Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful ...Even for the Rough Patches

I have so much for which to be Thankful. I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. I have an amazing wife, an unbelievably fun and supportive family, and great friends. The best thing about all these people is they love me regardless of what happens on the golf course. I am so thankful for all of them. 

From a golf standpoint, I similarly have so much for which to be thankful. I have incredible people around me that want to help me get better. I have golf courses that give me access to their facilities with no questions asked. For my beautiful, original home course where I learned to play (Dandridge Golf Course) and my home course in Knoxville (Holston Hills) and all the other places that allow me to call them "home", I am so thankful to have such great office spaces. 

In general, I am thankful to have a job that I genuinely love. I enjoy every aspect of my career, and I am grateful that I get to work at a game for my livelihood. 

And I feel that way even when it's not easy! I had a tough week of practice this week. Because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, my goal for this week was to complete my Light Practice Schedule. After three weeks of knocking out my Full Practice Schedule, I thought this week would be relatively easy. I had to work! My putting drills did not come easily. I ended up finishing the last of my putting drills in tough blustery conditions on Sunday afternoon. This week I completed my Full Fitness Routine and my Light Practice Schedule. It is so rewarding to stick with a goal through some rough patches and get it done! 

That statement applies to my long term goals as well. My ultimate goal in golf is to compete at the highest level, win, and be consistently one of the best players in the world. This year could certainly be viewed as a rough stretch towards that goal, but I view it as necessary step in my growth. I am going to stick with my plan, and when I reach my ultimate goal in golf, a tough year like this one will make it all the more rewarding! 

Right now, I'm super excited. I am going to be back in competition this week. I will tee it up in the eGolf Professional Tour's Tour Championship December 3-6 on Hilton Head Island. The work that I have been doing on my golf game is feeling very good, and I think that testing it under some tournament conditions will be good for me. I expect to be fairly sharp for the tournament and plan to compete for the win, but my primary goal will be to continue working on my game under tournament conditions. I will treat the event with tournament-week focus, but this is still a part of my off-season planI absolutely believe that I will be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. 

Here is where I am right now. My work on my golf swing does not feel natural yet, but I am comfortable with it and know that I am moving in the right direction. Despite a challenging week of putting practice, my short game and putting are in solid form. I am excited to give it all a test in the tournament this week.

I will end this post by saying one more thing for which I am thankful: all of you for following me and offering your support! Keep it here for tournament and practice updates from Hilton head Island this week.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Big "Next" Step

I want to start by saying that I have just completed another great week of work. I finished my Full Fitness Routine and my Full Practice Schedule. I am feeling great physically and am very excited about the state of my game. Over the past three weeks, I have had the best practice that I can ever remember. My optimism and my motivation to keep improving continue to grow. I say it in every post, but I'm going to reiterate it here: I will be playing the best golf of my life when the New Year gets here. 

I have been talking about a lot of the things that I am doing this off-season to improve. The basis of my plan is, and will always be, a well-rounded and thorough practice routine. However, there is one major new thing that I am doing this off-season that I have not yet discussed. I am consulting with a new instructor in Orlando, Florida. 

Before I go farther, I need to take a minute to clarify some things. My long-time coach is Bobby "Bobbo" Bray, and he won't cease to be that. Bobbo and I go way back, and there is no way that I'd be where I am without him. He is a coach, mentor, and great friend to me. He is still the most genuine and generous human being I've ever met. He's also one heck of a golfer and a great coach. He and I will continue to work on my game together, and he'll be there when I win my first major!

I'm also lucky to have a brilliant golf-swing mind that lives 12 minutes from me in Knoxville, TN. Jake Reeves has helped me with my game and become a great friend. I'm thankful to have him in my court and will continue to learn from him. He and I are both going to play in the same PGA Championship here one year very soon! And if it comes down to the two of us for the title, he'll ball-strike the heck out of it, so you'd better believe I'm going have to make a big putt to beat him!

