I arrived in Hawaii Saturday afternoon and was greeted warmly by my host family, Bob and Judi Allen. Bob and Judi hosted me last summer at their other home in Morgan Hill, CA when I was an alternate for the US Women’s Open. It was great to be with familiar faces right on property at Ko Olina. I couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
Sunday morning was dedicated to watching the Masters. If you thought Sergio’s victory was exciting, try watching it in the company of several Spaniards. That was a Masters I will never forget.
The first tee was wide open when I wanted to start my practice round Sunday afternoon, so I teed off alone with Larry. As we were walking down the fairway, another caddy ran up to ask if his player could join. We said yes, and to my surprise, his player was Cristie Kerr. I spent the next nine holes listening intently to her talk with her caddie (and sometimes me) about the course conditions and her strategy for every possible shot. Five days later, Cristie went on a birdie barrage to shoot 62-66 on the weekend and win the tournament- her 19th career LPGA victory. In her post-round interview, she mentioned trying to stay out of her own way while she was lighting up the final nine holes. This was also the advice she gave me during our practice round: just stay out of your own way and let yourself play golf like you know how. If a twenty year veteran is still working on the same thing she recommends to rookies, I think that’s a good sign I should be patient with the learning curve out here.
My first round tee time was late morning. I slept well and didn’t feel jitters on the first tee shot. My adrenaline came as we walked down the first fairway and the realization it was finally go-time sunk in. I could feel my heart rate quicken and hands shake slightly on the first three holes. I love this rush; it is one of the reasons I became a professional athlete. I think the adrenaline actually helped me to start off -1 through the first eight holes because it has a way of making me focus more acutely on what is immediately in front of me.
I had been struggling with my swing over the previous few rounds, and things unraveled halfway through the day. I was missing fairways and missing greens and not saving myself with scrambling. The final number was 77. I tried to dig the secret out of the dirt on the range after the round but didn’t make any progress until reviewing old swing notes at home later that evening. With one key in mind for round two, I hit the ball more solid and was cruising along at even par through seven holes. On the eighth tee, I rushed my shot selection and didn’t back off despite doubting the club in my hand. I put one in the water and walked away with a triple. I held myself together just fine after that (despite knowing I had zero chance at making the cut) until our group began rushing to try to finish before sunset. I made bogey then double before we got stopped on the 17th green. My mistakes on account of rushing are textbook examples of getting in my own way. Lesson learned.
The next day, our group came back to finish the round at 7:45 AM. My playing partner Lindy Duncan was at even par, one shot outside the cut line. She barely lipped out her birdie chance on 17 green. Facing the difficult par-4 18th hole knowing she needed a birdie to play the weekend, Lindy HOLED OUT her 6-iron from the fairway for eagle. It was epic!
I felt very at ease all week. Except for everything being a few notches nicer (as 10x the sponsorship money will allow), the bones of the tournament were just like the Symetra Tour. I was used to all of the little details- from practice round regulations to yardage books to registration- but greatly appreciated the added perks like a locker stocked with ProV1s and generous player dining.
One thing is for sure: if I’m going to miss a cut, Hawaii isn’t a bad place to do it. Until my weekend opened up, I hadn’t even left the Ko Olina property. I made the best of the two days by exploring the island with friends.
In between my last blog and the trip to Hawaii, I played two Monday qualifiers and one Symetra event in Mesa. You’d never guess from the scores, but there have been a lot of positive things going on in my game. I’ve gained distance with my driver, my chipping has continued to improve, and I’m really comfortable over my putter right now. My ball striking has just been inconsistent, and I have had trouble putting everything together at once. However, I have seen some great progress during this last week at home and am optimistic moving forward.
…and speaking of forward, here’s what is up next: I am currently second alternate for the LPGA event in Dallas this coming week. I will play the Monday Qualifier there to try to guarantee myself a spot in the field. Regardless, I will wait around through Thursday in case anyone withdraws. Cross your fingers!
I am not even going to bother trying to provide a schedule past Dallas because it is all very much up in the air. If you are ever curious as to whether I am playing a specific event, feel free to reach out and I'll give you my best estimate.
Thank you all for following along!