Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Pittsburgh Gettin Ready

Coming off the exciting finish in my first Nationwide Tour event in Knoxville, I have had an exciting and busy couple of days. Monday morning I had a very good short practice session back home before loading up and starting the journey north to Pittsburgh for this week's Nationwide event. My friend Buddy McMahan made the trip with me and is going to be on the bag this week. It is really cool to have a friend on the road with me!

Today I had a really productive day at the tournament site--a course called Southpointe Golf Club just outside of Pittsburgh. I played a practice round in the morning, spent a lot of time on the practice facilities this afternoon, and then walked the front nine again this evening with just my wedge and putter to get in some extra study time on and around the greens. I feel very comfortable on the course, and I'm excited about the potential to have a great week. The course is a little crazy with massive elevation changes and a lot of blind shots, but it requires a good variety of shots and also demands some precision in a lot spots. I feel like the course will not be popular with a lot of the players because a few holes are a little quirky, but I really like it and expect to play very well here.

Tomorrow I will not be able to practice on the tournament course. Luckily my friend Mike Van Sickle lives very near where I am and is going to have me out to his home course to play. It should be a fun and relaxing (though definitely competitive) day of practice, and I think it will be just the right tune up for the tournament.

The tournament starts Thursday. Keep it here for all the updates!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Exciting Debut

I'll start by saying this: while being home for a tournament has a million advantages, good internet access is not one of them. The Malnati clan lives in older times without ESPN or an internet service that doesn't come through a telephone modem. That is why my blog has not received its usual daily attention.

The lack of news certainly doesn't mean bad news, though. After Monday Qualifying into the Nationwide Tour event in Knoxville this past week, I took advantage of the opportunity to play my first PGA sanctioned event near my hometown. Playing on Fox Den Country Club's Par 72 layout, I shot rounds 70 and 69 the first two days to advance to the weekend before a Saturday 70 and a Sunday 67 resulted in a 12-under-par total for the week and a tie for 16th place.

I battled nerves and loose tee balls on the tight golf course on Thursday and Friday, but some strong iron play and good putting helped keep my scores reasonable. On the weekend, I provided some real excitement. Standing on the ninth tee at one under par for my third round on Saturday, I hit a driver and a 115 yard pitching wedge into the hole for an eagle. I then went to the the par-five 10th and holed a flop shot from just right of the green for a second consecutive eagle. Standing on the 11th tee at ten under par for the event, I was in third place! That was a very cool feeling. I think I got a little bit ahead of myself in that situation, however, and I let things start moving a little too quickly. A three-putt bogey and a skulled lob wedge that bounced off of a cart path and ended up out of bounds resulted in a three-over-par two-hole stretch at numbers 13 and 14 that quickly dropped my name off of the leaderboard. I made four great pars to finish my third round at two-under-par and keep myself in position to make a move on Sunday.

I entered the fourth round tied for 35th in the tournament. On the Nationwide Tour, players who are not exempt from qualifying can earn a spot in the next week's tournament by finishing in the top 25. This had been in the back of my mind ever since I was able to successfully Monday Qualify. I knew it would take a solid final round to reach the top 25, but I felt like I could definitely do it. I played my best round of the week on Sunday. My ball-striking was very good, and I putted the ball well, too. I hit 16 greens and, despite suffering a three-putt, really putted well all day. The end result was a round of 67 that jumped me to 16th place and earned me a spot in next week's event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

So, now that I have finally written to catch you up on the exciting news from this past week, I need to start packing my bags so that I can hit the road for Pittsburgh tomorrow morning! What an exciting opportunity! This week proved to me that I can compete at this level, so I am excited for the opportunity to go out and play again this coming week! I will get a practice round in on Tuesday, and the tournament will begin on Thursday. And though I will not have the comforts of home this time, I will have some internet, so please expect daily updates!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Nationwide Tour Start

I Monday Qualified. After missing by either one or two shots in every Monday Qualifier I have ever entered, I got through one yesterday! My 67 at Toqua Golf Club held up quite nicely and even had a couple shot to spare. So I'll be making my first Nationwide Tour start this week in my home-town event, the Knoxville Open. It's really cool, and I'm excited!

