Friday, September 30, 2011

An Over-due Report: Tournament Wrap-Up from Charlottesville

The Egolf Professional Tour was in Charlottesville, VA, this week at a great course called Spring Creek Golf Club. Weather-related delays caused some very long days in the course of this 54-hole event, but just before sunset on Friday, the competition was completed. I had a strange week during which I put some of my very best ball-striking on display, but also showed some struggles with my putter and made a few costly mental errors. The end result of my week was 71, 71, 68 performance that was good for a tie for 10th place, but there are some good stories that occurred along the way.

I was the first group of the day for Wednesday's first round and was at the course warming up by 6:55 for my 8:00 o'clock tee time. After I had a good warm-up session in very soggy conditions, The committee determined that the course was too wet and needed time to dry, so my tee time was delayed until 10:00. My group started at 10:00, and despite the fact that I birdied the first two holes of the tournament, I was uncomfortable from the get-go because two lost balls caused us to take 46 minutes on the first two holes and be way behind the pace-of-play guidelines. To make a long story short, we were slower than we should have been all day, and, rather than staying committed to my routine, I found myself rushing a lot of shots. I can go through my routine both quickly and thoroughly, but I simply did not do a good job of thinking through all of my shots and committing to a good game plan. In spite of that, I played a fairly solid first round in which I hit the ball well for the most part but threw away two shots with a huge mental error that led to a double-bogey on the par-four 7th hole and missed a lot of putts that I expect to make. The end result was a one-under-par round of 71 to open the tournament on a day that yielded a lot of good scores.

Almost half the field had to complete its first round on Thursday morning before the second round could begin. This, coupled with a fog delay of almost two hours, pushed my second-round tee time back to 3:40 on Thursday. I had a great practice session in the morning and spent some time relaxing as well, so I felt ready when it was finally time to play golf. Unfortunately, my putter again was none too sharp on the course, so a lot of quality shots led to mediocre pars. I hung in there nicely, however, and had it one under par through eleven holes of my second round as darkness began to set in. The horn blew to stop play for the night just after I had hit my tee shot on the 3rd hole (my 12th), but when play is suspended for darkness, players have the option to finish a started hole. My group chose to finish the third hole, but my brain decided that it was done for the day, apparently. Facing a 200-yard shot over a creek from a poor lie in a fairway bunker, I tried to hit a four iron onto the green. It was a huge mental error, and I hit a terrible, half-shanked shot that somehow cleared the creek but ended up in woods right of the green and in bad shape. Despite a couple of good efforts from there, I made a double-bogey on the hole and ended my second round on an extremely sour note. Despite hitting the ball very well for most of the twelve holes I had played, I was one over par for my second round, and very much in danger of missing the cut.

On Friday morning I arrived at the course bright and early to finish my second round. After a great warm-up, I was out to the fourth tee by 7:50 and ready for an 8:00 o'clock re-start. Needing a couple birdies and facing some difficult holes, I knew that I would have to be very tough mentally, and I was just that. I gave myself make-able looks at birdie on each of the last six holes in my second round, and was able to make two of them to post a second-round score of one-under-par 71 to make the cut and earn my spot in the afternoon's third round. It was a great feeling to know that I needed to execute well and deliver a good performance Friday morning.

The second round was finally completed by late-morning on Friday, and I was assigned a final-round tee time of 12:50. I was confident that I was going to play well and move up the leaderboard, but my start left a little bit to be desired. Great tee shots and good iron shots gave me decent birdie putts on my first two holes (10 and 11), but I didn't manage to convert either opportunity. Then, on the reachable par-five 12th, I hit two great shots and was pin high, just left of the green and only about twenty feet from the hole with a pitch shot for an eagle. It was a tough shot, and I executed well, but my ball scurried some 15 feet past the hole. From there, I looked like a real idiot. I rammed my birdie putt four feet past the hole and then missed the short, downhiller for par. I had to calmly roll in an eight foot putt just to salvage a bogey from my mess. Despite being one over par through three holes at that point, I knew that I was hitting the ball great, so I just tried to continue doing that. I am proud to say that for the 24 holes I played on Friday, I hit every green in regulation and had reasonable chances for birdie on all but just a few of them. My putter never did get hot, and I had to settle for a final-round 68, but I know that I was on the verge of doing something special.

