in early 2021, hopefully by that stage we will have an even clearer picture of how events will progress and I can get back to competing more frequently which will be fun and I’m sure a bit nostalgic playing in some old events from the past.
On a final note, I moved to London with a new work opportunity, even with the current ongoing pandemic, I feel like I’ve got my mojo back, similar to the excitement and feeling of home I had living in San Francisco. It’s great to be back in a fast-paced environment and getting to widen my network. In the short time I’ve been down here, I’ve met some awesome people and been able to create tangible opportunities and excited for what is to come. As I’m sure you can imagine, even with this year’s timeout, as I take a step away from professional golf, updates on the website will become less and less frequent, there may very well come a time where the curtains may be drawn to a close for the site, but we’ll cross that bridge if or when we get to it.
It’s scary to think how quickly time flies. We get so caught up in the day to day grind and thinking to tasks we need to accomplish for the day or week ahead, goals we need to achieve and places around the world we’d like to visit. All of which is great, it shows a willingness to keep moving forward, to succeeding and accepting change. But, how often do you take time to briefly look back and reflect, reminding yourself of how far you’ve come? What you’ve accomplished and what’s changed, whether that be for better or worse? I didn’t want to be that person that gets all hyped up with us entering a new decade because ultimately, it’s just another year, BUT, if you’re like me, and it secretly scratches your OCD itch, we get a full year of an even symmetrical number, ohh yeahh, you already know it’s going to be good…
Anyways, back to my point! Take a moment to cast your mind back and think about what has happened in the past 10 years, picture yourself, if you can, to roughly this time a decade ago. Where were you? At what stage in your life were you at? Were you happy? Frustrated? About to embark on a new career or adventure? Within those 10 years, what changed? Did you get your degree(s), a new job(s) or promotion(s)? Did you start a family? Get married or unfortunately divorced? (Maybe, fortunately for some…) Did things actually work out better than you expected? There are endless questions you could ask with so many outcomes over that time period. You see, we tend to set ourselves goals for maybe 3,6 or 12 months ahead, not realising when all 120 of those months accumulated what we have actually achieved in that time. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, well, I didn’t achieve that much, I’ve remained in the same job for the past 10 years, my partner is driving me nuts and as much as I love my kids, Christ, I cannot wait for them to leave the house… Well, as much as I can’t speak for those feelings just yet, I can say things will have changed for you, and no matter how small, you’ll have had successes in that time, so, highlight them!
I sit here writing this just before Christmas, a time where over the next 2 weeks, I’ll, fortunately, get to see a lot of my family. However, there are some very important family members that will be missing and I won’t get to see, but it emphasizes a time to be grateful for what we do have and recognise again how much things change, both good and bad. Thinking back on what I’ve done over the past decade, it’s quite reassuring. No doubt, I’ve been incredibly lucky, I’ve met some fantastic people, created and been given a lot of opportunities. I’ve also seen and done an awful lot, things I forgot I’d even done and it was only until really diving deep into the old memory archives that I remembered, photo albums also help, but it’s been a wild ride, with as many ups as there have been downs. I’ve moved, lived and visited many cities and countries, both in the U.K and abroad, new jobs, successes and despair, wins and travesties within my golf. I jumped out of a plane, I got my university degree which was nothing short of a miracle. I’ve had multiple car accidents which should have really been the final chapter in my book (none were my fault by the way!) but here I am today (knock on wood). Relationships and friendships that come and go and the scaring and growth that accompanies them. Friends that you used to be so close with but no longer keep in touch with, but on the same hand, new friends and colleagues that enter into your life that just make you smile, you guys just clicked and you write memory after memory together. Those are some of the special moments to cherish.
