Hey everyone, long time no talk! While I did not achieve my goal of being as active as I would like to be on both this blog and my social media accounts so far this winter, I have been working hard to achieve my larger goals.
This winter has flown by. It is very true that time flies when you are having fun, and that is certainly the case with me. I am blessed to have had home base set up in the greater Orlando area again this winter, and also feel privileged to have the opportunity to work, practice, and play out at Championsgate.
To catch you up, lets start with an overall summary of the winter thus far. This winter has been amazing. I feel like I have made significant improvements to my physical and mental health that have not only improved me as a golfer, but as a person in general. I am very excited to continue to work on these areas and to see it continue to translate on the golf course.
I believe many of the physical improvements have been a direct result of my changed mindset. As I discussed in my last blog, I ended the summer playing some really solid golf but wasn't able to close out events where I had set myself up for success. Rather than dwell on these shortcomings, I feel like I took the positives out of these experiences. "I am putting myself in positions to succeed. I have the ability!" I keep telling myself. With this changed attitude, it has been much easier to use my frustrations as motivation to keep getting better.
In November and December I did not play a ton of tournament golf. As expected, it took a little while to get reacclimated to life and golf down there. Additionally, I felt like I was playing really inconsistent golf. One day I would play decent, the next less than stellar, a reoccurring theme from the end of the summer. I had a couple unfortunate week-long stretches where I was under the weather too, once during a tournament week, and the other leading up to a tournament. In both events, I felt like I was playing catch up with my golf game and/or didn't feel like I was able to give my fullest effort in either of these events. However, I feel like I mentally used the "excuse" of being sick as an excuse for my poor play. Rather than blame poor mechanics, I felt like I tricked myself into staying positive and think that "once I feel better consistently, I will play better consistently". Tricking yourself into staying positive is definitely not all bad, but I definitely feel that the "fake" self-belief delayed me into fixing some mechanical flaws in my swing.
In my first event of 2022, I hit the ball horrifically. Plain and simple, it was no bueno. I had been hitting it well leading up to the event too, but playing that poorly was a big slap in the face, a wake up call that it may be time to make some changes. So I did, I made some very significant changes to my swing.
My go-to shot my entire life has been a flighted draw, but even that I was finding to be unreliable day in and day out. I had the opportunity to play golf with PGA Tour winner D.A. Points, who I was paired with in an event in December. While I missed the cut by 1 (finishing the last several holes in almost complete darkness may I add), D.A. gave me some feedback. He told me he liked my action but felt that I needed to be more comfortable hitting some high softer shots and being more comfortable hitting cuts on command. And that is exactly what I worked on.
At the time leading up to the changes, I was consistently swinging more than 4.5 degrees to the right, way more than you will see compared to any player on the PGA Tour. The way my swing was set up, I really could only hit my historical "go-to" shot, and not a whole lot else. So with a lot of help from my instructors, I learned what it feels like to swing left and learned to feel more comfortable with a more forward ball position. After putting in a lot of very hard work, I was able to neutralize my path and make consistent strikes with my new forward ball position, seeing the ball fly higher with more spin.
Within 2 weeks of working on the new swing, I saw immediate results. I won a Moonlight event, and even though my distance control wasn't perfect (as I was still learning my distances) I stuck to what I was working on, even in windy conditions.
Then, 2 more weeks later, I had my best tournament of my professional career. I shot -14 for 3 rounds at Panther Lake at Orange County National, including a bogey free 67 (-5) in the pouring rain during Round 2. I am very appreciative that my friend and U of M teammate, Brent Ito, road around in the cart with me the last two rounds. He was an invaluable help keeping things dry Day 2 and keeping me focused and committed to my game plan the entire time. While I did fall short of forcing a playoff by a single stroke and a chance to earn $15k more, there were so many amazing positives from this event. My lowest 54 hole total as a professional, my largest check as a professional ($10,000!!!), and the feeling of commitment knowing that I put all of my trust into a swing that was less than a month old. I was 5 strokes off the lead with 8 holes to play and put up a hell of a fight by just playing my own game and not changing my game plan. Additionally, shooting a "clutch" 67 (-5) in the final round in the final pairing was huge for me, and shows the physical and mental leaps I have made since the shortcomings last summer.
Since this event, I have not scored the best in my most recent tournaments.
I unfortunately had to WD from an event for the first time in my life due to vertigo, luckily a trip to urgent care and some meds to reduce the inflammation and fluid build up resolved those issues quickly.
In my next qualifier in Sarasota, I actually hit the ball very solid. However, I drew the short end of the tee time stick and had to play in the morning wave that featured low 40 degree temps and 20+ mph of wind. It was tough to hit it close to the hole in those conditions and I didn't putt worth a damn. When I knew I was out of it after I lipped out my birdie putt on hole 10, I left myself "have some fun" on the back 9, trying to hit some very low percentage shots like a driver off-the-deck that I topped in the water. As a result my score was inflated in the wrong direction.
During the Puerto Rico Pre-Q, I did not let myself swing as freely as I had in the previous events. Given all of the swing/set-up changes I have made, I have had a lot of swing thoughts surrounding my mechanics and often times that gets in the way of letting your body move naturally, which is when you will see your best results. These will only go away with time and more tournament reps to build additional trust. I also came to the conclusion that I was struggling with my alignment, which I feel lead to most of my poor swings that day.
After working on my alignment, I started to feel really good about my swing and game. In a round for fun on the National course @ Championsgate, I birdied 8 out of the first 10 holes. Then, I hit the ball very well in my most recent event in Daytona. I basically hit the first 17 greens of the tournament (3 balls on the fringe within 20 ft, rest on the surface), yet only made 2 birdies, and only one of those with the putter. I let my frustrations with my putting carry over into my 2nd round, placing more pressure on myself to hit it close and ultimately resulting in some poor swings and a poor score.
In summary, the past few months, and specifically the most recent month, has been a whirlwind for my golf game. I am super happy with the progress I am making with my swing changes and feel that everything is starting to become more habitual and less conscious, which is necessary to play great golf. Additionally, I feel like my expectations became way too high after my 2nd place finish, and consequentially I started putting more and more pressure on myself to score well. Just because I am hitting it well and confident doesn't mean I will score well every round. Some day putts fall, some days they don't, but I learned from the 2nd place finish that I don't have to putt great to produce good results.
That being said I feel like over the past week I have found a putter set-up that has given me some confidence and I am super excited to have the opportunity to compete for a PGA Tour Canada card this week in Dothan, AL. I am going to stick to my game plan that is direct result of my hard work. I have done all I can to prepare, now it's time to just go play.
To those of you that made it this far in my ranting, I really do appreciate your support more than you know. I had the opportunity to caddie in the Pro-Am at Bay Hill last week, and after getting to see the players that up-close, it instilled a feeling of self-belief that I have a lot going for me, and that I truly have the ability to get to that stage if I keep working hard. Looking forward to producing some more results soon!