My six-under-par total for the week was good enough to sneak into the top 10. That is a pretty good accomplishment for a week when my putter was a bit cold and I made two very uncharacteristic mental errors. One other slightly disappointing area this week was my par-five scoring--I was only three under par for the week--but I feel like I executed well on those holes and was just struggling to convert on my birdie opportunities. All-in-all, I am extremely pleased with the state of my game and continue to feel improvements. I am excited to keep going. I need to have a good weekend of practice and plan to earn my first Nationwide Tour start of the year on Monday in the Qualifier for next week's event in Chattanooga.

Thank you for following! Keep it here for more (and more frequent!) updates moving forward.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ready to Go Again!

Here's just a quick summary of last week and a peak at what comes next:

I had a great day of practice on Saturday following the Missouri Open. I wrapped up all of my process goals for the week, and feel awesome about the work I did on my putting. My wedge play has continued to feel good, but I know that I can further sharpen that aspect of my game if I keep working on it. Everything is feeling good, and I am still very much enjoying playing and practicing, so I am excited.

I drove home on Sunday and am getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for Charlottesville, Virginia, and this week's Egolf "Fall Series" tournament. The tournament begins Wednesday morning and is at a great golf course--Spring Creek Golf Club. I will get up there in time to play a quick practice round on Tuesday afternoon. I like that golf course a lot and am ready to have a great week on the Egolf Tour.

Next week, the Nationwide Tour comes to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I will most certainly be playing in the Monday Qualifier. That is an exciting opportunity for me because I really like city of Chattanooga and am comfortable on the qualifying course and the tournament course.

I'm excited to keep playing well and to continue getting better. I still feel like great things are coming! Keep it here for me news and for updates from the Egolf tournament in Charlottesville.

Friday, September 23, 2011

High Expectations

I'm not sure how to feel right now about my performance in this year's Missouri Open. At the end of the day, I posted two decent rounds of golf (69, 70) and had a decent finish (Tie 4th), but I certainly expected to win the event and feel that I should have. I find myself incredibly disappointed with that result, but the truth of the matter is that I played very solid golf from the 7th hole through the 34th hole of the event. A nervous and sloppy start combined with some untimely mistakes on the final two holes left me two shots behind the winning score, but neither of those two things change the fact that my game is in great shape and I am playing very well. I'm disappointed right now, but I know that with just a little time to process this, I'll realize that it was still a very positive tournament and another step in the right direction.

In the final round today, I played incredibly solid golf and had myself in position to win with two holes remaining. I was three under par for the round and hit a great drive right in front of the green on the par-4 17th. I hit a great chip but the ball landed more softly than I had envisioned that it would, and then my jaw dropped as the ensuing ten-foot birdie putt failed to take the break and lipped out on the high side. I was proud of every shot I hit on the 17th, and the end result should not change that. I did hit a terrible drive on 18 and followed it with a poor club selection and then a misjudged chip from a tough position over the green. Eventually I tapped in for bogey on the final hole, and a final round of two-under-par 70. I feel like I was in a good place mentally heading into the closing two holes, but I simply didn't get the results for which I was looking today. I know that I can play 17 and 18 at Old Hawthorne in one under par with my eyes closed, but I didn't do that today, and that has left me in a disappointing position right now. I'm still happy, and I still feel great. I can't wait to get back in action because I know that I am playing great.

