Monday, November 26, 2012

A Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much for which to be thankful. My family loves and supports me. My girlfriend of more than four years goes through the ups and downs of my golf career with me (even from a distance) while working a full time job and finishing her Ph. D. I have friends all over the country who offer me support and warm homes during my travels. In addition to that, I have a team of people, most notably Bobby Bray (Bobbo), who have helped to cultivate my game over the last several years. All of these pieces come together and allow me to apply myself fully toward my goal of having a successful career on the PGA Tour. I am so thankful for the life that I am able to lead and for all of the people that help make it possible for me to do it. It was truly a happy Thanksgiving for me, and I hope the same for all of you.

In terms of a golf update, I fibbed in my last blog post. I have not as of yet analyzed my practice logs and stats from the year to give any concrete data to you. The one thing that I know for sure is that my competence as a ball-striker and my confidence in my ball-striking deteriorated over the last couple months of the season. Bobbo and I had a long talk on the phone last week to discuss a strategy for improving over the winter, and we had our first session on Sunday afternoon. We are going to make some changes, and I am excited about that. I don't like thinking mechanical thoughts at all, and I will not be making highly technical changes, but I am going to improve the way that my lower body works in my golf swing. I am also going to improve my impact position by getting my hands a little bit in front of the clubhead during the actual strike of the ball. I will fill you in more as I start to better understand the changes that I am making. I am really excited, though, because I know that I have a lot of room to improve as a ball-striker, and I can tell that these changes are going to spark that improvement.

I will give at least weekly updates of my progress throughout the winter, but I will also publish a summary of my 2012 season very soon. There is obviously a lot of positive information that I will remember, but I'm also certain that there is a lot from which I can learn and on which I can improve. Come back for more news soon, and keep it here for progress reports and a look towards potential 2013 schedule options. Thank you very much for all of your support and encouragement!


A cool view from a Saturday hike on the way up to Mt. Leconte in the Smokey Mnts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crash... Early End to a Great Year

I did not play well the final two rounds at the Second Stage of Q-school. Rounds of 78 and 75 on Friday and Saturday placed me convincingly on the wrong side of the score needed to advance to the Final Stage and marked the conclusion of my 2012 competitive schedule. Q-school is the most important competition of the year for a player like me with no status on the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour, so it is very disappointing that my performance didn't match the consistently high standard that I have upheld for most of the year. I definitely was nervous and felt an increased amount of pressure at Q-school, but I truly believe that I handled the mental challenges of the week well enough to be successful. I simply didn't have it from a physical standpoint. My ball-striking was bad all week, and though I managed it well enough to hang in the mix through two rounds, I didn't hit enough solid shots to survive the tough course for four rounds.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that I have exited Q-school before reaching the Final Stage. That is extremely disappointing, but it is important to look at the entire body of work when analyzing my year and the trajectory of my career. I have done nothing but improve over the past three seasons of playing professional golf, and 2012 was undoubtedly my best year. My results were consistently good, and I even managed to have some very good tournament results on weeks when I didn't feel great about my game. I have practice logs and some year-long statistics that I will study over the next week and will share some more detailed analysis of things that I did well and things that I can do differently to keep improving. My general summary of the year right now is simply that is was another huge step in the right direction despite a very disappointing ending.

With that said, there are areas of my game that glaringly need work. I am a very inconsistent ball-striker. At times I feel like I can hit every shot that is needed to be successful, but at other times, I struggle just to hit routine shots solidly. I'm pleased with the work that I have done and continue to do on my putting and short game, but it's time that I actually put some real effort into my ball-striking. I am going to talk with Bobbo and come up with a plan for the next couple months. I'm not talking about making a drastic swing change, but I need to come up with something (a new swing thought or practice technique, for example) that can help me increase my competence and consistency as a ball-striker.

I am not discouraged. Disappointment is still hovering over the bum results from last week and the consequences thereof, but I will move on and continue to improve. My career is still on a great trajectory, and I still absolutely love what I do. I will be stronger and better than ever next year!

I am going to do some analysis of the year and come up with a plan for the winter in the next week. Please keep it here for more news, and continue to keep up with me moving forward. I really appreciate all the support and encouragement that you continue to provide as I chase this dream. We are going to catch it!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Still Kickin'!