But as we spend that brief moment of time reflecting on what has changed, what we achieved and learnt over the last 10 years, we must also, look forward to the next 10. What changes are you going to implement into the next decade to keep growing and succeeding? Because as Einstein so eloquently put it, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’ve most certainly fallen foul to this a few times. Sometimes it’s easy to keep doing that if we’re in a routine that may be comfortable, the mind thrives on comfort and we’re unaware that comfortable is what’s holding us back from our true potential, maybe a change and a leap of faith into the unknown will prove to be fruitful for not just yourself but give the courage for those around you to do the same and succeed? It’s true when they say, we learn most about ourselves when we sit on the edge of uncomfortable.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been fortunate in various opportunities, but I’ve also been in a challenging place for the past couple of years, adjusting and trying to figure different bits and pieces out. As my sister so acutely put it, I was having an identity crisis. To be honest, it felt like a sibling attack at the time, but she was right, I was. I have always been associated with Golf, more specifically, “Seb, the golfer” which I love, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic game, I’ve worked incredibly hard at it for almost 20 years but, I sure hate it at times, as we all do, but I keep coming back to it. However, as time passed I felt like I was only known for my golf and I wanted to also be known aside from that, experience successes in other parts of my life. My horizons were narrow and I wanted to broaden them, make contributions and have successes in other parts of the world and thankfully I’m currently working on that. When my golf performances started to tank, it took some real time for me to realise that those that had a genuine interest in me doing well, both on and off the course, were there no matter the performances, it wasn’t a dent on me as a person, the world keeps on turning, I just had a bad day or bad tournament(s), it happens and for that, I’m truly grateful to them. The peanut gallery is always going to be there casting their salty opinions but at the end of the day, who really cares? They don’t have a seat at the table. Thankfully, things have started to improve, as mentioned in previous blogs and speeches I’ve made recently, I started working with a new coach on some new fundamentals with my game, juggling new jobs and moving, I’ve been able to reset and start to figure those issues out. I’ve explored different options away from golf and through successes and rejections, I’ve started to realise where I want to focus my efforts. I’ve always been told, you can’t have your cake and eat it, well, sometimes you actually can, you’ve just got to find the right opportunities that allow you to do so. So, as we enter this new decade, I’m full of optimism that this year will be the year that things truly take off for me and I can’t wait to show and share them with you (all being well). As I look early into the new year, I’m excited to take my golf down to South Africa again for Sunshine Tour School in February, hopefully, this time I can better my last trip down there and not just get through first stage but finish high enough in final stage to obtain my card. Only time will tell.
As a little sidebar, I heard my University motto again the other day, and at the time when I first attended University, I remember thinking, what the eff is that? I didn’t speak Latin, I mean, I really should have done some more research around the school but I had to look it up and our athletic motto was: “Carpe Diem”. I realise now it’s a common phrase and the translation is simple and so is the message – Seize the day. But what I’ve come to realise is that success is just a byproduct of doing just that, making the most of your craft every single day, over and over again. We can look for answers all day long, trying to find a quick answer and a fix when the reality is, there is never a quick fix, only consistency. Just showing up and putting the work in. Results and success are shown through building your foundation, making sure it’s solid and then when it’s set, start building, nurturing and watching it grow each day. Just as a fully-grown tree that you buy and stick in your garden, will never be as strong as the one you’ve planted and nurtured from seed. We now live in an era where we need everything instantly and if something takes time, we lose interest because it doesn’t give us that quick hit of dopamine and the instant success and outside appreciation we so desire. Not that there is anything wrong with being praised for the hard work you do, but the real joy should come from the process of getting the job done, but this comes from patience and repeated action.
I want to thank you all for the support of my blog/website which I’ve been running for about 10 years now, I know I’m not as frequent as I used to be at posting but I’m excited to continue to share further thoughts, experiences and ramblings with you, it may start to vary with different areas I’m exploring alongside my golf, but as always, I hope to provide you with an enjoyable insight. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever in the world you are reading this, 2020 is going to be fun and with a fresh decade comes some exciting opportunities. Go chase it and remember how far you’ve come, how you tackled adversity and enjoy the lessons along the way, no matter how fun or difficult they will be, you’ve got this!
Shifting from side to side, eye’s squinting and straining trying to get a better view of what could be. You’ve been thinking about it for a while and know the risks, the uncertainty that fuels the anxiety. You see the gap, but is it really worth the risk? Should you try to pull it off? Your heart says yes, but you’ve thought about it long enough now that the mind is starting to rationalise. What will everyone think if it doesn’t come off and you end up in a worse position? But, you’ll never know unless you try, right? You could play safe, take your medicine and hope for the best, or you could take the high-risk shot, trust your initial gut and ability and get back on course, run with the excitement and use that to keep driving you forward… You know what, let’s do it, let’s trust the heart.
I’m not talking about Golf here guys, well, metaphorically I am, but not yet. To cut to the chase, after 15 months I quit my full-time job and left without a new prospect to step into. Crazy? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Why might you ask? Well, I felt it was time, don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time and experiences, meeting as always some fantastic people and vastly broadening my horizons and certainly knowledge in the financial services industry. But it didn’t scratch that itch. It’s something I don’t think I’ll fully appreciate until some time has passed, but it was just time. I stayed because it was comfortable, I took home a steady salary but it didn’t excite me like I thought it might. I sat nestled in the comfort of the monthly paycheck and a safety net and for some that might be great, but that just wasn’t me, whether I like it or not, I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie.