I'll be back on here with another update very soon because I need to tell you about more exciting opportunities that are coming up in the very near future. Thank you for following!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Slow Start But in Good Shape in MO Open

I had a great morning heading into my 8:50 a.m. first round tee time today at the Missouri Open, but that did not translate into a good start. Two lousy shots at the opening hole led to a bogey on the benign par-4, and more poor shots and a couple of missed putts would lead to two more bogeys and a two-over-par-through-six-holes start. Some good self talk and a good attitude kept me going, however, and despite a couple of missed opportunities on holes 8 and 9, I made the turn and delivered a good back-nine performance that saw me make five birdies and no bogeys. In the end I had an opening round of three-under-par 69 and now find myself two shots behind the leader heading into the second and final round. I'll be playing a group in front of the leader tomorrow, but I know that if I do my job and stay focused on each and every shot, I will have a great day. I tee off at 10:20 and am looking forward to another exciting day and a chance to deliver a great performance. Come back to hear all about it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Acknowledging Some Challenges, But Ready to Go in MO Open!

The Missouri Open gets under way tomorrow morning at the Club at Old Hawthorne. I have continued to have great practice and feel very thoroughly prepared to play well in this event. Entering this event, I know that I have a lot of people here in Columbia, MO, who are rooting for me, and quite frankly, I know that many of them expect me to win. I definitely want to deliver and believe that I can, but it will be very important that I approach this like every other tournament I play and have a present-minded focus on each and every shot. With that said, I am very confident and ready to execute well this week.

I tee off at 8:50 tomorrow morning in the first round. The Missouri Open is only 36 holes, but that doesn't really change my mindset very much. If I can have a smart game plan for every shot, commit to that plan, and execute confidently, I will be in great shape. I know that this tournament will be fun! Come back for a round 1 update tomorrow.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great Week in the Books; Exciting Things to Come

The past seven days have been some of my most productive that I can remember. I think I actually put in a lot more hours on non-competition weeks than do when I have tournaments. The good news is that I really enjoy almost every aspect of my work, so I never mind the long days. This week I finally completed all of my process goals, and I spent a lot of time on the course, too. I am spoiled when I am in Columbia to have the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex available to me, so my workouts were a bit heavier than usual this week as well. Long workouts and big days of practice equal a lot of time dedicated to golf, but I also found some time to relax this weekend as I caught a Kansas City Royals game at Kauffman Stadium Friday night and watched my Mizzou Tigers man-handle Western Illinois University (or High School, was it?) on Saturday evening in Columbia. It really was a great week, and it that has me feeling great as I move forward and get ready for more tournament action.

I want to share a couple cool stories from my week. My plan for Thursday practice was to go to Old Hawthorne and do a few putting drills, practice some wedge play, and then spend the entire afternoon out on the course by myself playing a couple of balls and hitting a lot of practice shots from any and everywhere. Instead, I got tipped off that there was a great game at Gustin Golf Course and found out that a couple of my former Mizzou teammates were playing, so I joined them. The game was just a big skins game, so overall score meant little, but making birdies could be valuable. After a slow start that saw me birdie just the reachable par-5 first and one other short par-4 through the first 8 holes, I made three tough birdies and an eagle over the final ten holes. Three sloppy bogeys on the round knocked my final score back to pedestrian four-under-par 66, but my birdie/eagle run over the last ten holes was rewarding--in more ways than one!

Another cool story from my week is the manner in which I completed all of my process goals. As I've discussed on here before, my putting drills have been giving me trouble lately, and upon my return to Columbia this week, I was unfortunately greeted by recently aerified greens at Old Hawthorne. They were punched with only small holes and had been top-dressed heavily, but still my early-week motivation to get after my putting drills was not great. Therefore, I entered Sunday needing to do not only my proxi drills with my wedges but also three putting drills in order to complete my goals for the week. Having struggled recently on perfect greens to complete my drills, doing three of them in one day on a green that still showed signs of its recent punching might have seemed like a daunting task. I know that putting is absolutely a strength of my game, and I was determined not to come up short today. Each drill I attempted felt like a tournament to me, and though there were some setbacks, I followed all of my rules and completed my six-footer drill, a three-footer drill, and capped off the last of my process goals in dramatic fashion by making a 50-foot downhill putt on the last hole of my lag drill. It was really good stuff!

