Friday, December 6, 2013

Blank Slate

A quick blog about some things we learned this week at tour school.  I was there to support and coach Casey Grice, who is playing it for the first time.  Tour school is a learning process in and of itself.  First of all, it's five days with two practice rounds.  That means a full week of intense focus on two golf courses.  Second, you can feel the importance of each shot more than in any tournament I've been associated with.  It is sort of like the final few holes on Sunday in a group with three players all close to the lead, only for 90 holes.  If a 3 foot putt lips out, everyone in the group wonders if that little piece of bad luck will make a difference.  It is the ultimate test of staying in the moment, relying on your routine and holding your attitude and focus together on each shot.

Casey has started with a birdie almost every round of every stage of Q school.  She did so again today!  She goes to the first tee excited, ready and happy.  Yesterday, after her round, I asked her if she could conjure up that attitude 18 times.  As the rounds progressed, Casey started to carry things along with her, such as a missed putt or a pulled drive.  On the first tee, she had a blank slate of experience and it lead to a beautiful start.  By the 10th tee, there seemed to be a bit of tentativeness, pressing and playing not to miss.  Within the round, the skills remained very strong, but the attitude had changed ever so slightly.  Ever so slightly is all you need at this level and with this amount of stress.  Her goal for today was to go to each tee with the same openness she carried to the first tee.

Stress was the other thing we talked about yesterday.  We played the first two rounds with Sophia Sheridan, who played at Cal and is a beautiful player.  She didn't do anything outstanding either round, but she played stress free golf.  That allowed her to score well and carry her momentum along throughout the rounds.  When she had a 20-30 footer, if it didn't fall, she rarely had to mark, but instead, tapped in.  She played the par 5's from the widest spots after 2 shots and placed her wedges within 10-15 feet on her 3rd shots.  When she missed the green, she played the high percentage shot and accepted an occasional 5 footer, which she made more than missed.  After two rounds, she stands at -2.  She looked like a consummate professional as she made her way around the golf course.  On the other hand, Casey's round involved a lot of stress and that eventually caught up with her.  She was often in the narrowest part of the fairway on par 5's or just off the fairway in the rough after her second shot.  That made it tougher to spin the wedge shot and made it tougher to get close.  A 20-30 footer for birdie was often followed by a 4 footer coming back and the greens aren't perfect, so those come backs aren't going to fall all day long.  As the day went on, there were a lot of little things that took their toll and most were due to management and aggressiveness instead of poor shots.  It is an important lesson to learn that ball striking and position are of equal importance to scoring. 

The final thing we talked about was mindset and readiness.  Jaye Marie Green started the first round of Tour School with four birdies in a row.  She ended the day with 11 birdies and a bogey on the card to shoot 62.  Her mindset most likely stayed consistent all day.  Her good play didn't cause her to relax or play more aggressively, but to stick to her game plan.  She also accepted her good play and was ready for a record breaking performance.  Casey and I talked about the importance of that readiness and preparation.  If you have the game to shoot 62, you must also have the mindset to support that great play. 

As I write this, Casey is -2 through 4.  Sadly, I have to travel today, so I will miss the round, but I know that she is ready and has a good mindset and attitude to match her game today.  I'm pulling for her to play well and achieve her goal of reaching the LPGA, but either way, she is doing well on the journey.  She learns and grows as a player every day and will get there at some point for sure.  I am also sending good thoughts to all the other players I'm pulling for to earn their cards.  Good luck to Jamie, Julia and Maddie! 

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