On June 7th in Battle Creek, Michigan, I captured my very first WIN on the Symetra Tour! Here is how it went down:
It all started with one of my favorite activities, rest. I decided to skip the third and final tournament of the Carolinas swing two weeks prior in favor of extra downtime at home. I enjoyed five days in Boise, three days in Denver for a 36-hole US Open Qualifier (I shot -2 and missed by three shots), then five more days in Boise before getting to Michigan. Upon arrival, I was reenergized and ready to go.
I was set up in the home of Kathy-Sue Dunn, one of my favorite host moms of the year. We were on a lake, within walking distance of the golf course, and swimming in positive energy. The tournament was played at Battle Creek CC, a traditional, tree-lined country club. Within my first ten minutes on the golf course I turned to Wayne and declared, "I love this golf course and it is perfect for me." I wasn't kidding.
My first two rounds were just plain steady. I was hitting solid iron shots and tight wedges, capitalizing on almost all birdie opportunities within ten feet, and I didn't have a single 3-putt. Oddly enough, it was actually one of my worst driver performances of the year. I only hit 8/14 fairways during round one, about three less than my average. I consulted with my coach Terry Rowles on the phone Friday afternoon, and he helped me to come up with a swing band-aid to get me through the weekend.
I teed up on Sunday in the second to last group, three shots out of the lead. My playing partner, Jacey Chun, quickly rattled off five birdies and zero bogeys in the first eleven holes. I also had zero bogeys but just one birdie, and it seemed Jacey would run away with the event. I think this alleviated some of the pressure - I remained in "chase" mode rather than "protect" mode. Then, on the par three 12th, I ran in a 20-footer for bird and Jacey 3-putted. I made two more good pars on the difficult 13th and 14th holes while she made another bogey on fourteen. I glanced at the leaderboard on the 14th green and saw several names ahead of mine and several shots between the leader and me. Then, on the par five 15th, I hit an incredible three wood (shoutout to the Ping G30 Turbulator!) to ten feet and 2-putted for birdie. Jacey found trouble in the trees and walked away with a double. All of a sudden, I was in front.
She bounced back with birdie on the 16th, but I ran in a big 25-footer for birdie on the 17th. l hadn't seen a leaderboard since the 14th green, so while I knew I was clear of Jacey, I definitely didn't think I was leading the tournament. Again, I believe this helped me to remain present. The 18th hole is a longer par-4 with a gigantic green sloping back to front. The Sunday pin was just four paces from the back edge, and, in an effort to avoid the enormous false front short of the pin, I decided to hit a low five iron through the headwind somewhere just short of pin high. I underestimated my adrenaline, pumped the shot through the wind and over the green, and left myself with a short-sided flop shot out of the rough to a green running away from me. I glanced at the leaderboard while walking back to hit my chip shot and only then did I realize I had a two shot lead. My focus remained completely on the chip at hand. I hit one of the best chips of my life to four feet, made the putt, sealed the win, then got doused in a shower of beer from my friends.
Here are recaps of the weeks since the win:
June 8-14 | Phoenix, AZ & Omaha, NE
I spent four days working with my coaches in Arizona. It was fun to celebrate the win with them, make some minor club adjustments at Ping, then proceed to get my butt kicked in the gym at Exos.
I flew to Omaha to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my good friend and former Nebraska teammate, Kayla Knopik, and her husband Scott Barnes. Beautiful celebration with great people.
In a stroke of incredibly good fortune, the Symetra Tour event that I skipped for the wedding was rained out. This meant nobody moved on the money list while I was absent, so it was like I didn't miss an event at all. I'm still thanking my lucky stars.
I shot rounds of 72-70-70 to finish T-11th. I never felt very sharp this week, but I made a lot of unlikely par saves when I needed them most and somehow walked away with a good finish. Like I said, golf isn't about being perfect.
June 22-28 | Harris, MI
Harris (located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula) is always one of my favorite events. My pro-am partner was the tournament director and Sweetgrass Hotel & Casino GM Tony Mancilla. Tony provides the best player hospitality of the year. He also just so happens to be a product of Meridian HS and the University of Idaho, so it's no wonder he does great work.
I had a roller coaster weekend of 71-77-66 to finish T-19th. The final round 66 was the lowest score shot by anyone that weekend and my personal best tournament score. It moved me all the way from 70th place to the top 20! My ball striking on Saturday and Sunday was pretty similar, except on Saturday I missed putts and lost my cool, and on Sunday I had a great attitude and made everything I looked at. It's a simple game, really.
The Tullymore Classic was new this year and it was a success. This rural, wooded and lake-filled area of Northwest Michigan was beautiful, and fans came out in droves to support us over the holiday weekend. The course was set up surprisingly short which made it a wedge & putt shootout. Neither my wedges nor my putter were hot, so I managed lackluster rounds of 68-74-70 to finish T-36th.
Another cherished week off at home. My coach Michael Pinkey came to visit and worked with me for several days out at Falcon Crest GC (thanks for all of the hospitality, Falcon Crest!). Periodic checkups with my coaches makes all the difference in playing steady, consistent golf for months on end.
July 13-20 | Rochester, NY
The Toyota Danielle Downey Classic was another impressive new Symetra event for 2015. The tournament was named for the late Danielle Downey, a local star from Rochester and former LPGA tour player. It was an honor to play in her memory.
Brook Lea CC is a traditional northeast Donald Ross. I loved the bent grass, tree-lined fairways, and subtle but challenging layout. Unfortunately, I failed to capitalize on a great week of ball striking. I finished T-24 with rounds of 71-71-72-71. If you erase my six 3-putts of the week, I would have finished 3rd. Ouch. However, I learned my lesson from previous weeks and kept my cool even when I couldn't buy a putt. I relied on other parts of my game and kept grinding to make late birdies in each round to salvage decent scores. Sometimes that is all you can do.
I had a blast staying with Jamie and MaryAnn Parker. They were kind enough to host myself, Laura Kueny, Caroline Powers, and Carly Werwie. Our not-so-little "family" had fun together all week long, capped off by a round at the legendary Oak Hill CC on Monday.
I'm back in the home of the awesome Heath family for my third year and looking forward to this weekend at Capital Hills GC. Stay tuned!
I've had the opportunity to play three major championship courses on some of my off days in the last few months- Whistling Straits (2015 PGA Championship), Erin Hills (2017 US Open), and Oak Hill (2013 PGA Championship). Fun times! Don't ask to me pick a favorite.
Nine tournaments remain on the Symetra Tour schedule. Let's go get it!