As I navigate my way through the wonderful thing we call life, countless hours, days and months spent pondering and scratching my head trying to figure things out and what motivates me and gives me that hunger. I feel like might have finally narrowed that down as to what really drives me, what keeps me hungry and pushing my own boundaries. I need goals and incentives, bluntly put it has to be financial incentives for me. It sounds shallow I know, money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it certainly buys you security. I’ve learnt this hunger from sports and golf particularly, I love the chase, the thrill of everything being on the line and when you pull through and win, that euphoric feeling that accompanies it, it beams through your chest, knowing all the hard work and preparation that went into it was worthwhile, that’s what’s been instilled in me. I’m used to being outside, competing with the world and networking, creating relationships and opportunities. Sales sound fitting hey? But I love that. I’ve been here before in some form or another, but over the last 15 months, I’ve sat in limbo, out of consistent competitive golf, with many asking questions of what, where and why and I take full responsibility for that. But, the answers will always remain honest and true. It’s an expensive game, professional golf even more so than amateur golf and when you’re pumping golf balls into the fescue and oceans, it’s hard to keep justifying the minimum £ 750-week event with expenses so I needed to make some cash. That being said, my time away has helped turn a corner with many aspects of my game, I’ve been working with a new coach, a reformed approach and with great thanks to the Isle of Man culture, I’ve played a few too many of my weekend rounds well and truly watered with minimal fear helping me overcome many of those wild driver frustrations that have plagued me for the past decade.
So to answer some of those questions, I’m back competing early next year, heading down to South Africa again for qualifying school for the Sunshine Tour and then EuroPro shortly after. Thankfully to a course where I got through first stage 2 years ago, so familiarity will be quite nice and hopefully, I can better my prior performance. But in the meantime, it’s winter in England, so navigating the arctic conditions can be tricky and as much as I would love the luxury of some warm weather training as I’ve done in the past, that ship has since sailed, so it’s nose to the grindstone and feet in the mud. As always, it’s golf and sport, things change and ebbs and flows come, but I will say, it’s starting to feel a little like an improved version of 2009… so I might just have found that gap in the trees…
Here we are, 18 years on. I cast my mind back to our first day, albeit a fuzzy memory, but a day I remember looking at you quizzically, unbeknown to where you might take me. I remember questioning you on that day, but despite all that questioning, a single look at my dad gave me all the answers I needed to know about how swinging a club and trying to hit a little white ball would inevitably produce so much joy.
You see, I’d never have known a game could impact my life so much, taking me to the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows in a matter of minutes. Like many others, you’ve left me scratching my head for days, months and even years trying to figure you out. That answer has slowly dawned on me that it’s unlikely I’ll ever master you or figure you out and I guess that’s what keeps us coming back, the hope that maybe one day you might give in and let your guard down… See, you’re not like other sports really, you give me all the responsibility (something that is also an invaluable life lesson, but we’ll get to that later). There are no excuses, I’m not having to be reactive to anything like returning a serve, dribbling past a player or running faster than the person next to me, you just sit there, quietly, waiting patiently for me. Your outcomes are endless and that’s daunting yet also really exciting! With each shot, each swing, there is always an element of hope, that this time it’s going to be even better than the last one. You do share some similarities with other sports, in that every day is a new day, full of optimism and possibilities to see how good I can be, how far can I push the envelope of this great game, will today be my lowest ever score? Will today be my highest ever score? Will I meet a new best friend? Or will I end up playing with an absolute nutter, we just never know, I guess the one thing we can be consistent with is our attitude on how we approach that day.
You’ve allowed me to travel to some incredible parts of the world, places I never even knew existed on that overcast day 18 years ago with my dad, as I kneeled there trying to balance my ball on a tee between those two blue shaped cones. As I fast forward to now, where I’ve been able to meet people from all around the world who share the same desires and passions about golf as I do, they have their own experiences, ones they all want to share, the good, the bad and especially the ugly. Dreams to walk along the different grasses of exclusive clubs, that are so well manicured it feels wrong to even walk on let alone take a divot. Or some are happy just to keep playing the same course each day, one they get to call their home and one they’ve grown to love. Evidently, all the grasses look familiar after a while and despite chasing you around the world to play on a different course with different views, you as a game, stay consistent. Our goal as golfers is to be as good as we can be and reach a level of contentment, to smoke that drive straight down the middle of the fairway, caress that towering iron shot that never leaves the flagstick and to roll that putt right into the heart of the cup. That’s pure happiness, at least to me. But if it were that easy, people would bore of you quickly, they’d reach contentment too quickly and too easily and you wouldn’t be the continuous challenge that you are. They would find something else to stimulate them, something else that drives them mad and consumes their mind because as you know, it doesn’t matter who they are or how talented they may be, you always have the last word.
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many lessons you’ve taught me in our 18-year friendship, one that I’m lucky to have. These aren’t just lessons of how to play and improve my game, but lessons you’ve taught me that that I’ve tried to implement into my life. To be patient, to calculate risk, or when to let it all go and play the hail mary. To treat others with respect and as equals, because no matter their background they’re stood right next to you with exactly the same opportunity playing the same game. You’ve taught me how to deal with uncomfortable situations and how to harness them, turning them into comfortable ones. To be comfortable on my own for hours and hours at a time, trying to perfect you, testing that practice by increasing the pressure and allowing me to thrive on it. Working with others as a team. To keep pushing my limits and understand that I will have to deal with failing over and over again, but persistence will make me who I am and get me to where I want to be. But I’d say the most important lesson you’ve taught me over the years is that everything has a purpose, no matter how small, from a 6-inch putt to a 300-yard drive, it all has an impact and that echos in life too. So to do the little things, do them well and often, see them grow, becoming bigger and bigger and watch the story unfold.
