Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wrap-up from First Nationwide Tour event of 2012

There is no doubt in my mind that I was exactly where I belong when I was playing along side the Nationwide Tour players this past week in the Stadion Classic. I always seemed to have one element of my game working well during the week, but could never match solid ball-striking with a good performance on and around the greens. I did enough things right to know for sure that I am ready for that level, and I am now more hungry than ever to get back out there where I belong.

In Sunday's final round, I was a bit shaky from a ball-striking perspective, but I was committed to being more aggressive on the greens, and the results were great. I survived some very errant shots in the first five holes to escape that opening stretch with all pars. I then settled down a bit and gave myself some good birdie opportunities on holes six and seven and was able to convert them both. An overly aggressive first putt from the fringe on the par-three eighth hole led to a bogey, but I responded with great birdies at holes ten and eleven to move to three under par for my final round. A slightly pulled tee shot at the watery par-five twelfth hole forced me to lay-up, and I narrowly missed a fifteen footer for birdie after my wedge shot came up just short of hole. From there, I made my first serious mistakes of the tournament. With the tees up on the water-guarded par-three thirteenth, I was between clubs and decided to go with a controlled seven iron. I was committed to the shot, but my execution was awful and I hit the ball some twenty yards right of my target and into the lake. A poor wedge from the drop area led to a two-putt double-bogey. I was determined to stay positive and get right back into a solid routine, but a bit of misfortune hit me on the very next hole. I missed the fairway by just a fraction, but my lie looked fine into the uphill par-four fourteenth. My approach shot from just 136 yards caught a "flyer" out the rough, however, and hit a cart path over the back of the green to go some 75 yards down a hill towards the next fairway. I hit a great shot up and nearly saved par, but the bogey dropped me back to even par for my final round with just four holes remaining. I was still determined to dig deep and finish strongly. I striped a drive down the narrow par-four fifteenth and made birdie after a great wedge to five feet. I executed very well on the sixteenth and seventeenth holes as well, but could not get the birdie putts to fall. On the final hole, I had a great two-putt up and over a mound from probably 90 feet to close with a par and a final round of one-under-par 70. It was very disappointing to squander the momentum that I had built in the middle of my round, but I am still proud of the way that I brought it back and gave myself a chance for some big birdies down the stretch.

My rounds of 68, 70, 70, 70 left me with a six-under-par total and a T31 finish for the week. One of the very exciting things about the Nationwide Tour is that a finish in the top 25 automatically qualifies a player for the Tour's next event. That was definitely something that I wanted and expected to achieve last week, so I am disappointed to have come up a little bit short. However, to finish 31st without ever really having my game firing on all cylinders is definitely very encouraging. I was very confident going into this past week that I could compete at the Nationwide Tour level, and I am absolutely certain of it now. There is no Monday Qualifier for the next event on the Nationwide Tour, but I will be signed up and ready to qualify when the Tour plays in Raleigh, NC, the last week of May.

For now I have to stay focused and positive and keep working to improve. I have a big day tomorrow (Wednesday) as I will be playing in Local Qualifying for the U.S. Open at Holston Hills Country Club. I was close to the U.S. Open last year, so I hope that I can get back to Sectionals again this year and give myself another chance. I will be ready to go when I tee it up tomorrow morning at Holston Hills.

Last week was an exciting and positive experience for me. It has me as motivated as ever to keep improving and to take my game to the next level. In order to do that, I have to stay focused on my process goals and continue to work hard to improve. I will do just that! Keep it here for a good news report from U.S. Open Local Qualifying and to keep up with my practice this week. Thank you for following. Great things are coming!

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