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. 😉
As always, thank you for the amazing support!
Until next time