I think back fondly on the many different days we’ve had. Days with friends and family, the warm sun on my back, music playing in the background and enjoying a friendly match that slowly grows into a highly competitive one. The days where the wind is blowing, it’s freezing cold and torrential rain, but you still tempt us out onto the links, knowing we’ll play because today might just be the day. Days where I’ve been the most nervous I’ve ever been, playing championships that I/we as a team ended up being triumphant in, having to give speeches and dealing with success but on the flip side also learning to deal with failure. More recently, days where every shot has made a difference in how much cash I take home, falling short on just one shot and losing a lot of money or making the 25-foot birdie putt on the last to win that extra bit making the drive home so much more worth it.
I know over the years our friendship has been rocky, I’ve sworn at you, a lot, and I’ve told you I’m never coming back to play again, but as you know, these are all empty promises. We always keep coming back. Even if it’s a prolonged absence, we’ll be back. I’ve recommended you to friends and family and they’ve all come to love the same rollercoaster experiences that I have. Which is truly great to see. I try to think of a life if I hadn’t been introduced to you back then and I really struggle. I struggle to think of what I would have done to fill that void. What would have occupied so much of my time, on and away from the course? To be honest, I’m not sure I want to know that answer and I’m really glad I don’t have to find out. Because without you, I wouldn’t have met the people I have, seen the wonderful places I’ve seen and had the life experiences that have moulded me into who I am today. To be a part of one of the largest families in the world who all share the same love for the game is pretty damn cool.
So thank you, thank you for opening so many doors and creating opportunities for me. I’m looking forward to hopefully many, many, more years of friendship with you, experiencing more ups and the downs, sunrises and sunsets, triumphs and failures, new friendships and rekindling old ones. Because as only you know, no matter how good or bad it gets, you always leave us with just a little glimmer of hope for the next day.
When I sat down to review 2018, the ebbs and flows that accompanied it, it was a chance to be very honest with myself, not just to see if I’d hit the goals that I’d set myself at the beginning of the year, but to really ask myself, had it been a successful and fulfilling year? Was I truly happy with what I had accomplished? The answer? In some cases yes, and in others no and that really just didn’t sit right with me. I wanted the answer to jump out as a resounding, YES! So when it came to planning for 2019 I decided to take a different approach. I wanted to get to the end of the year and already know, not have to sit scratching my head trying to decide if it had or hadn’t been. This year I want to push myself further, blast through my threshold and be successful off and on the golf course. Now that last sentence might have read funny to you, but there’s a reason I put off first. The biggest thing when it came down to planning was not to set my goals almost entirely fixated on golf, but more of a personal challenge. I feel by trying to achieve success and satisfaction in other facets of my life, it will evidently trickle down into my golf, allowing me to enjoy the process of improving and competing rather than being so result orientated and feeling that for me to be happy and satisfied in life I needed to perform well on the golf course. To be honest, we’re 8 weeks into the year and my newfound approach seems to be going pretty well, that’s not to say that I’m not going to encounter rough waters throughout the year, but how we choose to react to the situations is how we ultimately decide the outcomes.
As everyone does, I’ve had these ideas that scared me, something I knew I really wanted to do, but like many, I’d think about it for so long that I started to justify a reason as to why I shouldn’t and ultimately talking myself out of it. So, 2019 was more or less of a screw it approach. I decided rather than waiting for the courage to arrive I was going to do something about it and stop over thinking, just come out of my bubble and start living a bit more. I will say, although I’ve only scratched the surface on this, it feels fantastic and a huge breath of fresh air, which leads me on to the experience of the first of my goals.
I’m not the first person to skydive and certainly won’t be the last but it had been on my bucket list for a long time. I’d promised myself that I’d either do a bungee jump or a skydive before turning 30 and opted for the latter. Rather than continuously thinking about it and waiting, I just said screw it and jumped, holy hell, what an experience. All of the fear and anticipation that embodied the idea just disappeared as soon as I got there. It was strange because I didn’t expect to feel so calm, and it led me to thinking. When you absolutely commit yourself into doing something, all the fear and worry starts to dissipate, what was initially holding you back, is no longer there. You’ve internally told yourself that you trust yourself and whatever the outcome, you’ll be just fine (most of the time). You see, I was with my family in Cape Town and as we climbed to 9000 feet crammed into the back of this tin can of a plane, the sight of Table Mountain in the distance, it was just magical. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I was with my Dad and my big sister on her birthday and my thought was, if there was a way you had to go, this would probably be it. I’ll not lie to you, it was a strange feeling watching them disappear out of an aircraft mid-flight and even more mind-boggling sitting on the edge of the plane looking out into the abyss of blue sky, legs buffeting around underneath the plane and your mind screaming at you telling you that this is not normal and to turn around. But you really don’t get to enjoy the moment for too long as the next thing you know, you’re flying at terminal velocity. It all happens so quickly, I guess just like many of our first-time life experiences… but so, so worth it! Would I do it again? Abso-freakin-lutely!
