Chasing my dreams one shot at a time
It's time for an update on my last couple months!
As usual, life on tour has been a roller coaster. Back in April my game was feeling great, and I was chomping at the bit to get started in Hawaii. I ended up missing the cut by a stroke after battling a cold during the first and second rounds. Golf can be a game of momentum, and it felt as if Hawaii was the start of a downward spiral. I really struggled two weeks later in San Francisco and again at the next stop in Dallas.
I’ve had plenty of times like these in my career by now, but honestly, it's always difficult. I was down and frustrated, but there was only one thing to do: just keep swimming. As they say, the only way out is through.
I took a few days after Dallas to go hiking in northern Arizona with my boyfriend. This cleared my head and got me back to seeing the world from a brighter perspective. When I returned to the golf course I decided to rekindle the flame with an old putter, the center-shafted Odyssey Versa. Right away I played a Cactus Tour event and a US Open Qualifier, and although I didn’t nab wins, I did start making birdies again. My LPGA status worsened after the first reshuffle, so I had unexpected time off to visit Boise and partake in a Crucial by Micron sales event. Spending time with the wonderful people from Crucial who have supported me the last two years was a great silver lining and the beginning of a shift in momentum.
Things continued to look up when I arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the LPGA Volvik Championship. I saw what felt like a thousand feet of putts go in the first 27 holes. The honeymoon phase with the new putter didn’t last forever, though, and it cooled down on the weekend. However, finally making a cut and playing a full four rounds gave my confidence a major boost. I'd gotten the monkey off my back.
In reality, my golf game wasn’t that far off during the first three events. I placed a lot of imagined and unnecessary pressure on the Hawaii tournament just because I had waited so long to play. Instead of finding the positives and moving forward, I dwelled on the failure. Focusing on the ‘coulda, woulda, shouldas' is mentally and physically draining. When all you see is what you’ve done wrong, mistakes and bad luck seem to keep appearing. In hindsight, I realize I have more control over those momentum swings than it feels like in the moment.
I packed my bags on June 3rd for a long stretch on the road. I started with a strong showing in Atlantic City at the LPGA Safeway Classic, shooting 69-72-67 to finish T-36th. Here was a week where I actually controlled my emotions! An early double bogey and some missed opportunities throughout the three rounds could have gotten me down, but I stayed patient and was rewarded with my best finish thus far of 2018.
I played more solid golf at the LPGA Meijer Classic in Grand Rapids, but shooting 70-74 was not enough to make the cut. From Grand Rapids, I drove north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for one of my favorite Symetra events: the Island Resort Championship. A couple bad swings hurt the overall score, but once again, my game wasn’t far off.
While the LPGA played their third major of the year without me in the field, I took advantage of my proximity to Minneapolis to visit my sister and her family. I enjoyed quality time with my precious niece, Elizabeth, and spent many hours practicing at Hazeltine National.
The next LPGA stops were Green Bay and Toledo. I unfortunately racked up two more missed cuts. Like I found last summer, six consecutive weeks on the road is beyond my limits. While I feel strong physically, aspects of my swing and short game get off track when I don’t have guidance from a coach for so long. I also found myself running on a very short emotional fuse despite my best efforts to stay patient and positive. I feel like my niece when it is past her nap time. Please, I’m cranky, somebody just put me in (my own) bed!
…after just one more week on the road, that is. LPGA player Olafia Kristinsdottir is hosting a pro-am in her home country of Iceland on July 18, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see this bucket list destination. Upon return from Iceland, I will have three full weeks off to recharge my batteries at home before hitting the homestretch of domestic events in mid-August.
I definitely won’t let this tired stretch of golf turn into negative momentum like I did earlier in the summer. I know I can play better than my recent scores, and each week has been a valuable learning experience regardless of the outcome.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the ride!
I am thrilled to be writing you from my first LPGA start of the year in Hawaii!
While counting down the days to this trip, I have stayed competitive by playing five local Cactus Tour events and three LPGA Monday qualifiers. I am very happy with my game. My scoring average in these eighteen rounds of 2018 is 70.44. Although I didn't advance through any of the Monday qualifiers, I finished third in all three (only two players qualify). This consistency shows how ready I am for my upcoming starts.
Speaking of which, the Lotte Championship is the first of four consecutive LPGA events. I am definitely in the field this week (Hawaii) and the fourth week (Dallas). I will Monday qualify for the second and third weeks (LA and San Francisco). Solid play in these events will improve my status in the reshuffle, so my schedule after Dallas is TBD.