This offseason, though, I decided that I wanted to get some input from a new set of eyes. I spoke with several instructors around the country and found that I communicated the most comfortably with Mitchell Spearman. I have had three sessions with Mitchell, and we are working to eliminate some excess movement, solidify my leg action, and create an increased sense of connection between my arms and my body during my swing. Though changes can be hard, nothing that we have done has seemed like a daunting task. I am still in a stage of development where I am having to consciously think about my swing while hitting balls, but the results are already starting to show. As the changes to my motion become natural, I am confident that my swing will be more efficient and my ball-striking will be much more consistent. 

This is a big step for me. I will always rely on my attitude and my putting to be my greatest assets on the course, but in order to achieve my goal of being one of the best golfers in the world, I need to improve my ball-striking. My work with Mitchell Spearman is going to jump-start  that. 

Through this process, I am continuing to have balanced, complete-game practice. Though I have done something new to focus on my ball-striking, I am not neglecting the rest of my game. I believe that I will be hitting the ball better than I ever have here soon, but I'm determined to have all areas of my game reach new heights. 

This is exciting stuff. I am getting better, and I can feel it! 

As a side-note, Mitchell teaches at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando. I played the course last time I was down there. It's no wonder so many of the best players in the world live there. It's beautiful, in fantastic condition, and it tests absolutely every element of the game. 
Thank you for following and believing in me! Great stuff is coming. Keep it here for more reports from my off-season work. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Practice in FLA

The cold chased me from my beloved Home--a place that I like to be as much as possible in the offseason. I'm not afraid to bundle up and work through some cold hands, but single digit lows and windy highs in the twenties will drive me south. I traveled to Florida on Monday and will return to Tennessee after a good day of work on Friday. 

My practice has been fantastic. I am definitely working on a few things with my full-swring mechanics, but I feel like I am progressing in that area of my game. My short game, wedges, and putting, however, are feeling like they are in mid-season form. And I'm talking about the middle of a very good season when I say that! I feel like I am getting better and better with each session, too, so I'm confident that I will indeed be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. 

The Fitness and Practice Schedules that I laid out for myself a few weeks ago are really working well. They demand that I be focused and intentional with my time and also create a bit of a competitive-type of feeling in my work. I feel like everything I do is a small mission that is part of my larger mission. I need to stay focused and not get cocky, but I'm well on my way to completing a Full week in both my Fitness Routine and Practice Schedule again this week. 

I will be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015, and then it will keep getting better from there. I have Unfinished Business to resolve on the PGA Tour, so my first large mission is to get back there. I am going to do it. 

Keep it here for more news. I will report again from Home at the end of the weekend. Thank you for following and caring about me!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Competence Growing

I have had an absolutely fantastic week of work.

I am lucky to have spent time and become friends with a great sports psychologist at the University of Missouri. His name is Coach McGuire. He repeatedly told me during my college years, "Confidence is a choice." It took me years to understand that concept, but I have grown to truly believe it. The problem is that it can be a hard choice to make. Another statement that Coach McGuire says almost as frequently is, "Competence breeds confidence." At the end of the day, confidence is a choice, but advancing one's skill set makes choosing to feel confident easier. 

This off-season is all about increasing my competence as a golfer. I feel like I am doing that in a big way. I am proud of the week of work that I just finished. Despite a blast of very chilly weather, I executed a great plan this week and completed a Full Practice Schedue and Full Fitness Routine. I definitely had to be very focused and efficient during some practice sessions and had to endure really cold hands, too, but I stayed on task all week and did great work. Getting all of my drills and work done this week was a big accomplishment, and I can feel my competence growing. 

I have two cool stories from the past several days that I would like to share. On Wednesday evening, I was finishing up a great day of practice in some very chilly conditions, and I was ready to call it quits for the day. I realized that I hadn't hit any bunker shots, and decided that despite my nearly numbed-frozen hands, I should hit a few bunker shots before I left. I took five balls into a bunker and picked a short bunker shot. I told myself when I got three in a row inside a combined 12 feet (it was an easy bunker shot), I would be done for the day. I hit the first two shots to about a combined five feet and then holed the third ball. So, with that goal achieved, I turned to a more distant flag and thought I'd hit the other two balls to it. I holed the first one. I don't know that I have ever holed consecutive bunker shots before. Sure made me glad I stayed! Then on Sunday, I needed to complete just one putting drill and a couple minutes of wedge practice to complete a Full Practice Schedule for the week. The weather was rainy and quite cold, so after finishing my remaining practice requirements, I decided to leave the practice facilities and go play nine holes. I had played two full rounds earlier in the week, but something about this nine holes felt special to me. I played the back nine at Holston Hills, which is not a difficult golf course in good weather conditions, and I challenged myself to shoot under par. Given the wet and cold conditions, the course actually played fairly long, and I was extremely happy with pretty much all elements of my game. I made two birdies and one bogey.  35 on the back nine at Holston is nothing to write home about, but in those conditions, it was a good score. More importantly, it was a great baseline for my off-season improvement. 

