I left off last in week 2 of 5 on the road, just before starting play in Ft. Myers, FL. This ended up being an awesome week- I had my best finish thus far on the Symetra Tour, shooting 75-68-73 to finish T7th. This was the first week I used my new putter, a center shafted Odyssey Versa, and also the first week I started looking at the hole while hitting short putts. Both of these changes have been great additions to my game!
One highlight from Ft. Myers resulted from a typical travel woe- a flat tire. I ran over a piece of metal coming home from the course late Saturday afternoon. As I sat on the curb searching for YouTube tutorials on changing tires (what can I say, I am a 21st century problem solver), a woman came out of the condos across the street and asked if I needed any help. Five minutes later she sent over a man who kindly proceeded to swap in my spare tire. This was a perfect case in point of a lesson I have learned from travelling the country: people are good. Everywhere I go, there are generous people who are genuinely interested in helping others. It is really not such a big, bad world after all.
After Ft. Myers, I drove ten hours north to Greenwood, SC. This event was unique because it had DOUBLE the normal purse size of the typical Symetra Tour events. I had a blast staying in a gorgeous home on the 8th green with Betty Ligon and her son, Stan. The small community of Greenwood rallied together to make this big tournament happen in its inaugural year, and it was a huge success. Unfortunately, the greens at the beautiful Links at Stoney Point had not healed after a rough winter, and I struggled to make any putts for two days. This was frustrating because my good ball striking from Ft. Myers had continued, and I was still feeling great about my new putter and putting strategy. I MC’d for the first time all year, but I did not get down about my performance. It was just one of those weeks I had to forget about.
I then had a brief trek northwest to Asheville, NC. I love the entire state of North Carolina and especially the city of Asheville. It has beautiful mountains, lush green trees, crisp air, great people… it is like a sweet slice of the Pacific Northwest tucked into the South. Asheville in particular is an awesome town, filled with tasty craft beer and delicious food. I had a lot of fun staying with the Tsiros family and their two girls, Ana (12) and Elle (10). We watched Frozen together, and I even got to play 9 with them after the tournament ended Sunday. I had a good showing in the tournament, finishing T17th (75-71-69). After getting off to a slow start on a cold Friday morning tee time, I managed to play some steady golf. I did well taking advantage of the short par 5s for the week by playing them 5 under.
Next stop was two hours east in Charlotte where I returned to my wonderful host family from last year, Robert and Debbie Austin. I got off to a hot start by shooting 68 in the first round. Despite the low number, I could tell something was amiss with my ball striking. This was also week five of five on the road. Swing issues coupled with tension coupled with exhaustion did not end well for me. I finished 79-77, barely inside the money. I learned a valuable lesson this week: four tournament weeks in a row is my maximum. The only way to learn this lesson was by living it, so I am grateful to have had the opportunity so I can better manage my schedule in the future.
My “off-week” after Charlotte was hardly “off.” I flew back to Phoenix Sunday night, and immediately began preparing for a 36 hole US Open Qualifier in Scottsdale that Wednesday. Fortunately, I was able to work with my coach, Mike Pinkey, who identified and helped me to fix the swing issue I had seen creep in during the last few weeks. I survived all 36 holes in the 110˚ heat, but I did not come away with a bid for the open. Oh, well- the great thing about US Open Qualifiers is that there is always next year!
I decided midway through this week in Phoenix that I would not have the energy to head back out on tour just a few days later. I knew that both my body and mind needed more time to decompress from the stress of a long stretch of events. So, I decided to skip last week’s event in Michigan in favor of much needed trip home to Boise.
The first step was to simply not practice, play, or think golf for a few days. I visited friends in Portland and then surprised my sister by making it to her wedding shower in Seattle. This was the best part of my whole break. Spending time with close friends and family, and being just a sister, cousin, friend, and tourist, and NOT a golfer, was so refreshing to me. I have found it difficult to carve out my own identity independent of golf while on the road. I spend time relaxing with friends and do a bit of sightseeing in each town, but these are typically quick breaks, and always with friends from tour… so you can imagine where the topic of conversation usually leads. One of my goals for the second half of this season is to find something in which to immerse myself that will allow me be just Maddie, not Madeleine Sheils, Professional Golfer. In the Golf Channel’s recent special on “Arnie,” I learned that Arnold Palmer was a pilot and had his own plane. In one clip, he spoke about getting in his plane after a heart-breaking loss in a major. The difficult nature of flying demands full attention, so for the next four hours, that was his sole focus. He said everything melted away while flying because he couldn’t afford to replay mistakes from the tournament in his mind and beat himself up for the loss while managing the plane. This struck a chord with me. You also hear players who have become parents speak the same way about coming home to their children. Not enough can be said for what a clear mind, greater purpose, and big picture perspective can do for both a golf game and general happiness.
With that being said, I have decided to adopt a baby and head to flight school. Do children need car seats if they ride in the cockpit? ….Just kidding! J Neither one of those bold avenues appeals to me at the moment, but luckily the world holds an infinite amount of fascinating passions just waiting to be mastered. I look forward to letting you all know where my adventure leads me.
As for the state of my golf game heading into the second half of the season, I am incredibly excited. My ball striking has continued to improve and remains quite consistent. I got off track in Charlotte because of an alignment issue, but my general swing pattern was solid – just in the wrong direction. After getting that sorted out, I’m right back to feeling confident. My green reading ability has also seen great improvement thanks to my use of Aimpoint. Aimpoint is a green reading system that relies on feeling the slope of the green to get a read rather than just seeing it. I am getting better reads and hitting more confident putts.
I completely confident that I can win on the Symetra Tour and finish inside the top-10 on the money list to earn my 2015 LPGA Tour card. My skill set is there, the missing piece is just consistency. I plan to fix my inconsistency by getting back to focusing on the process. I spoke in a blog a few months back about making this mindset a priority, but I lost sight of the goal somewhere in the Southeastern corner of the United States. My focus for the next three weeks is going to be exclusively on the little things I can control each day. I am going to work on my pre-shot routine, my post-shot routine, and my post-round analysis with my “team” of coaches.
I am incredibly lucky to have gained a huge asset this year, my full time caddy, Wayne Uyeda. Wayne and I have worked together for seven events now. He is a long time LPGA tour caddy who I met on tour last year. I am really enjoying the benefits of having a consistent caddy. When I am in a new home, in a new city, on a new course every single week, it is nice to have something stay the same. It is also great to have someone who understands my game inside and out so I can share the burden of decision making under pressure. Wayne is reliable, experienced, focused, and kind. More than anything, he has taught me a great deal about being patient and trusting myself to get the job done. I am so glad to have him as my teammate.
As per usual, this blog has turned into a small novel. If you are still reading, thank you. I am now off to begin preparation for this week’s tournament in Decatur, IL. Thank you all for your encouragement! The support of family, friends, and the Boise community is a huge source of motivation to me.