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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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,