As most of you already know, I left three weeks ago for my first Symetra Tour event and came home yesterday as a Symetra Tour winner. It was an unbelievable start to my professional career and I couldn’t be happier. Now, I know many of you know that I started the day three shots back, birdied my last two holes, and then won in a one hole playoff. Looking back, the day can kind of seem like a blur, but I know I can break the day down into a few sections.
1) Front nine: I started with a birdie on the first hole, but then a bogey on the fifth after literally shanking a drive into the hazard (oops!). I stuck to my game plan though, stayed patient, and made a nice birdie on 8.
2.) Back nine: I made the turn at one under for the day and even for the tournament and was thinking that it would be nice to get a top ten or even sneak into the top five if I was lucky. Number 11 was a very reachable downwind par 5 that I made a par on and really felt like I gave up a shot. As I stood a bit disappointed on the 12th tee, the leaders were directly behind us teeing off on hole 8. I was able to see their score via the standard bearer and knew that the leader was only at -1, meaning I was only one shot back. I had a conscience decision to make: A.) I could have a panic attack and ride the bogey train into the clubhouse, or B.) I could remain calm, tell myself it was a good day no matter what, and focus only on the shot I had before me. Thankfully, I chose the latter. Looking back I can now easily see how even the best professionals can go into a final round and shoot something horrific (i.e. Rory McIlroy at the Masters), because there is just a brutal struggle going on in your mind to keep yourself calm, focused, and in the present.
3) Holes 17 and 18: I continued my back nine and made a nice birdie on the short 14th hole. I had the final two holes to play and sat at -1. I had bogeyed both 17 and 18 the day before but surprisingly hadn’t thought of that at all until somebody asked me about it after the round. I guess that is a good indicator of my level of focus. Long story short: I made a 22 foot putt on 17, and then an 18 foot putt on 18 to finish the day at -4 and the tournament at -3.
4.) The waiting game: After my round, I had to experience what it is like to stand around and wait for the outcome. You often see this on the PGA tour, but those guys have the luxury of being able to watch the final group on t.v. That’s not the case on the Symetra Tour. The final group was on hole 15 with over an hour left to play. I waited by 18 green talking to some of the spectators and waiting for scores to come up. When she had finished hole 16 and we were still tied I went to the range to warm up. The range is somewhat separate from the course so it was a strange feeling standing alone on the range with a single bucket of balls with nobody around. The practice area is always the center of activity for the week, but now it was only me and my caddie.
5) Playoff: She finished with two pars that would force us into playing the into the wind, par 5 18th hole for the second time that day. The girl I played, Mitsuki Katahira, was from Japan, and therefore I think I was the crowd favorite. If I wasn’t, that’s probably not a good sign for me. To the crowd’s disappointment, the playoff wasn’t too exciting, but I won’t complain! I stood on the green in three shots with a 20 footer for birdie and had the luxury of watching her hand me the victory as she bladed her sand shot over the green, chipped the next shot over the green again, and then finally found the green after chipping her fifth shot to 15 feet. My task was now clear: two putt for par and win the tournament. My thoughts at that moment: “Don’t be an idiot and leave this putt 8 feet short.” Thankfully, I listened to myself and rolled it to about a foot and a half by the hole. She proceeded to make her bogey putt, so I needed to make my short putt to win. As short as it was, I think my hands were shaking.
So what did I learn this week? I learned that it’s never over until it’s over, and patience is an irreplaceable skill to have as a golfer. If you don’t learn how to be patient, I think you will too often try to force a good round and end up with the exact opposite. Win or lose I always try to look back and see what I learned from my game that week. I also learned that I need to do a better job of mapping out the course. I found myself in a couple of situations this week where I had a question but didn’t know the answer. My goal from now on is to go out on Mondays when I first get there and walk the course before I ever even play. On the PGA or LPGA this is the job of the caddie, but since I am not in the situation where I have a full time caddie I need to do this for myself. My goal is to have so much knowledge of the course that there isn’t a question I can’t answer.
Finally, I know a lot of people are wondering what exactly does winning a tournament really mean for me. Well, the Symetra Tour is the LPGA’s version of the PGA’s Web.com Tour. Therefore, the goal is to play the Symetra Tour for the year and finish in the top ten of the money list. If you can do that, they will give you an LPGA card for the following year. If you come up just short and finish in places 11-20 on the money list you can skip first and second stages of LPGA Qualifying School and go directly to the final stage. Once there you will have to play a five round tournament to try and earn your card. Bottom line: Qualifying School is expensive, stressful, and exhausting, so to have the chance to earn your card throughout the year on the Symetra Tour is a dream come true. After this last event I currently sit in 9th on the list, with seven events to go.
We are off this week and will be back July 12-14 in Albany, NY. My coach, Todd Kolb, is coming out to Albany to caddie for me so I am looking forward to that. I will enjoy my off week this week at home while celebrating the Fourth. I hope ya’ll have a great Fourth of July as well and thank you so much for all the support this week! Nothing better than getting to my car after the event finished and have 63 text messages waiting! Thank you to everyone! 🙂
See you in a few weeks!