Chasing my dreams one shot at a time
As usual, another action packed summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. I played 14 tournaments in the last 18 weeks. This is always the most exciting time of my year, and I love the urgency that comes along with it. This cramped time of tournament play is, after all, what I spend the whole year training for.
I left off during my last off week, with three LPGA tournaments ahead: CP Women’s Canadian Open, Cambia Portland Classic, and Indy Women in Tech.
My priority status was not good enough for a place in the Canadian Open, so I ventured up to Canada early to give myself two chances to play my way into the field. This was the biggest non-major LPGA event of the year, and with my number of remaining starts running low, I desperately wanted to play. I didn’t get the job done in a small two day PGA of Canada tourney in Toronto, but I then fired a 69 to get through the Monday qualifier in Ottawa! After many unsuccessful Monday qualifier attempts over the past couple years, and especially after not getting a practice round due to a cancelled flight, getting through in Ottawa was a moment to be savored.
The Canadian Open might have been my favorite event of the year. This is Canada’s national championship, and it had that high caliber feeling. The Ottawa Hunt Club was a fun, challenging test, the pro-am party was extravagant, crowds were big, and we received Lululemon clothes as a player gift! Even as a member of the LPGA Tour, I’m not ashamed to admit I haven’t outgrown the thrill of a great tee prize.
My quality of play stayed steady but I didn’t get much out of my rounds during the tournament. I shot 73-72 and missed the cut by one shot- always a cruel feeling in golf.
We then journeyed a tidy little 2,900 miles to Portland, OR. The Cambia Portland Classic is another fun event. Columbia Edgewater is a pure golf course in my favorite part of the country, I had the support of local friends and family out watching, and my belly was oh so happy thanks to that famous Portland food scene. Sadly, I could not have hit the ocean if I was standing on Cannon Beach. I got some sort of weird swing idea in my head starting Tuesday and didn’t hit a solid shot for four days. I lost confidence early and let my emotions get the best of me, something I am always striving to improve.
I caught a flight out of Portland Saturday night and was on the range Sunday afternoon in Scottsdale with my swing coach, Gabe Hjertstedt. We re-tuned and worked on a swing feel I could trust. On Monday, off I flew to Indianapolis.
I had the help of another coach when I got to Indy- Todd Kolb, who has assisted with my putting over the last year. We got in some solid putting practice and talked through a game plan together on Wednesday afternoon as I still felt uneasy about my game. I resolved to be specific about my shot choices, pick one clear focus on every shot, and then give up control of results. And wouldn’t you know, I shot 67 on Thursday! I followed that up with 72-72 for T-42 finish. I certainly would have liked to go lower, but all in all the week was a step forward.
I wrote this blog while heading down under- "Kia ora" from New Zealand! I am so excited to be playing the McKayson Women’s Open in Auckland Sep 28-Oct 1. This will be my thirteenth and final LPGA event of the season, and what a place to finish with a bang! The flight may have been long, but hey, so is this blog. I’ll also be taking five days to travel (sans clubs) once the tourney ends. Check my social medias for pictures and posts to come.
I didn’t get pictures with my host families over the course of the last month, but I’d like to give a major thank you to the Parker, Trickey, Atkinson, McCleary, and Lacey families for their hospitality. Their generosity is what makes my travel a joy instead of a burden. Thank you all!
It has been a whirlwind of midsummer golf! I have played a tournament ten of the last twelve weeks. Here is my recap of all the ups and downs:
Weeks 1-3: Symetra, Greenwood; LPGA, Kingsmill; LPGA, Ann Arbor
I touched on these in the last blog, so I will fast forward here. I left off on a high note, making my first LPGA cut in Ann Arbor.
Week 4- LPGA, Atlantic City
I was feeling major positive momentum after Ann Arbor and couldn’t wait to get started at the ShopRite Classic. Billed as the largest pro-ams in golf, tournament play here didn’t start until Friday because of all the extra pro-ams. I played in two and was pleased with my ball striking in both. I shot a solid round of even par in round one and was holding steady on day two until doubling the tenth hole. The wind was blowing and conditions were difficult, so in hindsight I was doing just fine had I kept my head level. Instead, I berated myself for missing another cut (with eight holes still to play!) and lost focus. I wound up shooting +6 and missed the cut by three. I definitely learned a lesson here about staying patient.
Week 5- LPGA, Ontario and Week 6- LPGA, Grand Rapids
It had been a month on the road at this point, and I was starting to feel spent. My physical energy was there, but my mental fuse was getting shorter by the minute. I shot +3 in Canada to miss the cut by four and +2 in Grand Rapids to miss the cut by three.
My caddy and I recognized my mental fatigue, so I made a conscious effort to spend less time on the range and more time cultivating a fresh outlook by doing fun things away from the course during these weeks. I took an amazing tour of Niagara Falls with my Canadian host family on the weekend and enjoyed hanging out with my parents and boyfriend in Grand Rapids. I’d planned to play a 36-hole US Open Qualifier between the two events, but WD’d to conserve energy. Still, though, I didn’t have my usual bounce-back-ability when tournament time came.
