Putting the travelling aside, the "Road to the LPGA" is definitely a road. It's not always smooth and not always straight, but it's a road nonetheless with lots of lessons to be learned along the way. Through my first 6 events so far, I can definitely say that the "ability to adapt" is the #1 quality you must possess as a professional golfer.
- One week you could be playing the flattest course ever with tight fairways and a lot of hazards. And the next week you could be playing in the mountains with tons of tree trouble and undulating greens.
- Weather. That's all I have to say about that.
- Sleep schedule. You can have a tee time anywhere from 7:30am to 2:30pm.
- "Am I even in the tournament yet?" Yes, this is a very realistic question because I got into the Island Resort Championship 2.5 hours before my newly acquired tee time.
- Your Swing. You just got to work with whatever you've got. Playing week in and week out with little to no time to get significant swing check-ups with your coach and make changes, you have to make it a point to keep your basics in check -- alignment, grip, ball position, tempo, and takeaway (a big one for me).
But in respect to #5, I think a valuable lesson I've learned so far on tour is that sometimes you just have to take a break and reset. If it's not going well, you just have to pull the cord on the next event and do what you need to do to get back to your A-game. Unlike other team sports with multiple players, golf is a single player sport and that means that you are the only one that can create a result. And if you suck, your score will suck. There aren't any subs or "I'll just rest for this round and I'll play the next round". It's extremely taxing -- emotionally and physically -- to try and stick through it for the 1st and 2nd round when you know you don't have your A or even B game. Financially, it's almost foolish to try and play through a "bad spell". When you add up the cost of travel, accommodations, food and entry fees into the equation and you don't make the cut because you are just trying to "play through it", it makes no sense to be torturing yourself in that way. Don't get me wrong here. I love playing on tour, but it's a real balancing act sometimes.
On the contrary though, you have to battle to the very end if you've committed to playing. Every stroke counts. And as a touring pro, the truth of this statement is immeasurable. In my latest tournament, I really had a lot of difficulties in my 1st round and ended up +6. The projected cut line the next day was +3, so I knew exactly what I had to do make the cut. So as I'm approaching the last 4-5 holes of my 2nd round, I'm sitting at even for the round and know that I've got to make a move even though I've been trying the whole day. It's a daunting task knowing what has to be done in so few holes, but here's what happened in my head: "You've got this. Birdies and eagles all the way in." At this point in the round, it would've been so easy to just play in without any conviction whatsoever because it's a hard task to do and I've already been playing for 4 hours. But as a touring pro, there is no such thing. I've personally watched LPGA players in person, make the cut with a birdie on their last hole and it looks like they've won the tournament because that's how compelling it is for us. To make it, you've got to play with conviction to the very last putt even if that means just making the cut. Because making the cut is the first step to playing on Sunday. And playing on Sunday means you have a chance to win. And even though I failed to make the cut this time, I played some really awesome, conviction-filled golf in those stretch of holes, and knowing that I did that is a feeling I can bring with me to the next event.
So as the road continues on past the halfway point of the Symetra Tour season, it seems like I've only tapped the surface of what it means to be a touring professional. The golf is the same. It will always be the same. But how I approach the strategy, the mentality, the skill set and the lifestyle will always be evolving. It has to be. That's how you survive and stay at the top.