Going into my next tournament, there was a sense of urgency to show that I could hold it together for 18 holes and compete against other professionals. This next event was played on the opposite course from where I played my first state open qualifier in 2006, and felt fairly comfortable playing somewhere somewhat familiar. My warm up wasn’t great, but nothing alarming to set me into a panic mode. I had a friend from my high school golf team caddying for me, and did everything I could to create a comfortable atmosphere. The first hole at this course is a straightaway par-4, nothing tricky about it, two shots down the center will suffice. My name gets announced, I prepare to tee off, and in no short order, here’s what happens:
1st shot: Snap-hooked out of bounds, re-tee with one shot added
3rd shot: blocked about 40 yards left (I’m left handed, in case there was any curiosity), unplayable, re-tee with another shot added.
5th shot: blocked about 60 yards left into the residential road, out-of-bounds, re-tee with another shot added
7th shot: FINALLY split the fairway, hit my next shot on the green, and three-putted for an 11.
Although I was essentially out of the tournament from the first hole, I figured I could still salvage some kind of respectable score, especially after battling back to shoot even on the back nine in my last event. Unfortunately, that never happened. It was like the Murphy’s Law of a golf round. Ball moving at address, plugged lies in bunkers, missing targets by a yard and bouncing into water hazards, you name it, it happened. By the 13th hole I was literally numb, but, much to my surprise, finished the round and was congratulated by my playing partners, one of whom was a retired major league baseball player who kicked my ass by at least 25 shots.
As much as the feeling of choking hurt, it didn’t compare to the backlash I received from those I was close to at home. Many of whom said it was embarrassing. I was only 23 at the time, and I couldn’t comprehend what I do now, and how people will project their own insecurities onto someone else out of fear. This is a special topic, which will get a blog post of its own.
Despite the failures of my return to tournament golf, I didn’t give up. After continuing to get in better shape, I decided that my best chance to overcome this new found anxiety is to immerse myself into the professional game, and the best way to do so was moving to Phoenix. I arrived in March of 2009, and the next post will be about how a coin on the floor changed everything for me.