Whether you drive a big ole pick-up truck like fan favorite Rachel Rohanna, a smooth sedan like the young and ambitious Leslie Cloots, or a scrappy, high-mileage Prius like me, there aren’t many feelings out there better than putting your car in drive and getting the golf season rolling.
When I packed up my car (aka, my home for the season) in preparation for the first events, I had some nerves Partly, I was worried that my time between rounds of gold might prove to be a bit lonely, or that I’d get that out-of-place feeling. I have a nice life in Ohio, and I usually get a bit homesick when I leave. Honestly, I was a little scared, too. What if I played really bad golf?
I don’t think I’m the only one that had that doubt. In fact, I’ve sat around on mornings with golf friends, discussing our occasional golf nightmares. Our bad dreams are usually comical and typically involve something along the lines of trying to finish your putt and you keep missing the hole or a plethora of other ways to be stuck in never-ending failure.
I know some folks might find people with doubt weaker, but I think it is pretty normal, and I try my best to acknowledge that just because you have doubtful thoughts doesn’t mean they are true or that you necessarily need to have a big, emotional reaction to them.
Anyway, I was grateful that my trek from Athens, Ohio, down to Orlando, Florida, was a solid sixteen hours, so I had plenty of time to mellow out and relax my nerves with the open road.
Florida is a great place to rev up a fresh year on tour. I’ve grown to think of it as the utmost of competitive places. With so many pro golfers calling Florida home, and a season that ends and begins in the swamp state, it is a good idea to bring you’re A-game when competing in Florida.
I started my Florida swing with a mini-tour event on the NWGA Golf Tour, which is a tour that helps pros get ready for the think of the season as well as provides events to play in for folks without Epson Tour status.
I knew that playing would be a good way to shake off the rust and also make sure I was prepared to handle the USGA’s long list of new rules. I’m sure many of you have seen some PGA guys and LPGA gals attempting the drop from knee height. They often look like total dweebs trying to make it happen, right? Well, needless to say, I wanted to get some practice so I could be able to drop in style.
Thankfully, I hit quite a few balls into the water and elsewhere in my NWGA debut, and I had many opportunities to perfect the new drop. My first round was a pretty rough 81, but there were some glimmers of hope. Part of my struggles resulted from doing a poor job of getting my body loose after the long drive. It was a good lesson to relearn and commit to doing better next time.
My second round saw an improvement of ten strokes and was good for a 71. It wasn’t strong enough to make the cut, but I did feel better about my game heading into our two Florida Epson Tour events.
I encountered many young players at the NWGA, and quite frankly, it made me feel older, which wasn’t my favorite feeling. Those players, fresh out of college, rightfully don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. They are confident, hungry, and ready to take on whoever is in their path. Ultimately, that provides a great push for seasoned vets like me to dig deeper. The road to the LPGA is an increasingly crowded path with not just a strong batch of rookies, but also a down economy on the Ladies European Tour, which has recently led to an increase of international players on the Epson and LPGA Tours. In my opinion, it is harder than ever before to get to the LPGA, but I think that is how it should be, and I absolutely love just how good the women’s game is right now, and the fact that I get to be part of it. I get a chance to compete against really awesome golfers. I remind myself that the best way to do that is to remember you can’t control other players; all you can do is your best. So get focused, go play, and see how it goes. Golf is a unique game where the experience of veterans can help us just as much as the fearlessness of rookies can help them.
After the NWGA event, I headed south to Charlotte Harbour to tackle my first Epson event. My journey was smooth sailing as I stopped a few places to practice and stay with friends. Some of my Tour-bound friends didn’t have quite the easy drive to the tournament like me.
Past Epson Tour champion Maia Schechter had to battle a car breakdown in Jacksonville en route from North Carolina. Relentless, she found a rental car and drove on. Epson rookie Sydney Legacy got the call as an alternate on Tuesday to come on over to the season opener. During her journey, she also found herself on the side of the road with a busted transmission. The highly talented rookie also problem-solved and found a rental car to drive on in too.
Driving is a huge part of our job as professional golfers, and I could definitely relate to my friends’ struggles as I’ve cranked out more than a few 12-hour, 16-hour, 8-hour drives, and tire changes myself. It is a true metaphor for not letting setbacks and windy roads stop you from getting where you are trying to go. Maybe you aren’t making your putts right now, or you are battling an injury, but if you want to get anywhere you have to figure out a way forward.
Once we all got to Charlotte Harbour, I think more players would agree that the atmosphere was—as the college kids like to say—poppin’. We had a lot of fans for the inaugural event, and I was very joyful to be out there. I was surprised to see so many old friends still getting it done. It honestly felt a bit like coming home just having the opportunity to tee it up with all of them again for real.
Golf-wise, I hustled for five rounds under par, nabbed tow top 25 finishes and sunk a lot of putts in the first two Epson events. My drives were not clicking and there were plenty of other elements of my game that needed work, but it was a nice start.
Off the course, my Airbnb stay in a treehouse really stirred up some excitement and laughter among the Tour. Tarzan Allie! When I came down from my tree, I also enjoyed some great meals with friends. More than ever, it has sunk in that golf is a team effort. There are a lot of roadblocks and fears out there that might make you stop from time to time, but a good team promotes the bus moving forward. I will also add for my friends that have changed careers paths away from professional golf for various reasons that though their path is different for them now, a good team helps with that too. Changing directions is certainly a hard decision for most professional athletes and career people, but it can also be an admirable and good move too.
Right now, I’m feeling thankful and persistent that I’m on the 2019 golf path, and I can’t thank all of the people that are constantly helping me out enough. I appreciate y’all, and I am lucky.
That’s all for now! I’ll keep you informed as I work on driving that ball down the fairway, keeping my inner drive strong and cruising down the highway to the next event.