My work this week was very good. I feel great about my wedge play and was so pumped to step up and complete my putting drills today. I really do feel pressure while I'm doing those and have to rely on the strength of my routine to complete them. I get back into competition this week with the Missouri Open on Thursday and Friday, and I feel like my game will be ready for it. I have a lot of possible tournaments coming up in the coming weeks, and the First Stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (Q-school) will begin in exactly a month. I am really pleased with the status of my game and the quality of the work that I am putting into it. I am confident that I will continue to improve and feel like coming weeks and months will bring some very exciting things. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me. Thank you so much for following!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moving Forward

I must admit that the feeling of a great performance to capture a win can leave me patting myself on the back a little bit, but I know that I absolutely must continue to improve and am working hard to do just that. Following the final round of the Nebraska Open in Columbus, NE, I had a relaxing celebratory evening with my hosts in Lincoln and spent the night there before driving to Columbia, MO, on Monday. I have no competitions until next week's Missouri Open (September 22, 23), so I plan to use the coming days to get in a lot of quality practice.

After a short workout and a quick nine holes with some friends on Monday afternoon, I put in a very full day of work on Tuesday. After a morning run in some refreshingly cool conditions, I was out to the golf course by shortly after nine o'clock, and spent the whole day there doing a variety of types of practice. One fortunate thing that I have going for me is that my home course here in Columbia, the Club at Old Hawthorne, is also the venue of the Missouri Open. Therefore, I will definitely spend even more of my practice time than usual in the next week playing the course. However, I am also working hard towards achieving all of my process goals and have already gotten a lot of work done with my wedges and completed one of my putting drills. I had a very balanced day of practice on Tuesday and feel great about what I was able to accomplish.

A rainy Wednesday didn't look very promising early in the day. I had a great workout in the morning, but then sat and watched a persistent rain drench Columbia, MO. In fact, both of the courses that take great care of me here (Old Hawthorne and Gustin G.C.) were closed. I was afraid I wouldn't get any work in, but some evening sunshine was too nice to resist, so I went out to the Mizzou Team's old short range with my bag of practice balls at about 5:00 o'clock and had two and a half hours of very peaceful and productive practice. It turned out to be a great day!

My game feels very good, but the thing that has me most excited is the fact that I still feel like I can improve a lot in every area of the game. I'm going to continue to have a productive week of practice and I am GOING to FINISH all of my process goals. Come back for more updates along the way. Thank you again for your encouragement following the NE Open!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Great Final Round = Winner Winner in Nebraska

That headline says it all. I played well today in the final round of the Nebraska Open and shot a 65 to come from two shots behind the 36-hole leader and win by three shots. It was great round, and I'll give you a brief play-by-play of the action:

I was determined today to stay committed to my game and take care of things that I can control. Therefore, my plan was to hit a lot of intelligent shots and think my way around the course regardless of what I saw on the scoreboards or from my playing competitors. My play on the first three holes didn't fit that description. After a solid opening tee shot and a safe par on number one, I drove it into the left trees on number two and the right trees on number three. A low, hooking shot out of the trees on number two got me near the green and a great up-and-down saved my par. From the right trees on the third hole, I pretty much had to chip my ball out into the fairway. Facing 107 yards for my third shot into the par four, I hit a great wedge right over the flagstick and calmly rolled in a 15-foot putt for par. To walk away from with pars on those two holes was a testament to my positive attitude and my good short game. I felt awesome escaping my two errant tee shots with pars, and I got back on track in a big way with three consecutive birdies on holes 4-6 to open up a two shot lead. In fact, after my conspicuous start, I followed my game plan almost perfectly the final 15 holes. With the exception of two more poor tee shots on holes 10 and 15, I hit great tee shots the rest of the way and hit each of the last 15 greens in regulation except for number 10. I made pars on holes 7-12 and saw a couple of players get back to within one shot of my lead. But on the par-5 13th, I ended my par streak in a big way. A great drive and a sweet hybrid from 235 yards set up a 12-foot putt for eagle and I rolled it right in the middle. That eagle opened up a three-shot lead, and pars on holes 14-17 kept me two shots clear of the field before I hit a great 7-iron approach within four feet of the hole on 18th hole for a closing birdie to seal my final-round 65 and a three-shot margin of victory. It was a solid round and a great feeling.

