Now, let's travel back in time to where I last left off in mid-September -- the beginning of what I call the "Never Ending Heat Wave Home Stretch"… (*note: Basically means it was really hot all the time wherever we went. I think the coolest day we had was 30°C and hottest was around 39°C!)
El Dorado, Arkansas. Fun fact: It's pronounced like "tornado"! Augusta National's look-a-like, but in the middle who knows where USA. Mystic Creek is one of the hardest courses we play on tour and if you were watching the scores, you would believe me! I like this course a lot, but there are two things that make this course disappointing which is unfortunate because it really is an amazing course. The first is that they put way too much sand in the bunkers. Every time you go in the bunkers, it's a fried egg guaranteed. But worse, a lot of them are completely buried! I had one where we had to dig around in the bunker for a couple minutes with our fingers and some tees just to locate where it was. And then I had to hit it while it was basically still completely buried. I was lucky though because some players couldn't even find theirs! Secondly, the fescue. This course has always had fescue, but this year, they decided to grow it thicker and only 3-4 yards from the fairway. And let me tell you, some of these fairways are narrow (15-20 yards wide) and they are almost all slanted! There were so many withdrawals and injuries that week just from players trying to hack it out of the fescue. I was 3 yards off the fairway and 2 inches into the fescue and could only advance the ball 20 yards taking a full swing. It was crazy!!! So for any aspiring golf course architects/superintendents out there, remember the word "moderation" when it comes to filling bunkers with sand and growing fescue!
On to Prattville, Alabama. Capitol Hill Golf Club is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and it used to be home to an LPGA event 2 years ago before their sponsor pulled out. But before any golf was played, the week started off pretty devastatingly. A female, collegiate golfer -- Celia Barquin Arozamena -- from Spain who played at Iowa State University was assaulted and murdered on a golf course in Iowa a couple days before our tournament started. She had just made it through Stage 1 of LPGA Qualifying School and her death was a complete shock for all of us. All the ladies from Spain who play on the Symetra Tour knew her and they were inconsolable that week. This one hit home really hard for all of us because as female professional golfers, we practice by ourselves ALL THE TIME so when something crazy like this happens, you just don't know what to do. Should we change our profession? Should we change where, how, when we practice? And for a lot of American players, it was "Should we carry a gun with us at all times?". But in reality, we need to just keep living vibrantly and not let this scare us from doing what we love! We will always remember Celia and try to be more aware of our surroundings, but we will never forget that she died while doing what she loved. She would want us to continue to chase our dreams like she was doing!
On to Longwood, Florida. This is where the magic happened for me 2 years ago. Alaqua Country Club is where I have my one and only top 10 finish on the Symetra Tour from all the way back in 2016. I always enjoy it, but it is by far one of the tightest courses you could ever play with water and jungle hazards on every hole. (note: by jungle I really mean JUNGLE like the jungle you see in Tarzan with poisonous reptiles lurking around!). One player told me that she skips this event every year because she gets nauseous every time she has to play this course because of how tight it is! For me, this was a tournament where I told myself I had to make the cut. I had missed the last 3 cuts and was sitting dangerously close to not being able to play the Symetra Tour Championship the next week. And to be completely honest, I made the cut, but not based on anything that I feel like I really had control over. Coming down the stretch of the 2nd round, I knew I was pretty close to the cut line and that if the tide turned in my favour at this point, it was all God and not me. On the 15th hole, I was out of a hazard by about 3 yards. On the 16th hole, I was in a chewed up area of rough that was covered in mud, but managed to have a perfect lie on a nice little tuff of grass. And a putt fell for me that was probably going to be 6 feet past if it hadn't gone in. On the 17th hole, I was in the hazard but had a clear shot to the green. On the 18th hole, I managed to hit the correct club onto a green surrounded by water when the wind was starting to gust. I just couldn't believe that all those things had happened in my favour! I made the cut which was the goal, but then preceded to have a terrible time the next day where the jungle really just ate my golf game up. I had come to the conclusion that this might just be the defining story line of 2018 for me.
Luckily, I made it to the Symetra Tour Championship the next week in Daytona Beach, Florida. But it might not have really been all that lucky since nothing really went my way that week either. I battled so hard, but nothing was coming together. I ended up missing the cut by 3 shots and wasn't able to move up on the money list to retain full status for the Symetra Tour next year. But I knew I had one more chance to do the impossible. LPGA Qualifying School.