I played a practice round today at Fox Den Country Club, the event's host course, and I really liked what I saw. It's an old-school type of Country Club with a lot of dog legs and narrow fairways. The greens, which are medium sized with a lot of suttle undulation, were already starting to get medium firm today, and if the forecasted weather for the week comes to fruition, they could be very firm later in the week. The course will definitely require precision both off of the tee and into the greens, but birdie opportunities are available at nearly every hole. The course suits my game very nicely, and I'm pumped to tee it up on Thursday.

Because of the Wednesday Pro-Am, I will not have much access to the course tomorrow. I'll be able to get in some good practice, though, and will definitely have my game ready to go Thursday.

This is an exciting opportunity, but I'm really just going to think of it as another day at the office. I tee it up at 2:20 on the 10th hole Thursday afternoon, and you can bet that I'll have a smile on my face! I have a feeling it's going to be there all week... Maybe even late on Sunday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking Good for Knoxville Open

I played really well today at Toqua Golf Club in the Monday Qualifier for the Knoxville Open. I shot 67, and I'm standing alone in second place with over half of the field done for the day. With seven spots available in the tournament, it's looking pretty likely that I'll qualify. I will be heading back to the course soon so that I will be ready if a late barrage of low scores force me into a playoff, but regardless of the results, I am quite pleased with the way I played today.

I hit all but three fairways and missed just four greens on my way to a six-birdie, one-bogey round. I left a few shots out there by failing on relatively easy up-and-downs on three of the four par fives, but I made up for that by hitting a lot of really good mid-irons for some short birdie putts. While too much caution on the fast, bumpy greens cost me a few birdie putts that I hoped to make, I putted very well overall today. In fact, I made a clutch twelve footer for birdie on the 16th hole and followed it up with a great five foot comeback putt after getting too aggressive with a long birdie putt on 17. It felt really good to putt the ball well.

I'll update this later tonight with the final results of the qualifier, but I played very well and it's looking good for now. My game is good, and I sure hope I get to make my first Nationwide Tour start this week!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ready to Monday Qualify in Knoxville

I'm feeling good! I play at Toqua Golf Club tomorrow in the Monday Qualifier for the Nationwide Tour's Knoxville Open. I'm staying in my own bed tonight and will drive to the course on the southwest side of Knoxville tomorrow morning in plenty of time for my 10:00 a.m. tee time.

I played at Toqua today, and while it's not my favorite course, it is absolutely one that suits my game just fine, and I am really excited to shoot a good score tomorrow. The course is fairly short and winds through a residential area on Lake Loudon. Accuracy and intelligence are required off of the tee, and accurate wedge play will be the key for birdies. The greens are not in very good shape right now, so putting will be a little bit dicey, but I'm certain that if I stay committed to my routine and hit good putts, I will get plenty of them to fall.

As with most Nationwide Qualifiers, a field of about 140 guys will be playing for seven spots in the event. While those numbers seem daunting, I am absolutely certain that I am one of the seven best players competing, so I am going to play intelligent golf and execute well, and I'm confident that I will be a happy guy at the end of the day tomorrow.

Keep it here and I'll let you know about it tomorrow. And then I'll give you a pre-tournament report for the actual Knoxville Open!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Times and Good Practice

I'm enjoying my time in Columbia, Missouri. I've been able to catch up with a lot of my best friends and supporters while also getting in some quality practice.

I have to share a story from my practice today. I was going about my business on the driving range working on a few things that haven't felt just right lately, and after getting it tuned up quite nicely, I decided that I would go play nine holes. While walking to the first tee, I saw a foursome of former teammates walking off the ninth and noticed that one of them was saying goodbye to the others. The three remaining were Englishmen Will Harrold and Stuart Ballingall and Columbia, MO, native Nick Wilson. I partnered with Nick on the back nine as we took on the Brits in a Ryder Cup preview match. Despite Harrold's four-birdie effort, I made three birdies and an eagle to carry the Yanks to a thrilling one-up victory. It was a lot of fun, and my game looked and felt very good.