I won this week because I did everything fairly well. My wedge play was very good, but other than that, I did everything just fairly well. I hit a lot of good tee shots and was able to keep my misses in play; I hit a lot of solid iron shots and rarely hit what I would call a "poor" iron; and I putted the ball nicely all week. My touch was great on the very fast greens. I had no three putts this week, and, though I did miss four putts this week in the 3-6 foot range, I was fairly solid from short-range on the greens. My short game was sharp this week as well, and that was great to see. All areas of my game feel pretty good, but there is definitely room to keep improving, and I am excited to continue getting better.

I do need to say that I was not good at all this week at working towards my process goals. I really do feel like I had good practice sessions and obviously I did the things I needed to do to be successful, but I didn't complete my fitness goals, putting drills, or wedge-play practice this week. I put in a lot of effort with my putter and wedges this week, but didn't really manage my time very well and was again too lenient on myself about my goals. I have the entire next week off from competition, and I am going to hold myself 100% accountable for all of my process goals and get back into good habits with my practice.

With that said, my game feels awesome. I know that I need to continue to sharpen all the areas of my game and develop more consistency and continue to improve, but I feel like I am still progressing very nicely. My next competition will come September 22-23 in the Missouri Open at the Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, MO. I am excited to compete in my college town in an event that I won last year. I know that some good practice between now and then will have me ready to defend that title just like I did this week in Nebraska. My game is exciting, and more and bigger good things are on the way. Keep it hear for practice reports along the way!

By the way, the outpouring of support that I have already received from all of you after this win is awesome! Thank you so much for thinking of me and cheering for me!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Exciting Final Round Coming

I played great in the second round of the Nebraska Open. A 10-minute period early in my round saw two strange things happen to me that cost me some shots, but other than that, I was very pleased with the way I executed and handled myself. I felt great heading into my round after a solid warm-up session, and started by hitting my first 13 shots of the day very well. Those shots got me through holes 10, 11, and 12 (I began on the back nine today) with a birdie and two pars and had me just three feet away from the hole for another birdie on the par-5 13th. It was there that I started a short stretch where things went crazy for a little while. I hit a horrible putt from three feet to miss my birdie on number 13 and then blocked my tee shot on the ensuing hole into some trees and rough right of the fairway. While looking for my ball, I kicked something, and sure enough, it was my ball, which must have been sitting down in some rough. I had to drop my ball back in the spot from which I had kicked it and incurred a one-stroke penalty for moving my ball. I ended making a double-bogey. I wasn't sure what to think for a minute, but I quickly remembered that I had been executing very well and realized that I just needed to get back on track with some solid golf shots. From that point on I made five birdies and no bogeys to shoot a second round score of four-under-par 67. I am very pleased with the way I rebounded from a little adversity and feel good about that score.

I currently stand at 8 under par for the event and am in a tie for second place. The leader is two shots ahead of me, but I will be playing with him in the final group tomorrow. I enjoy the position in which I find myself and relish the opportunity to compete for a win. My keys for tomorrow are going to be intelligence, patience, commitment, and confidence. If I can apply these four ideas to every shot tomorrow, I know that I can execute well and have a great day. I know that I will be enjoying myself. I expect great things, so come back to hear all about it tomorrow evening!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Solid Round One; Feeling Good in NE

In today's first round at the Nebraska Open, I delivered a solid performance. A short morning practice session before lunch had me feeling good, and I was very relaxed this afternoon for my 1:50 tee time. I began the day with three perfect golf shots for a birdie on the par-4 opening hole, and, after scrambling for pars on the next two holes, I settled into a very solid groove. In fact, I had make-able birdie putts on every hole from number 4 through 16. I missed the green right on long par-3 17th and hit a good pitch shot and a solid putt, but couldn't quite get my five-footer to fall. The bogey was my only one of the day, and it left me with a four-under-par round of 67.