Week 7- LPGA, Arkansas
If this whole stretch was a road trip, my car had gone from spinning its tires in the mud to successfully cruising the open highway before slowly running out of gas, and now, in my seventh consecutive week, I was overturned in a ditch engulfed in flames.
Looking back on the week is comical. As I struggled on the range before the tournament started, I was fighting back tears one hack at a time without ever thinking to call my coach or take a swing video. During my two rounds, I found the pond on two par threes and was sailing drivers OB… in addition to not making a single putt longer than four feet. It was painful. The mental exhaustion of trying to be “on” for so many straight weeks had totally worn me down, and I wasn’t even close to being myself.
Week 8- Off Week, Phoenix and Thousand Oaks
I flew back to Phoenix and collapsed into a pile on my couch for two days. When I reacquainted myself with the range on Wednesday, everything was simple again. It felt like I had taken a big breath of oxygen after way too long underwater, and I was able to look back and honestly evaluate my first stretch of LPGA tournaments.
There is a lot to take in as a rookie. Every week brings a new city, new host family, and most challenging, a new course to learn. I’m traveling Sunday nights or early Monday mornings so that I can squeeze in nine holes Monday evening, play eighteen Tuesday, and then have a 6:15 AM nine holes (aka “Emergency-9”) before the pro-am starts on Wednesday. I am always either very early or very late in the tee time wave on Thursday and Friday. Not to mention it also takes time to shake the feeling I’ve somehow snuck into the tournament, and instead feel completely comfortable inside the ropes. No one can prepare or advise you for your rookie year; you just have to experience it. It may have been difficult, but I am so happy to have this streak of “firsts” under my belt and know I am better just for having it behind me.
When I analyze my play in this stretch, I know I was actually close to being where I wanted. The difference between me shooting -2 or -1 most days instead of shooting +1 or +2 was as simple as having one less three putt, making one more birdie putt, and hitting one more fairway. That’s it. I wasn’t terribly far off- just a better read here, a closer chip there, a smarter club selection here. The margin for error on the LPGA is so slim that a few miscues in two days means you’re packing your bags early without a chance to improve on the weekend.
I also clearly learned a valuable lesson about my tournament scheduling. Seven in a row was way too many for me. I knew from my years on the Symetra Tour that three or four weeks was my maximum, but because this was my first crack at a limited number of LPGA opportunities, I was compelled to play every event. In 20/20 hindsight, I probably would have been more successful skipping a week in the middle to mentally recharge and retune with my coach. Yet this was another lesson I had to learn through the fire- no one else could have convinced me to sit out a tournament. Plus, many of my friends did the same thing- successfully! Some players can go twelve straight, others only play once or twice a month. The key is that I now know for certain what my limits are and will honor them in the future.
Back to that week off. After five days in Mesa, I headed over to the Los Angeles area to visit my coach, Gabe Hjerstedt, who teaches there part time in the summer to avoid Arizona heat. We had an excellent two days of lessons at Sherwood CC and got each aspect of my game back in line.
Week 9- LPGA, Green Bay
Next stop: Packer country. My caddie of the previous six weeks decided to take a job with another player, so I scrambled to find a replacement two days before I arrived. This is just another aspect of tour life that we all have to deal with, and I chose to not let it bother me.
I was feeling confident coming off of my lesson and fired an opening 66, then backed it up with a 70 to sit T-6th heading into the weekend! These two rounds were big for me. It was huge that I finally turned in a low score and got my name on the leaderboard in order to prove to myself that I was capable. With that ‘first’ out of the way, I can forever draw back on the experience and know it can happen again.
Unfortunately, some nerves showed up on Saturday and I shot 76-72, dropping me to a 70th place finish. But again, I walked away knowing I had made a big stride forward.
Week 10- Off Week, Boise
While the US Women’s Open was being played in New Jersey, I headed home to Boise. I had time to send videos back and forth to my putting coach Todd Kolb, and together we made some key improvements.
Week 11- LPGA, Toledo
I went into Toledo feeling ready to compete, but that’s not what showed up Thursday morning. I didn’t hit it great, and it seemed every slight miss was compounded by a worse break of luck. All of a sudden I was +5 through the first 12 holes.
Walking up the thirteenth fairway, my caddy Rick said, “Look, how about we make this fun. I’ll pay you $10 for every birdie you make from here in today and tomorrow. Let’s see if you can take a Benjamin off of me.” Well, nothing motivates me quite like cold hard cash. I steadied the ship, made a string of pars, and birdied 18 to finish at +4. Still pretty rotten. In the afternoon I worked my frustration out at the gym, had a fun dinner with friends, and went to bed on a high note.
I woke up with an extra sense of determination Friday morning. I had been too close too many times this year with nothing to show for it, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I also had the nice 66 from two weeks prior lingering in my memory.
I didn’t quite earn that Benjamin off of Rick on Friday, but I got close. I carded two bogies against seven birdies (even birdieing my last two holes of the day!) to claw my way back to -1 total and make the cut on the number. This game has beaten me down time and time again, but here was a day where finally, I fought and won. Nothing is more important than resilience.