I've reached the mid-way point here at the Second Stage of Q-school at the Hombre Golf Club. I shot even par (71) in the second round. I survived some very squirrely shots with some great par saves in the first part of my round, but I just couldn't string together enough good shots to make any birdies. Through the first 15 holes, I had made 14 pars and a bogey. I finished birdie, birdie, bogey. Despite the bogey at the last, I feel like my finish gave me a little momentum heading into the final two rounds. The course played tough in the second round, and though 71 was definitely not a great score, it actually moved me slightly in the correct direction on the leaderboard. I am currently right in the middle of the field (T34th), but I have two more rounds to move up. My game is actually feeling better each day, so I'm excited to get out there and play again. I will definitely be nervous these next two days, but I'm going to enjoy the moment, stay relaxed, and play well! Come back for a round 3 report Friday evening. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Played Well in Round 1

The Second Stage of Q-school began for me on Wednesday morning at the Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Florida. Some recent ball-striking woes had me knowing that I would need to manage my game well around the trouble-laden course. My mindset was fairly good in Wednesday's opening round, and I made a lot of very good decisions on the course. I actually executed fairly well, too, and am quite pleased with the way everything felt. Unfortunately, the one poor decision I did make cost me a couple of shots and left me with a score that really doesn't reflect how well I played. On my 16th hole (the 7th), I chose to play safely and hit an extra club on the water-guarded par 3. I made a great swing, but as soon as I made contact, I knew the ball would go too far. I thought it would just go to the back of the green, but it actually flew all the way over the putting surface and into the pond behind the green. That turned into a double bogey, and I shot a one-under-par round of 70. I really played quite nicely, so it's a shame I don't have a better score to show for it. I'm very encouraged, though, and am excited that I have three more days. I'm going to stay relaxed and continue to enjoy myself. Good things are coming! Keep it here for more updates. Thank you for following me!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Good Decision Making

I am in Panama City Beach, Florida, and I'm ready for Wednesday morning's first round of the Second Stage of PGA Tour Q-school at Hombre Golf Club. I have had two good days of practice at the Hombre, and I have learned my way around the course very well. The Hombre is a fairly short (though it has played long with cool temperatures and soft conditions the last couple days) and is definitely a ball-placement type of course. Many of the holes feature narrow landing areas off of the tee, and every hole requires a lot of precision into the green. I absolutely love golf courses like this, and I am excited to be playing here.

To be completely honest, I really don't feel that great about the way that I am hitting the golf ball right now. I have struggled to hit the ball solidly and have felt uncomfortable over most of my iron shots lately. With that said, I tried to treat both of my practice rounds as if they were qualifying rounds, and despite hitting the ball poorly, I stayed out of trouble with good decision making and used my solid short game to shoot two really good scores in the practice rounds. I played the final hole in the dark on Monday and never found my tee shot, which I had pulled to the left, so I don't know what my score was on that hole, but for the other 35 holes I played in my two practice rounds, I recorded nine birdies and just one bogey. That proves to me that I am good enough to be successful even when my game is not in top shape. The most important thing this week will be staying relaxed and executing shots with a sense of calm. Being relaxed is a choice, and therefore I can decide to do so. I will have to make a lot of good decisions this week in terms of my strategy on each and every shot, but the most important (and likely most difficult) decision I need to make is to remain calm. If I can make that decision and choose to do it all week, I can easily overcome any shortcomings from my execution.

I am ready to make that decision. I am going to enjoy myself all week. Great things are coming. You can follow the results at pgatour.com/qschool, but come back right here for nightly updates. Thank you so much for keeping up with me and for your support!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the Road to Big Things

My caddie (my Mom :) ) and I hit the road for the 2nd Stage of PGA Tour Q-school on Sunday afternoon. I had a good run on Sunday morning and a quick practice out at the beautiful Dandridge Golf Course before we left mid-afternoon. I am writing this from a hotel just south of Atlanta, GA, from where we will cruise the rest of the way down to Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Monday morning. I am excited to get to the course and have a quick practice round on Monday afternoon. I will have a thorough day of practice and another practice round on Tuesday before the 72-hole competition begins Wednesday morning. It is going to be a fun week, and I am pumped for it!

I am really pleased with the practice that I have had over the past couple weeks since 1st Stage. In addition to playing the final two eGolf events of the year and having at least varying degrees of success in some areas of my game, I have also completed all of my process goals each of last two weeks. I am happy with the effort that I have been putting into my practice, and I have definitely seen enough positive things from my game to feel excited a lot of the time. In all honesty, though, I am definitely not feeling as good about my ball-striking as I would like. My timing or something is a little bit off, and I'm having a lot of trouble finding any consistency. With that said, my short game is feeling good, and my putting is still in great shape. In addition to that, my mind is my greatest resource on the golf course, and I can choose to stay in control of that. So, while I am certainly going to try to find that "lovin' feeling" with my ball-striking and make the week a little bit easier on myself, I know that I can still take care of business even if I have to work very hard on the course.