The process is working. My competence is growing. It is already becoming an easier choice to feel confident. I will be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015. 

The Tour published the dates for its first two events of the 2015 season. I officially get to work on resolving my Unfinished Business the last week in January when the Tour kicks off the season in Panama City, Panama. I'll be ready. 

I'm having fun! I love the process of getting better. Thank you for caring and sharing the journey with me. I have more news and ways that I'm getting better to discuss. Keep it here!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Good Practice

I will be playing the best golf of my life when the New Year rolls around. This week has been great so far. After a quick morning practice, I took a beautiful Monday afternoon off to enjoy my East Tennessee home:
Any golf time that I may have missed, I have more than made up for the last two days. I enjoyed a morning round of golf at Holston Hills on Tuesday
and have had two full afternoons of practice the last two days. Despite a cold weather pattern arriving today, I am in great shape to finish a Full Practice Schedule this week. My game, my body, and my spirits are all feeling great! 

One of my strategies for having a great offseason is to spend time working on all areas of my game rather than focusing on my weaknesses only, which I have done in past winters. I am going to dedicate time to all disciplines of golf in practice and make sure I am playing some rounds as well. I think this well-rounded approach will have me ready to compete when January arrives.

I am definitely excited about the trajectory of my game right now. As I have said and will continue to say, my short stay on the PGA Tour has left me with Unfinished Business, and I am hungry to resolve it!

Keep it here for more updates. Thank you for following me! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Track

My current mission is to execute an off-season plan and be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. The last seven days have been a good start. Prior to the start of this past week, I laid out my practice and workout schedule for November and December. I published that plan last Sunday and then got after it! I completed both my Full Practice Schedule and Full Fitness Routine in the first week (see previous post to learn what that means). My practice schedule requires me to have focused and efficient practice, and some of my drills even replicate tournament-like pressure, so it's a great feeling to get it all done. In addition to that, my physical training is definitely a notch or two more intense than it was during my season, and I am feeling great about that, too. One great week of work has me motivated for more, and I am excited to fulfill that mission and be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015. I'm going to do it.

January 1 is a seemingly arbitrary date in this case because my tournaments on the Tour won't actually start until February of next year, but I am going to be ready to compete again in January. I'm not yet sure what that is going to look like, but I'll keep you posted as that nears. For now, I'm going to keep following my plan and get my game sharp. My short stay on the PGA Tour has left me with Unfinished Business, and I intend to get back there and resolve it.  

Thank you for keeping up with me. I'll share more about specific things that I am doing to get better this off-season in posts this week. I've got good stuff. Keep it here for more updates!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Off-Season Go-Time

After spending the last five weeks following my beloved Kansas City Royals (see previous post!), I am ready to turn my focus back to golf. I intend to be playing the best golf of my life as the calendar turns to 2015, and I have a plan to make sure I will be. As usual, the plan begins with a solid practice routine. Starting this week, I will be holding myself accountable for completing weekly goals, and I am excited to have some focused work. Here is a look (I'm sorry if it's hard to read) at my preparation schedule for the next eight weeks:
This schedule is a great baseline for my off-season work. In addition to the drills listed here, I am also going to be doing some work on my swing mechanics, and I will keep you posted about everything going on in that realm, too. My ultimate goal for the next two months is to enter 2015 playing the best golf of my life, and I believe that I will do it. 

Thank you for following and caring about me. I really appreciate all of the support I receive. Keep it here for updates as I get better!

New Blog Site

Hi everyone! Thank you for continuing to try to keep up with me. As you might have noticed, I've not been updating this blog at all late...