So to start rounding things off, I’ve started chipping away at my to-do list of things I want to accomplish, skydiving being the first. I know there has and always will be times that I need to lean on others to help push me, but results are always far more rewarding to look back on rather than the regret of never taking the leap to find out what’s on the other side of the door. As said best by Only Fools and Horses legend, Del Boy.
“He who dares wins, Rodney, he who dares, wins.”
You may be wondering how the game is and you’d be right in thinking it’s been a while since I’ve competed. The game is starting to come together, Bermuda was my last event in early December and it was a big success, I had a trip of a lifetime with three fantastic playing partners and I played some solid golf in between the all you can eat buffet. I finished 7th at the tournament and got to meet some great people along the way. Looking forward my first event is EuroPro Qualifying School early next month, I’m excited to get back to competing and will, of course, endeavour to put some solid scores together so that I can obtain my card for the year ahead, but I guess we’ll only find out until I open the door.
I had one of those pop-up memories show up on Facebook a day or two ago, curiously I clicked it to see what travesties I’d posted over the past years since I’d joined Facebook. Sure enough, it didn’t disappoint, but sitting at the top of the list was a post I’d written this time last year, the post of 35,000 feet. It blew my mind how quickly a year had passed and what an interesting year it had been. This time last year I was bubbling with excitement as I was sitting at 35,000 feet making my way back across the pond to San Francisco to get in some warm weather practice and catch up with old friends. A full-time professional and optimistic about the year ahead, having a full year under my belt I was ready to start making grounds on my professional career, 2018 was going to be my year, grab it by the kahunas and change my life for the better and to be honest, that’s exactly what I did, just not necessarily on the course.
It’s fascinating how much can change in a year, it goes so quickly doesn’t it? Some people find a new career, some find their soul mate and get married, some experience loss and hardship and some welcome new life into the world. Those 12 months can seem like a lifetime away when we look forward and yet looking back, it feels like yesterday and it happened in the blink of an eye. So, once again, I’m lying here bubbling with excitement, travelling across the pond at 35,000 feet, blogging away, drinking champagne and eating caviar (WheelsUp really have been great), I guess a lot has changed in the last 12 months… I’ve travelled a bit, getting to experience new and familiar parts of the world, I moved to a new house, started a new full-time job in financial services and found a much improved 24 total fairways with the driver this year, I’m pretty fired up.
Jokes aside, this will be my last event of the year and ending it with a pretty special week at a fantastic venue. I was very fortunate to be invited by some kind members at St. Georges Hill earlier in the year to be their pro for the annual Goodwill Pro-am in Bermuda. I’m excited about the week ahead (don’t know why I wouldn’t be), but I’m sure it will be highly entertaining and enjoyable with the very best company. Naturally, I would have hoped that my season wouldn’t be ending here, more so gearing up for the new season ahead but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, at least for this year that is. It’s been a quiet period of golf since qualifying school, I haven’t really had much to blog about as working a full-time job doesn’t allow for the flexibility that we would all like, but as I take a moment to look back and reflect on 2018, it’s been another year of growth in the roundabout way the game and life gives us.
The time away from the links has given me an opportunity to explore new ventures alongside my golf, miss the game more and more and think about strategic plans for reviving my game to get back to a standard of which I know I’m capable of. Diving into books, podcasts, audiobooks and battling it out on the course, it’s been fun to keep expanding my knowledge and the slow grind of getting my game back into shape, some days and weeks are better than others, but it’s nice to see signs of improvement. I heard a great quote from Web.com player Maverick McNealy on the No Laying Up podcast a few weeks back that resonated with me, a little bit of an itch on the brain, it’s ironic since most of this blog has been reflecting on the last twelve months but I have found it useful and thought you might also.
“If you keep thinking back to where you were, you’ll never get to where you need to be”
– Maverick McNealy
I’m sure this has been said many times before by others around the world in various versions, but I’ve probably subconsciously done this quite a lot over the past few years, comparing my game and results to how it used to be 10 years ago and as you all know that hasn’t proved to be so successful recently. That being said, I’m excited to be competing again this week, I’ve missed the competitive side of things, it truly is a brilliant game we play, allowing us to travel to some true wonders of the world and meet people from all warps of life, sharing the same passion for the game of golf. A game that can give us the most euphoric feeling at times and bring us to our knees in the darkest of others, yet somehow we show up again the next day.