I am going to enjoy this week. There is definitely a lot of perceived pressure that accompanies Q-school, and I let that pressure affect me tremendously at 1st Stage three weeks ago. In order for pressure to exist, however, I have to acknowledge it. I can choose how much pressure I feel. I know that my game is not as good right now as I want it to be, but I am going to choose to stay relaxed and trust myself on every single shot this week. Mostly, I am just going to have fun! I expect great things from myself, and I will work hard to make them happen, but I am not going to let the situation change the way I approach this week. It's another week of tournament golf, and I am going to live it up doing one of the things I love!

Keep it here for reports from the action throughout the week. Thank you for following me and for all of your support!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Less Than Dazzling Finale to the eGolf Season; Moving Onward!

I certainly had a great year on the eGolf Professional Tour, but on Thursday, I ended it in less than stellar fashion. In my defense, River Run Country Club played about as difficult as any course I have seen all year, but in all honesty, my game felt sloppy, and I can't really claim that I gave a good performance. I wanted to end the mini-tour season with a great round and move up the leaderboard for one more good finish, but instead, I continued my butchery of the par 5s and posted a two-over-par final round of 74 to finish at three over par for the event and in a tie for 11th in the small field. Though my game still showed some great signs, my ball-striking was erratic, and I didn't have a lot of consistency with my short game or putter either this week. I'm still feeling good about all areas of my game, but I definitely wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be this week and didn't get the results for which I was hoping in what could potentially have been my last mini-tour event ever.

It's time to turn my attention to the next thing on my calendar--the Second Stage of PGA Tour Q-school. It is undeniable that Q-school is the most important event of the year, but I am going to treat it just like another week of competition. I am playing the Second Stage at a course called The Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Florida. The competition dates are November 14-17 (next Wednesday-Saturday), so I will hit the road to start my journey down to the Florida panhandle on Sunday afternoon. I am very much looking forward to next week!

I have a couple days to soak up my East Tennessee HOME first. I will put in solid days of work over the next 2.5 days but will also spend a little time relaxing. I definitely need to fine-tune all areas of my game and find some consistency with my ball-striking, but the truth of the matter is that my game is in more than good enough shape to be successful. I have worked very hard to get myself into a position where I can truthfully make that statement. I am going to stay in my routine of hard work for the next couple of days here at home and then also throughout the rest of the Q-school process, but I think I will also put a little extra emphasis on enjoying myself and my work during this stretch. I am at peace with the effort that I put into my career, so I can definitely let myself relax and trust that I am doing the necessary things to be successful. I am really looking forward to a couple of great days of work here in Tennessee, and then it is off to have some real fun starting next week!

Keep it here for updates from this incredible journey. Thank you very much for caring enough about me to follow me and offer your support!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

1 More eGolf Round

I wasn't particularly pretty in the second round of this week's eGolf event. I hit a lot of good shots and did plenty of things about which I feel very good, but I did just enough lousy things to keep myself from maintaining any kind of positive momentum. At the end of the day, I made five birdies and four bogeys for a second-round score of 71. I feel like I was close to playing very well, and I'm pumped that I have a chance to get after if for one more day here at the eGolf Tour's final event of 2012. I would like to end the mini-tour season (and potentially my mini-tour career!) on a high note with a good round on Thursday. I have made a mess of the par 5's at River Run Country Club this week, and if I can clean up that area of my performance, it will give me a great chance to post a good score in round 3. I'm going to be relaxed and will really enjoy myself in the final round, but at the same time, I expect good things. Come back for a final-round report on Thursday evening. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Great Challenge at River Run

I just want to drop a quick line about the opening round from the final eGolf Tour event of 2012--the Championship at River Run. River Run Country Club is a solid test of golf under typical weather conditions, but given frigid temperatures that are making the course play slightly longer than usual, it is very demanding. I did not handle that test well in the opening round. My game was surprisingly sloppy and I still did not putt the ball as well as I expect. I did a good job of managing my game through 14 holes in Tuesday's first round, but I bogeyed three of the final four holes to post a two-over-par opening round of 74. I had a fantastic afternoon of practice after my round, however, and I feel quite good heading into Wednesday's second round. I have had a solid year on the eGolf Tour, and I plan to end it with another good tournament. In order to do that, I need to be relaxed and execute a solid game plan one shot at a time. I'm going to do just that, and I expect good things the next two days. Keep it here for updates. Thank you for following me!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

So Much for Shorter Days!

