Sunday, July 1, 2012

Egolf Victory! ...at the End of Busy (and Crazy and Scary) Week

My week began with a 64 on Monday that wasn't good enough to qualify for the Nationwide Tour event in Indiana. Late that night, I made a last-second decision to sign up for the week's Egolf event in Virginia and started driving east. One night at a hotel and 600+ miles later, I arrived at the Wintergreen Resort's Stoney Creek golf course for a quick Tuesday afternoon practice round. I was a bit lazy during the practice round but managed to learn my way around the course fairly well. Tuesday night I made the short drive to my cousin's apartment in a beautiful farm setting just outside of Charlottesville and set up camp for the week. It had been a long couple days to get me to Tuesday night, but I enjoyed the hospitality of my cousin and his fiance and rested well before my 12:10 tee time in Wednesday's first round.

After making a lot of birdies and playing very well the first three rounds, my week got a lot more interesting (and scary and crazy) on Friday night. Sitting on a two shot lead, I headed out for a relaxing dinner with my cousin, his fiance, and some of their friends. We had a good meal and some good camaraderie, and I was feeling great when we got up to head home from dinner. The good feeling didn't last long. As we walked out the door of the restaurant, it was clear that a storm was coming over the mountain. We ran to the car and tried to make it home, but less than two minutes into our drive, the wind blew a tree across the road in front of us and took a power transformer down with it. We whipped a quick three point turn and sped off to get out of the wooded area. We spent the next one hour and forty-five minutes tucked against a bank building underneath the drive through cover and watched as the wind ravished the area. When the wind finally abated enough that we could leave our little safe spot, the real adventure began. With downed trees blocking nearly every road in the rural area, we could not find a route back to my cousin's place. Finally, after trying a multitude of options, we went back to a route that we knew had been blocked during the storm, but luckily crews had cleared a lane, and we were able to make it to my cousin's street. We could not make it all the way to his house, but we were able to park the car within walking distance and climb over a few downed trees to complete our journey to his apartment. Once there, we got no comfort. Trees were down all over his yard. One had clipped the corner of his house on the way down before crushing his neighbor's truck in the driveway. A different tree crushed the car of another neighbor. Somehow my car was spared. Though it was late, we spent some time surveying the damage. It was a crazy, scary night, and despite the damage, the heat, and the lack of electricity, I think we all were thankful to be alive and healthy.

My cousin's apartment Saturday morning
I slept soundly for a couple of hours, but fear that my phone battery would fail overnight and a distrust of my battery-powered alarm clock (with which I always travel but seldom use) kept me tossing and turning for the last hour of the night. By five thirty, I was up to start preparing because I knew that my route to the golf course might be complicated. Fortunately, I was able to stick to a couple of main roads and got to the course with no problems. When I got there, however, I learned that my scare from the night before was shared by nearly everyone in the tournament. Trees were down at the course as well, and the electricity was out. Cleaning up the course took a herculean effort from the greenskeeper's staff. Tee times were delayed by three and a half hours, but finally by 11:50, I was off in the final group.

Compared to the disastrous weather of the night before, golf seems a little bit less important, but I still badly wanted to play a solid final round and win the tournament. I began the round with three consecutive birdies, and though that looked great on paper, there were a lot of shaky shots in those three holes. Still, it was a great start and I felt fairly in control. I actually hit more solid shots in the next three holes, but couldn't convert any birdie opportunities during that stretch. I made an unforced error by being overly aggressive to a tight hole location and short-siding myself from just 135 yards on the par-4 seventh hole. That bogey rattled me just a little bit, and I played some fairly tense golf the rest of the way in. My relaxed attitude was gone, and every shot seemed hard. I made a few mistakes and gave   away some shots with a couple of poor pars on the par-5 ninth and thirteenth holes and made a mess of the tenth hole on the way to a bogey. I managed to get myself into a decent mindset over each shot and did a good job of committing to a plan, but in between shots I was a mess. Finally, after making some good pars, I arrived on the tee of the par-5 seventeenth hole. With a one-shot lead over my playing competitor Chesson Hadley, I reminded myself how much fun that situation was for me. I pounded a drive down the fairway and executed a great five iron into the green. Though I didn't hit a great putt for the eagle, the tap-in birdie allowed me to keep my one-shot advantage heading to the final hole. A safe drive into the right rough set up a beautifully played approach to the middle of the green, some thirty feet left of the tucked right hole location. When Chesson's wedge shot got caught up in the back fringe and he failed to make his long, swinging birdie effort, I rolled my putt within two feet of the hole and kicked it in for par and a one-shot victory.


Me with Wintergreen Director of Golf 
It wasn't the final-round performance that I wanted. It was erratic and stressful, but in the end, I got it done. Given all that went into the week leading up to Saturday's final round, I am going to excuse my mental shortcomings and celebrate the victory. I cannot wait to be in that situation again and approach it with a more well-rested and clear-thinking mind. My goal is to embrace final-round, tournament-on-the-line pressure with the same relaxed and care-free attitude that I approach most everything else in my life. I haven't had that experience yet, but I feel like I am learning more and more. It feels so good to finally put that first Egolf Tour win under my belt, but now I'm hungry to get back so I can do it again and handle it better. My game is good and my attitude is good, but both are still improving. That is what is so exciting.

The support that I received this week from all of you and from my family and from all the folks at Wintergreen has been incredible. Thank you very much for caring about me and my career. It means so much to me to have people rooting for me and sharing my success with me!

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