Insightful. That's how I would describe my latest tournament in Beaumont, California. Two insights occurred to me on the course that really got me thinking about the ups and downs of a professional golf career.
1. It's All About the Long-Term
As a professional golfer, you have to look long-term. When I first turned pro, I created a realistic 5 year plan of what steps and goals I needed to reach to make sure I was efficiently advancing my career. I won't go into details, but the point is that a long-term success plan takes a "long time" to implement correctly so that it has a lasting impact. (My coach is always telling me this!). So in Beaumont, I had the realization that I finally might be on track to get my long-term planning rolling at a pace greater than 1 km/h.
I've always struggled massively to aim the putter correctly. I've tried many putters and methods of aiming, but nothing has really worked. Recently with my coach, we decided to scrap the conventional ways of aiming. The method was to memorize what my grip felt like when I put the putter face down square to my target. Then all I had to do was pick my target/intermediate target and get that square putter face grip feeling when I looked at my target. Easy, right? At first, I was horrible at this. I didn't even know what my grip on a square putter face felt like because I had never paid attention to this. But I was ready for the chance to solve my aiming problem so I practiced a lot.
Fast forward to my latest tournament. I had only been doing this method for about a week and it was a little nerve-wracking doing it for the first time in a tournament. The first 2 days went pretty well, but the 3rd was a complete mess. The square-face grip feeling was not completely locked into my brain yet which led to a 37 putts round (this is not good!). But for the first time ever, I actually felt like I could confidently aim putts correctly which is pretty important!!
So what happens now? Well, I keep going! Putting has always been the big question mark in my long-term plan. Everything else would progress, but I could never improve on putting. It was frustrating. And that's the thing with a long-term plan. You have to be incredibly patient. You have to find the root of the problems that are holding you back and slowly work through them. It's so easy to take short cuts. And I feel like I might have been doing that subconsciously by trying different putters, only working on my stroke, and just trying to hit my wedges and irons closer to the hole. All these things were good to do in general and improved my game, but they hid the fact that the real problem was never solved. The best analogy for all of this is a physical injury. You can do a lot of things to try and lessen the pain, but until you take the time to get diagnosed, rest and recovery fully, you are just fooling yourself. The problem will come back.
Golf is a longevity sport and it's important to remember that even when you feel like you are at the farthest point from your goals. But when you finally get the ball rolling on track, it will pay off immensely.
2. Transitioning to Professional Golf from Amateur Golf
For the first 2 rounds in Beaumont, I played with two rookies. One had just graduated from university in 2017 and one had left university early to turn pro. Both are fantastic golfers. But it became apparent that they were very much rookies.
When you first become a professional golfer and start your rookie season, you don't know a lot of things. And by a lot, I mean like a megaton. You don't know how to sign up for events, what forms you have to fill out, how to be an alternate for the tournament or pro-am, how to get housing, all the rules and regulations, how to save money on the road, what the courses are going to be like, what it feels like to miss cuts or be pressured by a cut line and know that money and status is on the line, and the list goes on. It's an endless amount of question marks that are quite daunting. It's like starting a new job, but the difference is that there's a ton of pressure to get it all right because even if you show up for work, you aren't guaranteed to be paid. Or even worse, you can be fined a ton of money for getting things wrong. And this stress was evident for the rookies I played with.
It wasn't necessarily in the way they talked or played golf. It was just in the air. I knew I wasn't just being delusional when one of the rookies asked me "I guess the key to being successful is really being patient out here". She hit the nail right on the head. Being patient is one of your greatest asset as a professional golfer. She told me stories of how she had already had a really complicated week and the problems/uncertainties had just continued to stack. (Let me remind you that this is only the 2nd tournament of the year!) The other rookie kept more to herself and had been a top college player. She wasn't hitting the ball or scoring as well as she knew she could and she was getting a little frustrated. The tension of possibly not making the cut was evident. It's a hard transition going from college golf to professional golf because it's incredibly different. You're on your own a lot more. And now you're playing for money and your future instead of just beating other schools and knowing that everything is still paid for even if you don't play well. Being a rookie is really tough and it can make or break you.
The realities of women's professional golf, especially at the developmental level, are not exactly glamourous. #1 being we get paid very little and it hurts when work your butt off, make a cut and get a check for only $400. But I've learned to accept that it is what is and enjoy it the best I can. I don't look at the cut lines anymore. I just go out and play the best I can that day. If I need help administratively, I ask the Symetra Tour staff all my questions and concerns. I don't think about the money anymore because it's ultimately a kicker-in-the-butt of confidence to rehash every shot that cost you x-amount of dollars every single week. I just play the golf and try to spend the least of amount of brain cells thinking about the negative sides of it all.
As a rookie, it's hard to get over the initial hump of professional golf. It's probably the biggest first "down" in a long series of ups and downs as a professional golfer. So as I played with these two rookies, I was really rooting for them. Not just on the course, but in life. I've been there and there are days I'm reminded of the realities of it all too vividly. It's a hard job, but it's also a really amazing job. You have to be patient and positive, and it's not a guarantee, but it will be quite an adventure regardless of success!
So there are my insights from the desert! It's a little long and not comical, but just being out there made me realize that if people knew about these things, they would better understand that professional golf is really hard, especially if you don't have financial backing. It’s not for everyone and your success really does lie solely on your shoulders. How you take on adversity can determine if you are made for this or not. Anyways, if you made it to this part of my blog, congratulations and thanks for reading! Hopefully you gained some insights from my insights!