Now, I realize making cuts isn’t everything, and it most certainly isn’t my goal. But in order to win, you first have to earn a weekend tee time. So, sometimes just passing that hurdle is a victory to be celebrated.
Rick decided to extend the $10 birdie bet to the weekend, and after 72 holes, I’d won $180 :) I fired 67-70 on the weekend and finished T-35th, my best LPGA finish to date.
Week 12- Symetra, Battle Creek
The LPGA Tour headed overseas to play the Scottish Open, Ricoh Women’s British Open, and then later the Solheim Cup in Iowa. I didn’t want to go a full month without playing a tournament, so I drove up the road from Toledo to Battle Creek, MI to tee it up on the Symetra Tour. The Firekeeper’s Casino Hotel Championship is where I won in 2015, but I have now MC’d there for two straight years. My swing was off and nothing came easy that week. Oh well.
Off Week- Idaho
On Tuesday, I hopped out of a guided raft in my life jacket and floated weightlessly on my back down the Main Salmon River. Every last ounce of tension in my body from the previous three months melted away, and my mind was as clear as the blue, cloudless Idaho sky up above. This is how an off week should be lived!
I will be back in action Aug 15-16 near Toronto for a PGA of Canada event. A win there or in the Monday qualifier on Aug 21 will earn me a place in the LPGA Canadian Open in Ottawa Aug 24-27. I am almost sure to be playing LPGA in Portland Aug 31-Sep 3 and in Indianapolis Sept 7-9. I need to finish off the year in a strong way, and I am excited to give it my all down the stretch.
This journey has been so much fun for me, and I thank each one of you for playing a part in it!
Until next time,
Okay, it is finally happening- that LPGA card in my wallet is being put to real use! Since blogging about my trip to Hawaii, I have played two more LPGA events and have four more lined up!
Now that we are into the part of the tour schedule with twelve consecutive tournaments (including two majors), many of the top players are picking and choosing events to skip to give themselves a break. This leaves room for players further down the priority list like myself to step in and play.
I kicked off this long stretch with a stop in Greenwood, SC for a Symetra Tour event. It was good to get another tournament under my belt before teeing it up on the LPGA again. My game was rough that week- I could not find the center of the club face and scoring conditions were difficult on the bumpy greens. However, it helped me to know exactly where to focus my attention when I started preparing for Williamsburg.
Next step was driving the eight hours north from Greenwood to Williamsburg, VA for the LPGA Kingsmill Championship. What a phenomenal event this was. The River Course at Kingsmill Resort is a fantastic design and had some of the purest bent grass greens I have played in a long time. Nothing makes this golfer's heart happier than seeing a true roll, and Kingsmill provided nothing less than perfection.
I shot 73-72 (+3) and missed the cut by 3. Despite the MC, I left the tournament feeling incredibly optimistic. My ball striking was back to the solid form it had been showing over the past month, I converted eight birdies in 36 holes, and most importantly, it was another week of getting comfortable inside the LPGA ropes. Three double bogeys in two days kept me from playing the weekend, but I really felt more energized than discouraged moving forward.
The next tour stop was the LPGA Volvik Championship last weekend in Ann Arbor, MI. I realized during my practice round on Tuesday that Travis Pointe reminded me of Battle Creek CC, the nearby site of my 2015 Symetra Tour victory. There is just something about Michigan golf that agrees with me. The bent grass and tight, tree-lined design is just like being back on my home fairways of Hillcrest CC in Boise.
My ball striking remained solid last week, and I took advantage of many close iron shots to make fifteen birdies in four days. I shot 69-74-70-74 to finish T-65th and earn my first LPGA check :) I was particularly happy with the fact I didn’t make any doubles, a major improvement from the week prior. I also had some great up and down saves that I am replaying on a loop in my mind.
Last week was a solid step in the right direction for me. I felt in control of my game and my scoring again, and not just comfortable but confident inside the ropes. Focus on distance control and the slow but steady effects of long-term short game improvement is starting to pay off.
I often play my best when I am in the rhythm of playing events week in and week out. So, while six or seven straight is a long haul, I am happy to finally be hitting stride for the first time in 2017. This is where I am particularly grateful for my four years of experience on the Symetra Tour- I already know how to manage myself throughout the week so as to keep my energy level steady and performance high on the weekends.
My next four weeks on the LPGA are: Atlantic City, NJ; Cambridge, Ontario; US Open Quali in MI; Grand Rapids, MI; and Rogers, AR. We will see how things shake out after that!
I’d like to give a huge thank you to all of the host families who have taken me in over the past month. I have been slacking on taking pictures along the way, but to the Childers/Gattis, Arzbergers, Kelly Carda, the Hogges, the Paolinis, and the Lindstroms: THANK YOU! The generous hospitality and encouragement from these old and new friends means the world as I travel from place to place.
I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Thank you all for following along!
An inside look at my journey in professional golf
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