I did some short game work after playing today and really feel like I'm still firing on all cylinders. I need to keep fine tuning everything and make sure that the putting stays sharp, but I feel great.

I'll be heading home on Friday to start getting ready for the Monday Qualifier for the Nationwide Tour event in Knoxville. I'm going to get in this one! Keep it here for an update beforehand.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Golf Game is Like the Weather... Hot!

Okay, that subject line is admittedly a little corny, but it speaks two truths about the last week since my near miss in the Monday Qualifier at last week's Nationwide Event. My game has continued to feel effortlessly good, and the weather has been almost unbearably hot. For the first time since turning professional last September, my job actually felt like work this past week. I had to force myself to practice in temperatures that reached the triple digits with air that had a humid stillness which made it absolutely stifling. My practice sessions were frustrating and shorter than usual, but I made it a point to walk at least nine holes every day, and I really feel like I got both better and tougher mentally.

I also had the opportunity to play in a couple of charity "pro-ams" associated with the Nationwide Tour event last week even though I didn't quite get into the tournament. The idea behind a Pro-Am is that amateur golfers from the local community will put together a four-man team and pay an entry fee to get to play with a professional golfer for 18 holes. I enjoy the opportunity to do this because it gives me the chance to get to know some new people and help them with their golf games (if they want me to) while also showing off a little! I definitely like to have fun when I play golf, and I like being able to share some light-heartedness on the course with others.

Some really good news from Missouri is that temperatures are returning to the low 90's or even 80's for this week. I'm going to hang out in Columbia for a few days and take advantage of the good weather and the great practice facilities that are available to me here. A week from today I will tee it up in another Monday qualifier for a Nationwide Tour event, and this time it will be near my hometown in East Tennessee. I'm going to treat it like any other qualifier, but I will admit that it would be particularly sweet to make my Nationwide Tour debut so close to home.

I'll keep you posted as my practice intensifies over the course of this week. Good things are coming, and I'm excited!

Monday, August 9, 2010

They Say You've Got to Be There...

I'm a heartbroken little pup right now. My game has been so good lately and today was no exception in the Monday Qualifier for this week's Nationwide Tour event in Springfield, Missouri. I played today at a course called Rivercut Golf Course after getting into town and riding the course at about 4:00 in the afternoon yesterday. My play was darn near flawless from tee-to-green. I hit all 18 greens in regulation and had a good look at birdie on all but two holes. I had it six under heading to the par-five 18th, and after a poor drive played two solid iron shots to sit some forty feet from the hole. Knowing that two putts would likely get me into the event, I couldn't calm my nerves enough to do it. I left the first putt some two and a half feet short and made a very nervous stroke to miss the second putt. It was a 67, and the 66's qualified.

I'm so disappointed with the way I handled that situation on the closing green. I just was not thinking clearly. I was nervous, and I hit both of my putts without really committing to or trusting anything. I am okay with the fact that I am going to execute poorly from time to time, but I cannot accept the fact that it was a matter of thinking poorly that cost me in this situation.

With that said, it is over now, and all I can do is learn from it. I'm super-excited about the status of my game right now. I'm hitting so many quality golf shots and really do feel like my putting is coming around. I know that good things are coming, and I'm certain that the next time I am in the position that I was today, I will stay calm, think properly and get a better result. I know that I will be there again soon!

Check back here in a couple days for a practice report and to see what's coming up next.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sorry for the Delay--Rounds 3 and 4 Report

I know this news is late in coming, but it is good. I played a disappointing third round that included a ball out of play on the par-five 2nd hole and more missed opportunities on the greens before resulting in an even-par total of 72. However, in the final round, I vaulted back up the leaderboard with a great score of 66. After a one-under-par first nine in the final round, I made the turn and got hot. I birdied holes two through six before a poor break off the tee on the seventh led to a bogey, but I finished strong with a great birdie on the par-five 9th. The final round bumped me up to a tie for 10th place. I'm excited to have finished so strongly and placed well in the very strong field.

