So I made it through the First Stage of PGA Tour Qualifying. That in itself is great news, but the way that it happened might just be even better news. I would really like to be able to say that my game and my mindset were great everyday and that I played four steady rounds and easily advanced through the first stage, but that is not quite the way it happened. My game was a bit erratic, and for most of the second round and the early stages of third round my emotions were out of control as well. In the middle two rounds, I was almost overcome with nerves and felt powerless as the fidgetiness returned to my routine and reeked havoc on my comfort level over golf shots. My prospects looked pretty bleak midway through the third round, but I held fast to a couple of my core beliefs and managed to pull myself out of a hole. I am going to give details about how it all played out and what I was thinking throughout the process, but the take-home point for me from this experience is the fact that I faced adversity from both my physical and mental games and managed to overcome them on my way to accomplishing my mission at the First Stage of Q-school. That might prove to be more meaningful in the long run than being in complete control of all aspects of my game and cruising through easily would have been.
Though there is definitely a general sense of heightened pressure that surrounds Qschool, I felt fairly calm and committed to a solid game plan during my opening-round 69. That sense of calm was nowhere to be found on day 2. I know that I control my own thoughts, but I could not reign in my wildly racing mind, and I struggled through a fidgety, uncomfortable, and non-confident round of 73 in round 2. I had a relaxing evening after my round-2 struggles put me behind the eight-ball at the half-way point, but I was greeted by the same out-of-control nervous mindset the next morning when my 3rd-round tee time arrived. I nervously struggled through the opening six holes at even-par before hitting one of the worst drives I can ever remember hitting on the par-5 16th hole (my seventh hole of the round). My ball took off so far off line that it hit trees just fifty yards from the tee box and rattled around in the woods while traveling a distance of only 150 yards. For a very brief moment, I gave up. As I searched for my ball, I felt physically and mentally defeated and, in that brief moment, I didn't think I could recover. When I found my ball (with some help from a group playing the preceding hole), I spent a good deal of time deciding what to do. I chose a very aggressive shot and tried to advance my ball out of the woods and toward the green through a very small opening in the trees. When I pulled off that difficult escape shot, I reminded myself of two of my core beliefs as I walked to my ball.
1.) I have the ability to choose my thoughts, and therefore, with some will power, I can choose to focus on one shot at a time and keep my thoughts in the present.
2.) I am the best putter I know, and regardless of my ball-striking struggles, I have a decided advantage because of my putting.
Keeping these two things in mind does not guarantee that I will always be successful, but in this case, doing so allowed me to turn things around. I was still very nervous, and I continued to fidget more than I want to over shots for the rest of the third round, but I got myself into a mental position to be successful over nearly every shot for the rest of the event. Starting with a great par save on that 16th hole during round 3, I played the final 30 holes in seven under par to get the job done. Despite being in an enormous situation, I was actually at my calmest during the final round. I am proud of that and pumped to be moving on in Qschool.
My game does need some work. Everything was better during the final round, from my driving of the golf ball to my trust level with my fidget-less routine, and I can use that as a great building block as I prepare for second stage. Though confidence is a thought and therefore a choice, it is true that "competence builds confidence." I need to increase my competence as a ball-striker so that the choice to approach each shot with confidence will be easier to make. I will have some quality practice over the next couple weeks, and I will absolutely be firing on all cylinders in mid-November when Second Stage rolls around.
I am going to keep my game sharp with tournament action the next couple weeks as well. The eGolf Tour has two events left on its 2012 schedule, and they will be contested the next two weeks. I plan to play in both and add to what has already been a solid year on that tour. I wrote at the beginning of the year in my "outcome goals" that I wanted to have multiple wins on that Tour. I have but one thus far. Let's see if I can achieve that goal over the next couple weeks.
Equally important will be my pursuit of my process goals for the rest of the year. My putting and short game have really responded well to the focused practice that my goals require, and I am excited to keep up with them. I had a great week of work during First Stage at Callaway Gardens, and while I am sad to say that I actually didn't quite finish all of my goals this past week, I feel comfortable saying that I deserved the day off on Sunday. I will make up for not finishing my process goals last week with diligent weeks leading into Second Stage. My practice has been consistently good most of the year, and I will continue to put in quality work to improve all aspects of my golf.
I am proud, relieved, and very much excited with the way First Stage went last week at Callaway Gardens. This is just the beginning. Great stuff is coming over the next couple months and then well into the future as well. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me! Thank you very much for your support and encouragement along the way!
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