Given the fast and firm condition of the greens, my solid--at times even conservative--play today was just what the doctor ordered. I kept the ball in good positions almost all day, and took advantage of the par-fives with birdies on all three of them. I had a lot of birdie putts today, and I did putt well, but had my putter gotten hot, I could have shot a very good round. As it was, my score was good enough to have me in a tie for fourth after round 1 and only one shot behind the leaders.

I feel good about all areas of my game. Nothing was particularly flashy today, but everything was pretty solid. I'm very confident that I can keep getting better the next couple of days, too. I tee off tomorrow at 9:20 in round two and will try to build on my success from round 1. Come back for more good news after the road, and check out the results at www.nebraskapga.com.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nebraska Open Time

It is time to go in Nebraska. I competed in the pro-am today (Thursday) for the Nebraska Open, and am excited to get the tournament started tomorrow (Friday). The event is being held for the twentieth consecutive year at the Elks Country Club in Columbus, NE, and I certainly experienced some good memories being back there today. The layout of the course is the same as always and features short but narrow holes that are tree-lined and well-defended by dog-legs and some decent rough. A major difference this year is the fact that the greens are absolutely lightning fast. The course will be incredibly fun this week because shots will require a lot of intelligence into the greens and phenomenal touch on and around them. With that said, I feel like I know how to play this course well and expect that I will be able to shoot some great scores. I don't tee off until 1:50 in the first round, so I will have a relaxing morning of practice before lunch and then a fun afternoon on the course as I try to get off to a good start in the tournament!

Come back for a round one report in the evening. It's going to be good news!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Putting (Drill) Woes

I have wrapped up another great week of practice. Despite practicing in four different cities this week (Pittsburgh, East TN, Columbia, and Kansas City), I have had a very productive week and have completed all of my wedge play and fitness goals for the third consecutive week. I think it's time to admit that my putting is in a bit of a lull because I have once again come up short of completing all of my putting drills despite putting a lot of effort into doing so. With that said, I still feel that I putt the ball as well as anyone and have continued to be happy with the way that I am rolling the ball when I'm on the course. I will continue to be diligent in working towards all of my process goals and am confident that I will get the putting solved. I am proud of the work that I have been doing in all areas of my game, and I really feel like I am continuing to improve.

I will start this week with a couple more good days of practice before I take off for the Nebraska Open on Wednesday. I will compete in a Thursday pro-am prior to Friday's first round. I obviously have great memories from last year's Nebraska Open, and I think that I can repeat! Keep it here for updates as I work towards doing just that!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Great Things Coming in the Midwest

I had a very solid four days of practice this week in Tennessee and this afternoon made the long (but easy) drive from my beautiful home in Dandridge, TN, to Columbia, MO. I am going to enjoy some time with friends and my sweetheart over the Labor Day weekend, but will also be working hard on my game to ensure that I am fine-tuned to defend my Nebraska Open title next week. I have done good work towards my process goals for the week, but have a little bit more wedge work and some important putting drills to do this weekend. I need to have a good weekend of practice and will do just that! The Nebraska and Missouri Opens are the next two things on my schedule, and I am determined to deliver solid performances in both! I'll give you a report with more specifics about those two upcoming events and a summary of my weekend practice in the next couple days. Thank you for following me, and have a great Labor Day weekend!

Catching Up on a Positive Last Month

I've been too busy playing golf tournaments and working on my game to update my blog! That's really not true, but I have been keepin...