Man, That Was Expensive!

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

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What’s Your Formula???

It’s October 11th, and as I open my curtains and look out of my window, I’m greeted with a deluge of rain and heavy winds, and my heart sinks, I can safely say ‘Winter is Coming’; I’ve not yet seen Game of Thrones, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. Nevertheless, I’ve seen plenty of memes to suggest that it’s a relevant line for this particular scenario. I mean it was just over a week ago that I did the same thing in Italy as I embarked on the journey of Q School with the goal and ambition of making it to the European Tour. I enjoyed the motivating feeling of opening the curtains and seeing the fresh blue sky, not a lick of wind and the dew covering the grass like a thin blanket, but that dream quickly faded when I see the rain and come back to reality. When I reflect on my week and review my performance, in all honesty, I just wasn’t good enough this year. I certainly felt as though I played some good golf, but I lacked consistency which is what I found others did better than me, my good shots were just as good, if not better at times, but their consistency was what set them apart. I know that the level of consistency increases as each stage goes on and certainly well onto the main circuit, so I know I have a ways to go.

Yes, I was deflated, I’d put a lot of time and effort into trying to make it and other people had also invested an awful lot of time, effort and money into supporting me too, I thought I’d practiced well and I was ready to achieve one of my goals that I’d been working towards for the past 17 years, but the reality was my game just wasn’t ready for the European Tour this year. I mean the chances of getting through Q School are extremely small, I think roughly 2% of people who enter get their full card, but I wouldn’t have entered if I didn’t think it was attainable for me, someone has to do it. Instead, the week provided me with a lot of motivation and clarity, to keep working hard and to keep trying to improve that 1% each day. There are plenty of stepping stones, in terms of smaller tours where I may find my level to keep working my way up the ladder and that’s exactly what I’m going to try and do.

It’s difficult, no question about it, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But I believe there’s a certain knack to high-level performance and many athletes arrive at this point at different stages of their careers, some never do, but you can usually tell with an athlete when they have ‘arrived’ at this point when they finally start showing consistency in their performances. Years and years of hard work aside, going well over the 10,000 hours mark, I think it’s when they have found their personal formula, when the penny finally drops, knowing exactly what it is they need to do in order to put themselves in a position to perform at the highest level each week, even after time out resting. Now, this isn’t always bulletproof, anyone that knows a lick about sports understands how fickle it is and how one day can prove one result and another a totally different one, but it’s not just that search for perfection that drives an athlete, but also that search for their personal formula. The formula that delivers them consistency week in week out, and I’m sure the few people that do read this blog will be thinking the same thing, well it’s all down to long hours and hard, hard work. I don’t disagree with you for a second, there is no substitute for hard work, but I think it goes beyond that. I mean when you look at the top athletes around the world, how many hours they have to commit to corporate sponsors, travel, fans, meetings, family, recovery, the list goes on, and you wonder how much time they really get to practice, and get quality practice in, which is what draws me back to the point of, I believe they have found, know and understand their own formula. I mean this isn’t just within sports, many successful people in the real world I believe have also found their formula, they know exactly what they need to do in order to work at the optimum level. Whether that’s 7 hours of sleep, no booze the night before, a workout and a solid breakfast before they start their workday, they still know what they need to do to get the most out of their day. Now it’s a little different in the real world because typically the more effort and hard work you exert, along with a little bit of luck, you can almost guarantee you will see a positive growth in your career. However, with sports, you can put more and more work in, and not necessarily see improved results, sometimes it’s about quality over quantity. I guess my ramblings are that I have yet to arrive at that point, to find my formula and understand what I need to do in order to improve my consistency to perform at a level I believe I can perform at, what fundamentals and mindset I need in order to allow myself to perform at my best. I may never actually reach that point, but I sure as sh*t won’t stop trying to find it. Only more experience will help me get closer to it. I’m intrigued, have any of you found your formula? Let me know if you have, I’d love to hear what accounted to your success and what words of wisdom you can pass on to others.

Drivel aside, I’m scheduled to play just one more event to close out the year, and then it’s into the long dark winter getting myself ready for 2018, where I’m hoping I can improve on my already somewhat successful 2017, Q School aside… Yes, I missed some of my personal goals, but when I look back at some of my performances and my year as a whole, transitioning to come back to competing, leaving a full-time job to play golf and then turning professional, it’s been a fun year. I love competing in the arena.

I want to quickly take a moment again to thank everyone for the amazing support I received from not just Q School, but throughout the year. I’m sure those of you that follow my social media accounts, it takes an Army and you guys have been amazing!

Until I think of something else to ramble on about,

Cheers

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