Five consecutive weeks on the road…in the books!!!!
This was the brunt of our season and I’m happy to say that I survived and finished the long trip off with a bang.
I last left yall in Asheville, NC. It was my first tournament with my new long-term caddy Benito. I didn’t care for how I was hitting my irons in Asheville but I made some fun putts with him leading the way for me. We experienced crazy weather in the mountains. 0% chance of rain yet it down poured on us and I made a rookie mistake…I totally left my umbrella in the car. I also played in 30-degree weather, which I haven’t felt since college days. It was kind of nice to wear pants and a beanie and see my breath in the cold mountain air. I think I managed to lose my tan just a bit. I got beat by a ton of strokes but in my heart I knew that I was sooo close! I finished in the top 30 and headed over to Charlotte for our last event in May.
Charlotte is one of two cities where I stay with host housing throughout the season. I love a hotel but my family in Charlotte is wonderful and is always supportive, no matter where I am playing in the country. They share a love of red wine with me so we polished off a few bottles this past week while having some great conversations. Charlotte was a three-day event with a Thursday start. I did not have many days to spare so Benito and I got right to work first thing Monday morning. I love practice rounds with him. They are very productive and with a purpose. I won’t share my secrets with what we do and not many people will get to see it because I either play solo or with just one other player. Three’s a crowd, especially with caddies and entourages and balls flying everywhere on greens. You can’t get anything done when you’re ducking from chip shots and jumping over putts all day.
I put in great quality time hitting shots on the range to orange cones from 40-100 yards. It paid off. In my pro am on Tuesday I was paired with a group from Coca Cola. I holed out for eagle from 73 yards on our first hole and again from 55 yards on the 10th hole. The pro am team loved that! I also stuck a 95-yard shot to inches that same day. Practice does pay off when it’s with a purpose. My team from Coca Cola was wonderful and one of the guys, Jim Curl, came out to watch me for 3 days in a row! I am so thankful when people choose me to follow and especially when they are genuinely pulling for me. I’ve been so blessed week in and week out for a pro am teammate or teammates to do just that. It means more to me than they can imagine. It is a lonely life we lead and to build relationships on the road is so valuable and meaningful to me. My Charlotte family Al and Debbie followed me as well and were so sweet to battle the heat and hills for me.
The Symetra Tour plays Raintree Country Club in Charlotte, NC. It is the third year we have played there and it is a course I feel comfortable on. It reminds me a lot of the country club I grew up on in Oklahoma City, The Greens. It sprawls throughout a neighborhood with out of bounds on every corner. You have to shape and place your shots off the tee and approaches. I love that! I love flinging a driver high left to right around a corner. You have to have imagination and trust in yourself that you can shape your shots. It makes the course a lot shorter when you can do that with a driver. I started off the round with a 4 under 68. That included a 3-putt bogey and a chunked hybrid into the water for a double bogey early in my round. I made sooooo many putts thanks to my awesome caddy Benito. I have full trust in him. It proved so on my last hole of the first day…
I have been paired with my friend Mallory Blackwelder the last 4 out of 5 rounds. We were tied going into the final hole on the first round. I put my tee shot 20 feet away and she put hers in the rough. As we walked to the green I said,” you better chip in because I’m making mine.” That way we would be paired again today for 5 in a row. She definitely tried making it but left it a few feet away. This is where I have full trust in my caddy Benito. I had no doubt my ball was going to move huge right to left towards the water. When he looked at the line and came back to me he had a huge smile on his face and said, “I can’t believe it! I waited til the last hole to get my best read!” (in a cute Mexican accent.) He said, “left edge.” I said, “ain’t no way.” He said, “believe me. Trust it.” So here I am over the ball thinking how embarrassing this is going to be when I lose this ball 8 feet low and left of the hole on a 20-foot putt. As soon as I struck it, the ball surprised me and climbed the hill right and at the very end moved left to finish in the center of the cup. I gave him the biggest high five he has probably ever received. Benito is GOOD!
I had a boring middle round shooting 70 with one bogey and 3 birdies. I was putting myself to sleep out there since I had 7 birdies the previous day and only had 3 on the second day. I hit it solid but just did not get my putts to the hole coming in. I sat one shot back going in to the final round and was paired with my good friend Mallory Blackwelder and Emily Talley. We had a huge following from the get go which was a lot of fun. I played extremely solid hitting every green but one (statistically I hit 15 but two of them I had a putter on the fringe.) I made NOTHING. Granted, I did not have a ton of five-foot birdie putts but I was hitting lips and edges all dang day. With Benito, I believe I can make any length putt which is an amazing feeling.
Mallory played beautifully all week but it was an almost perfect round for her in the final round. Mallory apparently is not a scoreboard watcher because on 17 fairway she asked us if we saw her shielding herself from the board. I said, “You didn’t look? You don’t know? Well, I’m kicking your ass!” (She knew I was 3 shots back of her.) I know how stressful it is coming down the stretch in the lead so a smile was what she needed. I never gave up. On 16 I thought I can hole out here and on 17 and on 18. I had faith until the very last shot but Mallory ended up winning by 2 shots and I genuinely was happy for her. She has put in so many years just like I have and she flat out won yesterday. She was one of the girls who dumped a ton of water on me when I won in March but since we were in the same group yesterday, I couldn’t do that (plus the final group behind us had to finish the last hole) so I gave her a big ol hug as she was bawling. I am very proud of the Symetra Tour in that we are one big family. We are very competitive and we want to kick each other’s butts but at the end of the day, we can all go have dinner and drinks and remain friends. Golf is our way of living and our dream but at the end of the day, the relationships and experiences are that much more valuable. I believe that when we are 80 years old we aren’t going to remember bogeying a hole here or there, we are going to remember the friendships and good times. I wish more people adopted the Symetra Tour players’ attitudes.
After saying all of that, it sounds like I am a soft competitor. I am far from that. I hate to lose. After tasting victory a few months ago, this 4th place finish is not rewarding. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I kept replaying my three rounds in my head, correcting where I could have done better. I somehow fell asleep and woke up at 3am with the tournament as the first thing on my mind. I hate losing. In golf, we lose a ton more than we win and that is the cruelty of our sport. We are never going to play a perfect round but that is also the beauty in it. We can always improve yet never catch perfection. I could not go back to sleep so I got up and drove to the airport at 330am. I am currently en route back to Phoenix for 7 FULL DAYS!!! I will be laying in my pool in less than three hours (not that I am counting.) I am taking Memorial Day weekend off from golf but will get back after it Tuesday as I have my US Open qualifier Wednesday in Scottsdale at Country Club of DC Ranch. It is a huge goal of mine to play in many US Opens but this one especially as I love Pinehurst. It will be a win-win situation, I’ll either play in the US Open or I’ll play in South Bend for Symetra Tour’s second biggest. It will work out the way it is supposed to.
Thanks to everyone who spent many hours the past 5 weeks watching me live, walking the hills and enduring the heat, living and dying by every shot of mine. Thanks to everyone who watched live scoring and cursed when the bogeys appeared and cheered when the circles popped up. I can only imagine how stressful watching live scoring is. Support is not a given and there are a ton of people who do not understand what I am setting out to do but for the MANY who do understand, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It keeps me believing and keeps my eye on the prize. Eleven more events this year…Sitting 5th on the money list. I am so thankful to have Benito as my teammate for the rest of the year. Good things are to come!
What I’m Reading: The Match by Mark Frost