So, here’s to 2019, optimistically looking up and forwards. Battling through the daily grinds and hustles, holding ourselves accountable to daily goals and getting back on track. Because by focussing on smashing each day at a time, it’s amazing what we can change and achieve in a year…
It’s quite a fascinating sight, the car park of a major golf tournament. You might not think much of it, but it’s filled with emotions of all kinds. The beginning of the week, confidence and optimism are rife, guys/girls internally or externally strut their stuff ‘expecting’ it to be their week, I mean, you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t think you could do it and hadn’t put your money where your mouth is. One thing for sure is, they’re all looking to cash in on the rewards of all the hard work they’ve put in over the past years, ready to take the next step in their career. I mean it’s all laughs and smiles at the start of the week with fellow competitors and friends, right up until your name is announced on the 1st tee of day one, then it’s game time. What you witness 48 hours later, different picture.
Round 3 (in this instance) you pull into the car park, it’s quiet, eerily quiet, you’ll see a few cars parked up, usually with players sitting in the driver’s seat deep in thought, eyes at distant gaze staring at the top of the steering wheel, thought after thought running through their minds. There is no smile, no laughing and joking like earlier in the week, just the look of a deflated ghost if you would, I mean, there really isn’t much to smile and laugh about when you realise you’ve averaged the gagging cost of £583 per competitive round of golf that week. Not to mention if you were to account for your expenses on top of that, you’ve probably spent around 10-20% of your annual salary on just one tournament, may as well have put it on the roulette table. I know what you’re thinking, just play well and you don’t have to deal with it, true, but regardless of how much you practice, how hard you work, everyone has at least one of those weeks, wracking your brain with thoughts on “What happened this week?”, “Why have I scored so poorly?” “Man, if only I hadn’t made a snowman on that short drivable par 4…” But you can see the one question that sits with all of them in that car seat. The holy grail of questions, the big one, oh yes, the question of all questions for an athlete… “So what do I do next?” It’s not as easy to answer as you might think.
It’s no secret what side of the spectrum I sat on of emotion last week at European Tour School, it may have only been stage 1, but it still stings. I went with goals and unfortunately didn’t achieve them again this year, but that’s golf and life, it doesn’t always work out the way we plan, I’m learning that day by day. We can work as hard as we want, but sometimes you just won’t score well certain weeks, other weeks you can do no practice at all, go out and play the greatest game of your life, it happens, but it’s best to keep topping up the tank, just in case it’s called upon on a hot week. But despite my Floridian weather scores, I took a lot of positives from the week, I remained positive and upbeat in my attitude, undeterred by the ploughing that was taking place. Sure, it would have been easy to throw the towel in, withdraw or retire from some fake injury but what do I learn from that? Absolutely nothing, just because I’m having a bad week, doesn’t mean I shy away from a little embarrassment, ultimately I’m out there playing for me and challenging myself. If you can’t learn, shrug and laugh, then you’re in the wrong gig my friend.
The course last week was set up long, longer than I had anticipated and being over 7300 yards, I’m fairly sure it was the longest course I’ve ever played that wasn’t in heat or at altitude and long doesn’t suit my game. Poor planning on my behalf, yes, another lesson learned. But I tell you this, what also continues to stagger me in this game is how mental it truly is. I’m not that naive in that I have suddenly just stumbled upon this and had my ‘aha’ moment after 18 years of playing the game, but each week it continues to surprise me a little bit more. I do work hard on the mental aspect of it, but there is a long way to go. You see examples such as when a player wins their maiden victory, you can almost guarantee they’ll either win again in the next 12 months or threaten to win in the few weeks after their first big win. This isn’t because all of a sudden overnight they became a great golfer, it’s because they mentally opened the floodgates of inner confidence and belief, they finally realised they could do it, they didn’t have to think about it and as I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, they just pressed play and enjoyed the show. The difficulty can come however when we lose that bit of form, or we increase our expectations to a place which at the time is a little unrealistic, we aren’t yet there, we start looking, trying to find new fixes and swings without realising that it was just a question of digging it out in the dirt with what you had, adjusting your mentality and building back up the confidence pyramid, not digging ourselves an early grave.
Soooo, what’s next??? Oh come on, you knew it was coming… Well, I’m back in the office, figuring plans out and trying to pay off the heavy credit card bill that I’ve accumulated. I’ll admit that since I turned 25 two weeks ago, I thought I’d have a better grip on my career and life, especially when I flash back 10 years ago to when I thought I had the world and game at my feet, but I guess nobody really knows what the hell they’re doing, we charge off full speed in one direction, think it’s right for us and get deflected on a different path. One thing I have learnt over the years though is no matter how bad it gets, keep moving forward, even if it’s slow, just keep moving forward. Those that pass you will experience their own tough times, it just comes back to the old tortoise and hare story, folks.
