This last week spent in AZ was a memorable one for sure. Not only did I have my best finish as a professional golfer but I broke through some major barriers in the mental side of the game. Not saying my golf game is perfect but I really do enjoy seeing hard work pay off.
I arrived in AZ on Monday (the typical travel day) and headed straight to the golf course to get used to the greens for a little bit. I find that putting on the greens of the golf course is the #1 way to build confidence for the tournament ahead. I only have to think about where I want to hit the ball and not how hard because your body already knows from all the prep you put in.
I was fortunate to stay at a friends sister’s home during the week and then I moved over to their parents home for the weekend. I couldn’t have asked for better hospitality. So thank you to the Anderson’s for being such amazing hosts, their like my Arizona family now! And I doubt I would have shot such great scores during the weekend without them. Now to the golf….
So let’s back track for a second and remember that I did not play in Q school last fall… So that means I haven’t played in a golf event since the middle of September! That has been almost 5 months ago! So needless to say I was not sure how I would react to the pressure and nerves that I haven’t really felt since last summer. I have had an awesome off season and I spent all of January really grinding on my wedges and putting so on paper I should be ready. But golf is golf and you just never know. Fortunately, my first tournament back was a success.
My first round was an afternoon tee time with great weather and great company. I was lucky to play with goo friend Calle Nielsen and Jenny Suh. None of us had caddies and I think the flow of hyped game went really smoothly for all of us. It was just us 3 girls and the course. I couldn’t have asked for a better first group for kick off tournament. I had a solid day with 4 birdies and 1 bogey. I hit every fairway (with my trusty taylormade R7 limited driver, try to take this vintage club outta my bag and I will hurt you) and had around 29 putts. It was a solid score considering I think I posted only a couple rounds in the 60’s last year alone. So after the first day I was sitting comfortably at T-11 ready to go lower the next day.
The second round was a little rough, at least for the first 6 holes. Longbow Golf Club is a top notch track but I do have to say they have some tough holes with some precarious pin placements. I decided to start off my second round with 4 bogeys in the first 6 holes. Talk about a difference from round 1! After that 4th bogey on #6 I got mad. And also a little nervous. Here I was hoping to finish the tournament in good standing and all of a sudden I was heading towards maybe missing the cut! What?! So #7 is a par three directly into the wind. Rather than trying to kill a 7 iron I chose to club up and just hit a solid 6. Right decision. I left myself a nice 3 footer for birdie. Made it. Game on. From that point on I carded 3 more birdies and a bogey and fought my way back to +1 for the day and finished at T-15 and made that first dreaded cut! So I avoided disaster but more importantly I was pretty proud that I turned a bad day into a good scramble day. But I definitely enjoyed a mani-pedi and a big glass of wine that evening. Golf can get you emotionally exhausted sometimes!!
What was pretty fun about the start of the final round is that I was playing with the same exact group as the day before so we all got to pick up where we left off. Nicole Sakamoto from Hawaii (a rookie) and also Min Lee from Taiwan (also a rookie) were both great golfers as well as fun playing partners. That makes the day and the nerves go away when you have some fun people to play with. We had a nice 10:40 tee time, not too early, not too late. I was ready to take on those first 6 holes that caused me a lot of trouble the day before. Par… Par… Par… Par…. Made it safely through some trouble but also gave myself some birdie chances. #5: stuck it to a foot from 142 yards. Birdie. #6: par. #7: made a 10 footer. Birdie. #8: par. #9: hit the par 5 in two and drained a 20 footer. EAGLE. Made the turn at -4 for the day…. Old Emily is starting to get nervous. #10: par. #11: stuck wedge from 126 yards to a foot. Birdie. (Side note: Nicole holes out for a HOLE IN ONE! So cool to see) #12: par #13: 10 footer made. Birdie. (On this green I can see a scoreboard over on #15 green…. I’m closing in on the top… Begin the stomach knots) #14: par. #15: hit the par 5 in two. Birdie. #16: par. #17: par. #18: stuck it to 2 feet above the hole from 112 yards…. Missed. Par. Final score: 65. No bogies. A lot of nerves. But a lot of success. I made the turn thinking what a good round I had already put together. Old Emily would have said: don’t mess it up. New Emily said: GO LOWER! And the new Emily prevailed!
I made my biggest paycheck in a professional event, had my best finish (T-3) on tour and I am currently sitting at #2 on the season money list. The goal at the beginning of the year was to play well all year to be in the top ten of the money list, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2014 season!
I have just landed at LAX, off to go pick up the Avis rental car (thanks Big Break) and I’ll be off to the golf course for mandatory media training with the tour at 4. Week two has begun!