I’ve diligently worked on the off-season objectives I set last October. I have been improving ownership and understanding of my golf swing, consistently practicing my putting and chipping fundamentals, and dialing in iron and wedge distance control. With all the time in one place, I’ve been able to make strength and speed gains in the gym at Combine Performance- including adding three inches to my vertical! This does two things for my golf game: 1) generates more force using the ground in my swing and 2) allows me to make an impressive celebratory leap when I win my first major 😃
I have also turned my attention to course management this off-season. I attended a seminar that provides a standardized approach to on-course decisions based on tour statistics. It might sound complicated, but it makes life easier by removing guess work and emotion from my club and target selection process. It’s like choosing to play by the book in blackjack versus randomly hitting on seventeen because you happen to “have a feeling.” The risk might reward you every once in a while, but the measured approach pays off in the long run. A highlight from this spring was having PGA Tour player Joel Dahmen caddie for me in a Cactus Tour round. He has been using this system for several years and helped me put it into action for the first time. We fired three under that day and I finished eleven under for the three rounds. I think playing with discipline is going to be a massive key to saving a shot every round or so- and if anybody knows how much one shot can mean, its me.
I am proud to be representing Crucial by Micron, TR Toppers, and Snake River Farms on tour again this year. In the spirit of my renewed partnership with prime meat company Snake River Farms, I thought I would do something new and share a bit about my own nutritional preferences. I am VERY far from being a nutrition expert and I’m certainly not pretending to be one here, but I do know what keeps me feeling strong and energized as an active athlete.
Post work out:
I usually practice and play throughout the mid part of the day, so I don’t always take the time to sit down and have lunch. I am all about on course snacks.
As you can probably tell by now, my main objectives with food are to eat whole foods, avoid sugar, get plenty of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and opt for slow burning carbohydrates over white, starchy ones. Given my high activity level, I have never counted calories and eat as often and as much as I need to feel full.
This is not to say I am a robot. I believe in the 80/20 balance - eat well 80 percent of the time and treat yo’self 20 percent. A great golf tournament deserves to be celebrated with dessert - and Tuesdays deserve to be celebrated with tacos.
Like I said, I’m not an expert and don’t play one on the internet. This is just what I’ve found works for me. If you have any questions… I invite you to ask someone else, preferably a nutritionist 😊.
Thank you all for following along. Keep your eyes on the upcoming LPGA leaderboards and I’ll be back with you in a month!
Happy New Year!
Most of you probably know by now the story of my close call at Q-School in December. After 90 holes of golf, I fell just one shot shy of earning a full LPGA Tour card- for the second year in a row. Bret Lasky from LPGATour.com wrote a nice detailed look at the ups and downs of my week here: http://www.lpga.com/news/sheils-overcomes-heartbreak.
Everybody’s first question upon hearing Q-School results is, “So... what does that mean?” I am better prepared to answer that question now that I am no longer a bewildered rookie 😃. Below is a look at the 2018 LPGA schedule. By my best estimates, events highlighted in pink are weeks I will probably play. Events highlighted in blue mean I have a 50/50 chance of playing. All other events without color from the ANA Inspiration forward are possible for me to play if I work my way up the money list.
With Q-School behind me and a fresh year ahead, I have been thrilled to throw myself back into the process of getting better each day. This looks like meditation in the morning; strength/mobility/stability work in the gym; and hours of practice both on and off the course at Alta Mesa GC. I look back often on the notes I made at the end of last season as a guide to where I should sped my practice time. Semi-frequent lessons with swing coach Gabe Hjertstedt and putting coach Todd Kolb keep me moving in the right direction.
I got my first taste of 2018 competition on the Cactus Tour last week. My results (74-73-72, 9th/39) showed the rust that a relaxed December were bound to bring. However, as always, the tournament experience was a valuable teacher. I then flew down to Nassau, Bahamas to try my hand at Monday qualifying into the LPGA season opener. I shot a sharp, bogey-free five under but finished third on a day when only the top two players out of thirty earned a place in the event. Such is the nature of the beast.
I had an incredible time in the Bahamas thanks to the help of a few very kind people. After meeting briefly at the same qualifier in 2017, Paradise Island local Garth Groat didn’t hesitate this year to help find me private housing with another club member, Ray Brown. Ray welcomed my travel buddy Samantha Troyanovich and me into his condo for our stay on Paradise Island, greatly reducing the cost (and therefore stress!) of an otherwise pricey gamble in a Monday qualifier. Garth even stepped in to carry my bag for nine holes of my practice round when flight troubles delayed my scheduled caddie. The generosity of individuals like Garth and Ray never cease to amaze me as I travel the world.
I came across a quote that I have been pondering for the better part of this month. It reads,
“Today, give yourself the most simple and doable of tasks: Just don’t make stuff worse. Whatever happens, don’t add angry or negative emotions to the equation. Don’t react for the sake of reacting. Leave it as it is. Stop digging. Then plan your way out.”
You have probably heard me talk before about controlling my reactions to outcomes rather than letting the outcomes control me, but I really like the simplicity of the task given here. Just don’t make stuff worse. After hitting a bad shot- just don’t make it worse! After coming up a shot shy of a goal- just don’t make it worse! That isn’t so hard to do, right? 😃 The faster I accept the moment as is, the faster I can get on my way to something better. I will keep this in my back pocket as a long term goal for 2018.
The month of February has the LPGA overseas and the Symetra Tour with an empty schedule, so I will be gathering more tournament experience on the local Cactus Tour and enjoying time home in Arizona. You can keep up with my schedule on the “Follow” page of my website.
Much love to all!
An inside look at my journey in professional golf
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