We had the following week off, so I flew home to Boise for the first time in seven weeks. There was not much time for R&R on this visit, though, with the tour picking up the very next week. I worked on my game and then boarded a plane to Palm Harbor, FL. For anyone that has ever visited Florida in August, you know it is not exactly prime golf conditions. Florida in August is comparable to being in a hot yoga class… every hour of the day. To give you an idea, I had to wear my rain glove on the range in the morning because my hand would sweat through a regular leather glove within five minutes. I don’t even have sweaty hands! Then, everyday at about 4 PM, the sky opens up and unleashes a furious rainstorm. At least we played a great golf course, Innisbrook Resort’s Island Course. I was the second group off Friday morning, so I hit all 72 of my shots before a rain delay forced the afternoon groups to finish the next morning. My Saturday tee time wasn’t until 3 PM, and I shot a hot, fatigued 75. I finished off with a 71 Sunday, earning T-25th place. All in all, a solid week.
I then flew to Baltimore, picked up my car, and drove south to Richmond, VA. Caitlin McCleary and I made a spontaneous stop in Washington, D.C. on the way down because we couldn’t resist a little sightseeing. Richmond, VA was another fun week with a wonderful host family, Greg and Jean Bowman. I played well the first two days, shooting 71-72 and positioning myself inside the top-25… then Sunday happened. The rain began around 5 AM that morning and did not let up all day. I teed off at 8:50 and made it twelve holes before a rain delay was called due to flooded greens. The rain did not stop during the delay, but the grounds crew was sent out to squeegee off the greens. When we were sent back out two hours later, most fairways held large puddles of casual water and the grounds crew was still squeegeeing the greens in between each group. My college coach once nicknamed me a “mudder” because I played some of my best rounds in the rain, so I truly had visions of moving up the leader board on Sunday morning. I was +2 through twelve holes, not bad considering the conditions, but then tripped all over myself after the rain delay. I could no longer make up for a below-average day of ball striking with a precise short game because the greens were mainly puddles. I actually managed to leave one 40-foot putt a full 20-feet short. I finished with a very frustrating 79 and a bad taste in my mouth.
Luckily for me, my Dad had flown all the way out to Richmond to caddy that weekend and was there to make the drive back to Boise with me. Yes, that’s right, the DRIVE from Richmond to Boise. 2,550 miles, 36 hours, and four days… it was a long trek, to say the least, but we got to pay a visit to friends in Omaha and Lincoln (a highlight) and a visit to the tumbleweeds of Wyoming and cows of southeastern Idaho (a lowlight) along the way.
I spent two and a half days in Boise reviving feeling in my lower back, then hopped in the car with my mom and headed to Portland because why NOT add an extra 400 miles to the week? Yesterday I played in the LPGA Safeway Classic Monday Qualifier at Columbia Edgewater CC. There were nineteen players for two spots. I played one of my best rounds of the year: I hit 14/14 fairways, 16/18 greens, and made four birdies and one bogey for a smooth 69. Most importantly, this was also one of my strongest rounds of the year mentally. I remained focused on the process for every shot of the day, despite nerves and pressure of wanting to qualify so badly. Staying focused down the stretch is something I have struggled with this year, so the round felt like a big step in the right direction. I finished behind one player’s 68 and tied with another 69, so off I went into a playoff for the last spot. I continued to maintain a calm and positive attitude, hit the fairway and green on each of the playoff holes and rolled good putts, but nothing dropped. My opponent then made a 35-footer for birdie from the fringe on the fourth hole, and I lipped out my 25-footer. Being so close to playing in my first LPGA event and then letting it slip through my fingers was very disappointing, but I walked away with far more positive feelings than negative. I shot a great score on an LPGA course set-up, was inches from getting to tee it up with the world’s best, and am feeling good about my game is as I head into the home stretch of the Symetra season. I made the last six Symetra cuts in a row and six of my last ten rounds were at par or better. Progress is being made in the right direction!
I continue to learn and grow throughout this crazy road trip. There is truly no substitute for experience. One of the greatest challenges is figuring out how to deal with the unpredictability of each day. When you are in a different city, on a different course, and in different situations every single week, you end up arriving to the first tee with an unavoidably wide range of feelings. I am learning how to both recognize and manage the nerves, anxiety, exhaustion, excitement, and other emotions as they come. I know this is an ongoing process rather than an end result I will somehow reach, but that is why I find golf so special. The game will never stop demanding adjustment and improvement- what more could you ask of a career?
My next event is the Colorado Women’s Open in Denver, September 4-6. I have played there the previous two years as an amateur, so finally teeing it up there as a professional will be very fun. The Symetra Tour resumes play in Florida for the final two events Sept 20-22 and Sept 26-29. I hope to nab some very high finishes in these two tournaments, otherwise I will head to Stage II of LPGA Qualifying School in Venice, FL, Oct 8-11. With good play there, I can advance on to Stage III and earn my LPGA card with a top-20 finish.
Finally, I would like to end with a piece of very exciting news: Madeleine Sheils, LLC is officially SOLD OUT! The last half unit was sold to Terry Torney, a cousin of earlier investor Anne Burr. Terry hosted me for the tournament in Palm Harbor and decided that week to buy the unit. The LLC could not have been closed out by a finer guy or family. I am honored and thrilled to have reached the full 35-unit capacity, and beyond grateful for the opportunity these investors have given me.