Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mentally Tough

Alright, I still don't have much time to write, but I'm going to catch you up a little bit on the events of the week. I arrived in Wallace, NC, (40 miles northwest of Wilmington) on Tuesday afternoon and played a practice round on the River Course at River Landing Country Club. The River Course is a nice layout with a good variety of holes. Some holes feature length and require longer approach shots while others are shorter and offer nice birdie opportunities. Some holes are quite open and others are very demanding with trees, hazards, and out-of-bounds waiting just off of the fairway. It is definitely a very nice layout, but the best feature is the greens. The putting surfaces are champions bermuda grass, and they are smooth, fast, and grainy. After a decent practice round and a quick practice session on Tuesday, I felt like I knew the course fairly well and was ready for tournament play to begin on Wednesday.

In reality, I did not do a good job of preparing myself on Tuesday for the challenge that the greens would present, and my lack of preparation showed in a first round during which I three-putted three times and added a fourth three-putt from the fringe on another hole. Luckily my ball-striking was good in the first round, or I could have posted an ugly score. I survived my terrible putting day with a score of even-par 72 in the opening round. I began my second round outside of the cut-line, but I was determined not to think about that. I had battled through an extremely frustrating afternoon of putting practice following my first round performance, and I had a very good short putting session in the morning before beginning my normal warm-up routine on Thursday. I went to the first tee determined to focus on each shot and not let my mind get obsessed with trying to make the cut. My early round ball-striking put me behind the eight-ball quickly. Though I felt good about my swing heading into the round, I quickly realized that something was a little bit off. I snap hooked a drive out of bounds on the wide open second hole and made a double-bogey and then pull hooked another tee shot into a group of trees to set up a bogey on the par-4 fourth. I was reeling, but I was determined to stick to my plan. I committed to each and every shot and began to claw my way back. A couple of birdies allowed me to turn at even par for the day, but a poor club selection and a very poor chip led to a bogey on the eleventh and threatened to derail me. Standing at one over par with seven holes to play, I could have given up. I consciously decided to take control of my thoughts and chose to continue to try to play one shot at a time. I began to execute a few shots well, and I managed to birdie holes 12, 13, and 16 to get to two under par. A near miss from long range on the seventeenth hole left me feeling frustrated, but I was determined to stay committed and hit good shots on the final hole. I hit my driver down the fairway and then hit a gap wedge right at the flag from 120 yards. The only problem was I had misjudged the wind and the ball came up short of the front hole location and sat in the grass on the face of a bunker. I was definitely discouraged by the result of that shot, but I had to go play it from where it stopped, so I held it together and walked to my ball and calmly chipped it off the face of the bunker and into the hole for a closing birdie and a second-round score of 69. It was a great feeling to finish my round strongly, and I am pumped to say that despite awful putting in round one and some extremely poor ball-striking early in round two, I am heading to the weekend with a chance to play well and jump up the leaderboard. My physical skills have been a bit off this week, but my mental game has never been stronger than it was in round two. I know that my putting and ball-striking are both in fine shape, and the confidence I gained from executing well under pressure today might just vault me to a great weekend performance.

I get started very early in the third round. I'm excited to go out and make a move. The course will likely be set up tough for day three, so a solid performance will go a long way. I'm going to be patient, focused, and relaxed. Come back in the evening to read a good report! Thank you for your support!

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