With a couple days off to sort out my golf game and rest (which was really needed when you have just played the past 4 weeks in 30+ degrees Celsius heat and it was going to be the same temperature the coming week), I felt like I could really play well at Stage 2 of Q-School. Unfortunately the week didn't start off great. A caddie who caddied regularly on the Symetra Tour passed away. His name was Emanuel "Bully" Duarte from Hawaii. And he was fine one day and gone the next. It was really hard for a lot of us just because Bully was such a nice guy, always willing to help any player out, and was a consistent presence on the Symetra Tour. We're going to miss him :(. As the tournament started, I still felt like I had all the right stuff to play well and was ready to take charge of my game. But the complete opposite happened! I was all over the place and I didn't even know if what I was doing even still qualified as golf! It felt like I was just trying to survive. And survive it might have been because apparently I'm really allergic to the toxic red algae that had been washing up on the Gulf Coast side of Florida where we happened to be playing. I was sneezing and dripping like a crazy person! It was basically like swing, sneeze/have a runny nose, blow nose, walk down fairway, repeat for the entire week. It was terrible! But even though I almost came dead last at Stage 2, I realized something really interesting that week. We have to play 4 rounds on 2 different courses, and there's a section on one of the two courses called the Panther's Claw. And it's the hardest stretch of 4 holes on both courses. But apparently, I played that section without a hitch! The hardest part I played fine! It was just everything else! I was even through those holes and +24 on everything else! And for someone who really struggled with ball striking, chipping, putting, and breathing that week, it seems pretty impossible that this situation could've occurred! It was like a bright spot of sunshine after a terrible storm kind of revelation -- there is still hope!
After that, I was ready to go home after I had basically crashed and burned my way through the last event of my season. But God wasn't ready for me to be done with experiencing what it means to truly let Him take control. On the drive home from Florida, we almost didn’t make it home…twice! In Tennessee, I was driving behind a car that almost got rammed on the side by another car that hadn't checked before switching lanes on the highway. The car in front of me swerved hard to the left to avoid a crash, almost hit the median and then spun right across 3 lanes before gaining control again. I have never, in my life, hit the brakes so hard and prayed that the cars behind me stopped too! We were going 65 mph and it's a miracle that no one got seriously injured. In Ohio, my mom was driving on a single lane section of I-75 due to construction when the traffic came to a dead stop. I yelled for my mom to stop and she did in time. But that wasn't the case for everyone behind us. The car behind us almost hit us. Then a huge tractor trailer didn't stop in time and came screeching down the right shoulder of the highway stopping parallel to us. Fortunately, a lot of drivers had pulled their cars over to the left shoulder to avoid a collision in the front but also because they could sense the truck driver wasn't going to stop behind them. It was another miracle that no major accident occurred either because we all know who wouldn't have survived if it was tractor trailer vs. cars in a collision. Luckily, we made it home safely after driving the rest of the way in high winds, hail, ice, and rain. It's never felt so good to be home!!!
So after my little rundown, it might be hard to see why I entitled this post "So Very Grateful". A lot of not good things happened over the last 6 weeks of my season. Two people died. I lost my full status on the Symetra Tour for 2019. I only made one cut. I was exhausted from being in 30°C+ heat all the time. I had severe allergies at Stage 2 of Q-School. I finished my 2018 season by almost coming dead last and playing the worse tournament golf of my professional career. And my mom and I almost didn't make it home. The only good thing that happened was that I finally got my new set of clubs with the correct specifications after having been fitted for them in March! (yay or nay? :P)
So why should I be "so very grateful"? First off, I'm still alive. After this season, I'm just really glad to be alive. Nothing else really matters. Success comes and goes. But you only get one chance at life. Secondly, I survived. There were a lot of trials and tribulations, and very few successes for me this year. I grinded every tournament out with every last bit of energy I had. I was on the bubble all year and I only broke par a handful of times. I felt like my game was excelling, but I had no results to show for it. But here I am. I survived. I didn't quit. I didn't give up on my game. And I am hopeful for the future. Thirdly, God was there every step of the way. If you've read any of my past blogs "When the Time is Right", "Patterns", or "You Just Never Stop Learning" or have checked out my other blog "More Than Just This Life", you would know that I fully rely on God for everything. And when you succeed, it's easy to see God's hand at work. But when you struggle and bad things happen, it's easy to question "where was God?". But to be honest, God has been the reason I can still be here and write this blog for you with optimism for the future. God gives us "patterns" to decipher this crazy life and He knows "when the time is right" for us to reach our maximum potential in His divine plan. He also makes sure that "you just never stop learning" along the way because life without learning is not life at all.
This was not my year, and I'm perfectly okay with that. It's not that I didn't work hard enough or try hard enough or focus hard enough. It just didn't happen for me this year. People's opinions and expectations have been voiced as to what should occur for me next, but it doesn't really matter what they think. Everyone has their battles and the choice is their own as to how they deal with them. For me, I carry on. I listen for God's guidance and I follow. As of right now, I feel as though this journey isn't complete so I will be out there next year on the Symetra Tour. I don't know when, but I will be out there.
I'm so very grateful for everything that has happened good and bad. God has never failed me and He's making a way where there seems to be none. (Joshua 21:45 and Isaiah 43:19)
Thank you for reading my blog, especially this mega long speech! Hopefully you will join me next year! :) But until next time, enjoy life and…