One thing I do know, there’s still life and fight in this old dog. I’ll get to where I need to be in time. 😉
Twice a year the Isle of Man comes alive. From all over the world people come here for the TT and the Manx Grand Prix races. The TT is the premiere of the two events, a comparison to the majors in the sporting world while the Manx Grand Prix is the sister event in which those hoping to compete in the TT need to earn their place, proving that they can indeed handle the sheer insanity that encompasses racing on the island.
You see racing on the island is like no other, there isn’t a well-manicured track with plenty of gravel and runoff areas allowing bikers to gracefully glide across in their leathers when they make an error, oh no, not here. Your track is on the public roads, through towns, countryside and mountains. Your runoff is a brick wall, a field, a tree or some hay bails if you’re lucky, but that’s what makes it so special. As I said earlier, every year the island comes alive for 4 weeks, the 85,000 population drastically increases with visitors getting to experience everything the island has to offer. I’ve only ever been to one TT and immediately got the bug and always wanted to go back and since I now live permanently on the island, I was lucky enough to catch some of the Grand Prix that recently took place, immediately all the excitement and tremors returned when the first bike blasts only a few feet past you doing speeds that feel like Mach 3! It’s pure madness.
If you’ve never watched the TT, I’ll leave a link below so you can see a snippet of it. If it doesn’t leave you with goosebumps on the back of your neck, I’m sorry that you miss out on those experiences. The thing with the TT and MGP is that it is so very raw, bikers scream through the closed town roads and around the island circuit with speeds exceeding 200mph… Whether you’re a petrol head or not, you must, must experience it at least once in your life, the sounds and smells are just phenomenal. In most events you can tell who the better players or performers are just by watching, with the TT, it’s the complete opposite, close your eyes and listen. How you distinguish the difference between the top and the newbie riders are the sounds of the engines and how hard they’re riding them. I love to watch at Cronk-Y-Voddy, here the riders come down a hot straight and throw it over the hill on a fast right-hander at speeds of around 175mph. I like to sit just over the hill on the embankment where the bikes come within about 4 feet of you. You can hear them coming, but you don’t see them until they come over the top and full bore at you. The experienced and I say this tentatively ‘fearless’ riders don’t lift off, they have already set themselves into the cornering line and just keep on it. Like I said, all you have to do is close your eyes and you’ll hear the difference, it’s quite the sensation. Even after you’ve felt like your world has fallen out beneath you as the bike passes, the smell that is left lingering of engine fumes is what completes the memories.
So what’s the point of this blog? For you to come to watch a TT or MGP? Well yes, but the true point of it is what I have learnt from these guys. They leave absolutely nothing on the line, it’s 110% focus and commitment. As they sit there on the bike mentally going through final visualisations and preparations of the circuit, they eventually have to tip the visor down, pull the front wheel up to the individual start line for the split start and are greeted with a friendly hand on the shoulder. They know in that very moment, right before they get the tap on the shoulder to go, that this could well be their last moments in this life. The family hugs, kisses, team good luck and goodbyes may have been the last. Tragically, there are multiple fatalities each year for both racers and tourists but these guys know the risks, they know what’s at stake and each year, continue to show up, getting faster and faster. But as they get the shoulder tap from the starter, all those thoughts disappear, it’s nothing but arrow focus and the task at hand. There is no wiggle room, you mentally disengage just for a split second, you die. Simple as. All this leaves me thinking of how pathetic it is when I feel like the world is ending after I have a poor round or tournament, these guys are literally playing Russian roulette and I’m quibbling about shooting 75…
I have the utmost respect and admiration for the riders and have learned an awful lot from them in the brief experiences I’ve had watching. As I try to relate it to my career, it’s the level of focus and preparation they do, the commitment to their craft and pure desire and drive to succeed, never let anyone ever tell them they didn’t at least give it their all. Because at the end of the day, if we die doing what we love, would we really want it any other way? That being said, I hope I don’t die on a golf course anytime soon… but when I’m a 100 years old, I’d like to think I tapped in on the 18th for a 99 in the sunset.
So what’s next for me? Well, next week I head back off to European Tour Qualifying school, I’ve opted to go to Bristol and try my luck at the Players Club this time around and I’m just going with an open mind. Trying to put away any expectations and just go and compete with one or two focus points, trying not to let my mind wonder about the what-ifs and worst case scenario, I head back into the office the following week. My game is in an interesting state, some areas are in really good form and others as my old school teachers would say, “could do better”, but we all know how fickle golf can be, I like to think that I usually start to find some form this time of the year so hoping I finally get that good streak, certainly been long overdue.
As always, scores will be available through my results page and I’m sure I’ll have some thoughts about my upcoming results. See if I can take a leaf out of the true heroes book, arrow focus and put it all on the line. I recently came across a quote from Theodore Rosevelt again, I used to have a poster of it on my wall at college, and I think it stands true whatever you do in life. Go out and give it everything you have, put it all on the line, again and again. You just never know, it may well be the week that changes your life.