On the first day after turning back the clocks, I had a very productive day of work and wrapped up a solid week. I had a great run Sunday morning to finish my fitness goals for the week, and in the afternoon, I nailed a couple of putting drills and had some quality short game and wedge play work to complete all of my practice drills. I also re-gripped all of my clubs in the morning. New grips feel so good! Despite losing an hour of daylight on the back end of the day, I accomplished a lot on Sunday, and it was a great way to finish to a solid week.

My game is feeling good. I wasn't my usual self with the putter at the eGolf event this last week, but I have had a solid week of practice on the greens. I'm hitting the road on Monday morning for the last eGolf event of the year at a course called River Run in Davidson, NC. The event is Tuesday-Thursday, and River Run is a great and challenging golf course. This week is my last chance to achieve my goal of winning "multiple events" on the eGolf Professional Tour this year. My game is in good enough shape to do it, and I'm expecting to have a great week!

Keep it here for updates along the way. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Good Final Round Effort

I played well in Friday's final round of the eGolf Tour's Forrest Oaks Open. Entering the day in a three-way tie for the lead, I was in a great mindset to start the round. I hit two very good shots into the first hole but watched in amazement as my five iron from just 167 yards (hey, it was freezing cold and a little bit uphill) trickled back down the false front edge of the green and came to rest well below the level of the hole on the front fringe. Three putts later, I walked off the first hole with a disappointing bogey to start my day, but my attitude was not changed. I was relaxed and determined to execute a good game plan on each and every shot. For the next 13 holes, my game looked great. Despite a couple of very frustrating missed putts, I played holes 2 through 14 in four under par without a bogey. I was cruising. Though I did a good job of not worrying about what my competitors were doing, I knew that I was tied with one of the guys in my group with four holes to play, and I had an idea that we were in the lead. Still, I felt calm and confident over almost all of my shots. Ironically, it was only the putter--my biggest strength--that felt balky under the final-round pressure. I was a little uncomfortable over the putter all week for some reason, and that discomfort bit me on the 15th hole. After watching the competitor with whom I was tied roll in a lengthy putt for a birdie, I missed a short range putt for par on the par-4 15th. The two-shot swing put me behind the eight-ball for the final three holes, and my par-par-par finish paled in comparison to the leader's par-birdie-birdie effort on the same stretch. I shot a final round 69 (-3) and finished tied for 2nd place at ten under for the tournament.

I definitely wanted to win and am disappointed not to have finished more strongly after playing so well for the first 13 holes of the final round, but overall I am very pleased with the way I played this week. Coming off a nerve-wracking week at the First Stage of Q-school, I was determined to have a week in which I practiced being in control of my emotions and staying relaxed. I did a great job of that, and I played really well, too. My ball-striking was as good as it has been in a while, and though my putting let me down, I know that I am a great putter and fully expect that this week's lackluster performance on the greens was just an anomaly. I feel as good about my game right now as I have in a long time. It was a great week!

I need to have a solid weekend of work to finish up my process goals for the week and to get that lovin' feeling back with the putter. I will head to Davidson, North Carolina, next week for the eGolf Tour's final event of the season at a great course called River Run. It will be a small-field event, and I'd really like to put myself in position to win again. Doing so will start with a good weekend of practice. Come back for a report from the weekend and a preview of next week in a couple days. Thank you for following me and for your support!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tied at the Top with One Round to Go

I wasn't my best in the second round of the eGolf Tour's Forrest Oaks Open this week. Conditions remained cold and breezy, but I didn't handle them as well on day 2 as I had in the event's opening round. In reality, my game still felt fine, but I wasn't as sharp from a ball-striking perspective, and my putting was uncharacteristically poor. Overall, it just led to a quiet day in which I made two birdies and two bogeys for an even-par round of 72. My seven-under-par total has me in a three-way tie for the lead heading into Friday's final round. Though the results weren't there in round 2, I'm very excited about how my game feels. I had a good afternoon of work following the second round, and I'm ready for a great day on Friday. I'm going to be relaxed and trust myself on every shot. I'm going to have fun! Come back for a full report late Friday evening. Thank you for keeping up with me and for your support!

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Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that,...