My confidence is definitely high right now. I'm on the road out to Missouri where I will Monday qualify into a Nationwide Tour event in Springfield on Monday. More on that will be coming soon. Thank you for following, and I'm sorry for the delay in this week's updates.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good but Frustrating in Round 2

My game is as good as I have ever seen it. I'm hitting the ball beautifully and my touch around the greens is pretty darn good. On the greens, however, I'm giving up shots left and right by not converting make-able birdie putts. My ball-striking today was better than yesterday, as I missed just two fairways and two greens, but I was not able to capitolize with as low of a score as my iron play warranted. With two three-putt bogeys and a plethora of missed birdie opportunities from inside fifteen feet, I still managed to shoot 68 and move up the leaderboard considerably.

In its softened state, the course is yielding some great scores. The leader is now fifteen under par for the event. While I am a full ten shots back, I'm in 14th place right now. I'm not going to think about "catching" the leader the next couple days, but I know that with an improving putter, I'll be able to get it deep into red numbers over the weekend, and I'm excited to see how far I can climb.

I'm just going to continue to play intelligently aggressive golf and trust that my skills on the greens (which are good) will convert my good ball-striking into the results for which I've been looking. I tee it up at 9:15 tomorrow morning, and my putter is going to be just like the weather: scorching hot!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Not a Great Start but Feeling Good!

The Spring Creek Golf Club here in Charlottesville, Virginia, is an absolutely beautiful and challenging course. The course has great bentgrass fairways that are very wet right now, so the course, which is normally medium length, is playing very long this week. While the fairways are usually generous, some pretty severe fairway bunkers and dense woods line virtually every hole. The real challenge, though, exists on and around the greens. Very fast putting surfaces combined with significant undulations and a lot of run-off chipping areas make accurate iron shots and great short game touch a must to have a successful round. It's a great course which definitely offers a good challenge, but with greens rolling perfectly and soft conditions, good scores are still very much available.

I played two practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday, and felt pretty good going into today's first round. Though I actually had a lousy warm-up session this morning, I went out and played a beautiful round. I hit all but three fairways and hit 15 greens in regulation. On most all of those 15 greens, I had a very make-able look at birdie, but I could only manage to make three of them and had to settle for a disappointing score of one-under-par 71. I just wasn't very comfortable on the greens today. I feel like I hit a lot of good putts, but never seemed to have the break figured quite properly. I'm really confident that I'm going to continue to roll the ball well, and I know that they will start going in tomorrow.

My round today has me just behind the middle of the pack. Scores were pretty low with the lead belonging to a couple of guys at 65. We are only one fourth of the way done this week. With three rounds left, I feel like I can definitely get myself back into contention. I tee it up at 8:20 tomorrow morning, and I'm going to shoot something low!

Check back here for an update after round 2.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Little PT Inspiration

I left East Tennessee yesterday afternoon to head northeast in the direction of the Tarheel Tour Championship in Charlottesville, VA. The event doesn't start until Wednesday, so I overshot that destination just a little to spend some time with my sister, Laura, in Washington, D.C. After a fun evening walking around the city and throwing the light-up frisbee by the Washington Monument last night, we were up early for some golf this morning. Playing with three Physical Therapists, I was out of my ranks intellectually, but my golf game stacked up just fine. I need to give a shout out to Ken Herbel and Ben Keeton (Jackson Clinics Physical Therapy) for the inspiring performances on the course this morning. I played really well, and feel great going into the Tour Championship this week.

I'll be heading down to Charlottesville to begin preparing at Spring Creek Golf Club tomorrow morning. With my team of PTs behind me, I'm confident it's going to be a great week!

Check back here for an update before the tournament starts on Wednesday.

Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that,...