It’s been a reflective time for me and in the next couple of weeks, freshmen from all across the world prepare themselves for what may appear to be a daunting experience entering college, but they have, in my personal opinion, the greatest four years of their entire lives ahead of them. See here’s the thing with college (university for my U.K friends), it grants you the opportunity to meet some of the most inspirational people in the world, travel to places that you could only dream of, and have a really bloody good time doing it, no screw that, an absolutely amazing time! You may not think or know it at first, but you will eventually. The people you meet, the experiences you have with them are what make the memories, both good and bad, and one thing for sure is everything seems like a chore at times, just another day at ‘the office’ with early morning workouts, classes and practice, but my goodness does it go quick. Cherish it, like your monthly salary, like sand through your fingers, it goes in a heartbeat, trust me, please.
I was incredibly lucky, I had 4 years at a school where we effectively had a silver spoon in our mouths. I joined a program that has the best rotation of golf courses in the nation. (the U.S that is). I challenge any school to tell me different. Olympic Club, Lake Merced, San Francisco Club, Meadow Club, Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point, Sonoma Country Club, Presidio Golf Club etc. I rest my case. Forgive me, this isn’t to sound arrogant, this is just pure matter of fact, the University of San Francisco offers some of, if not the best rotations of golf clubs in the whole of the United States and do I miss it? Damn bloody right I do. There isn’t a day goes by where I wish I could hit rewind, go all the way back to my freshman year and the first day of school (which by the way was about two weeks late into the semester, but best not dive into that) but you get the picture. Internally, I was absolutely terrified, I’d flown out from England on my own, leaving at the time my family and long-term girlfriend behind. I was confident with my golf, I mean hell, I was an England International, nobody was going to tell me differently, I was going to walk into the locker room swagger on thinking I was the next big thing. Academically, well, that was a continual work in progress, not that I wasn’t smart, I was just lazy. It certainly took me a while to grasp the U.S schooling system but we got there in the end and I got out of study hall baby! But on the course, my ego was quickly put in check as I met my family, and over the next 12 months, they put me in my place, coaches included, not that I didn’t like to keep them on their toes, however. But each year, we continued to build our family, even after graduation, you still remain a part of it and it just continues to grow. Weird concept to those that have never experienced it, but to those that have, as frustrating as some of those days may have been with fellow teammates, we’d take it all back to have those college experiences again. The family, the team house comradery, the beer boots, late-night jack in the box visits and all of the other memories that went along with the experience, it just makes me smile thinking about it now. I loved travelling as a team, you knew each event was going to be fun, receiving a bunch of swag, great courses, new cities, the early morning airport calls, some guys still wobbly from the night before, some still fast asleep as we’re sitting in the taxi waiting to leave for the airport, just makes me chuckle now thinking of it, but maybe not so at the time.
My point is I guess, that whether you’re starting college or currently going through it is to enjoy every single second of it. Time flies. Plain and simple. Graduation on your first day of school may seem a long long way away, but it quickly approaches you like a random drug test (if you’re an athlete that is). But even after graduation, hopefully, you’ve taken enough snaps along the way to look back and reminisce, it sure goes in a heartbeat. I was lucky. I gained a lot of friends along the way, I also learned a lot of life lessons, some nice, some not so nice. It’s part of the spectrum and venturing through the jungle, ultimately having to find our way. But to be honest, the hardest part of college for me was having to return home, back to your home country with an expired visa in hand desperately trying to figure out how to get back. I had a degree, I’d spent 5 years combined with school and work in the U.S on cloud 9, thinking that I had all my ducks in a line, life was so sweet and I was set, not so much. I will say best of luck on that journey when you get to it. But if I can offer any advice, plan ahead, well ahead, because senior year is too late and returning home isn’t as good as your memories or photo albums will recall, college and America is an experience of a lifetime, and as Billy Maddison quotes “Stay here, as long as you can, for the love of God, you’ve got to cherish it, cherish it!” If you haven’t seen Billy Maddison, you’re missing out big time, go watch it!
But as I sit here, rambling to you, wine inclusive as to whether or not you are going to or whether or not you should consider going to the U.S for College (University), I’d say unless you were dropped on your head at birth, you’d be ridiculous not to try it or at least seriously consider it. Sure it’s expensive, scholarship or not, although I highly, highly, recommend working your butt off for one, because in the grand scheme of things, you’re creating vast global opportunities for you to change your life for the better. I do speak in a bias of USF because obviously, I went there. Sure, I wish we had a ‘football’ team, that would have enhanced things slightly but that’s what makes USF, USF. We are a small but mighty school and a school to be reconned with, and as sure as eggs are eggs, living in the best city in the world, people, whether athletes or not, are going to ask you what it’s like to attend a school that sits in the heart of the San Francisco.
Want to know the answer?
It’s a huge smile and a double fist pump of absolutely f**king awesomeness! Cherish it my friend.