As I sit here in my hotel room reflecting on life on the road as a pro golfer, I fully appreciate this time around what it means to fully enjoy the process.
Let me break it down for you, last week was qualifying school final stage. It’s the week of the year where playing pros are effectively playing for their rights to have a tour card for 2022 season. The pressure is high, as without a card you pretty much don’t have any tournaments to play for the coming season, not even mentioning the entry fee of signing up and travel expenses. It’s the ultimate pressure cooker no matter what level you are playing on… I’d like to share with you what it’s taken to get here before even hitting a ball during the stages of qualifying school.
Long Road to the Tournament
Starting with the commute here. I set off driving from southern Spain on the 29th of October, spending 10 hours driving to Barcelona for my first stop. The following day I made my way into southern France, racking up another 7 hours in the hot seat, eventually spending the night just outside of Nice. The last leg of the commute for stage 1 was going from Nice over the border into Italy where I passed through Milan, Genoa, and eventually reaching the first stage venue in Bologna on the 1st of November, totalling up to over 20+ hours of driving. The reason I drove was because the qualifying school is over 3 weeks – week 1 was first stage, then with a 5-day break before the final stage, which was situated just outside of Rome. The expense of rental cars along with added expense of covid protocols meant flying to and from places is much trickier now and much more expensive.
As I’d planned to arrive in good time, I gave myself 3 days to shake off the commute rust and enough time learn/prepare for the stage 1 course!
Good Start in Challenging Conditions
Stage 1 provided 30-40 kph winds, it was playing tough and at this point I’m glad I gave myself the added days of the prep needed. Safe to say, autumn had well and truly arrived, and boy did I feel it. My experience helped a lot as I knew the scoring would be high and so patience was the key.
Shooting rounds of 72 and 68, I finished tied 2nd breezing through to the final stage. The bogey free final round really pleased me, mistake free with a lot of good decisions, which always reminds me of the mantra I think about when playing “make good decisions, good things happen”. After the first stage, I packed the car up, checked out of hotel number 1 and drove 5 hours south from Bologna to Manziana (1 hour north of Rome) to check into hotel number 2. Preparations were equally as good as stage 1, however like stage 1, the elements and Mother Nature provided challenging conditions. Instead of the wind, she switched things up and gave us plenty of rain and by plenty, I mean PLENTY!
Unlike stage 1, the final stage was played over 2 courses (Terre dei Consoli GC & Campo Nazionale GC) instead of 1. This meant 2 practice rounds and 2 new courses to learn before starting round 1.
Opening with 68, I pretty much continued from the final round 68 at stage 1, bogey free and in control. Round 2 provided a little more drama with the odd bogey in there but carding 72 meant I was nicely inside the top 10 heading into the final round. Needing to finish inside the top 35, my opening rounds allowed me some breathing space to qualify. Carding a very solid round of 71 in wet conditions, I moved up to 5th and undoing so gained my card with full category for the 2022 season.
Relief the Overriding Emotion
It’s a strange feeling when qualifying is finished, more relief than anything else. The pressure is intense on every shot, the mind tries to wonder to external outcomes, and a focused disciplined mind is the hardest thing to acquire, especially after the previous 2 and half weeks playing and commute to get to that point. Once the dust settles, the enjoyment factor during the reflection process is quite something…
I hope this paints a small picture that life on the road isn’t simply lush fairways and smooth greens. It’s energy taxing, draining, and playing golf is meant to be the enjoyable part. That’s if you can put aside the fact you’re playing for your living…
I wouldn’t change a thing though, as when you are in the hunt to win, and you succeed in achieving goals it’s a euphoric feeling!
DP World Tour Championship Preview & Tips
Moving onto this week’s end of season Race to Dubai, it’s been quite race this year. Mainly dominated by the performances of those in big events such as majors and World Golf Championship events. Those players pretty much dominate the top of the rankings, but with the news Jon Rahm won’t be there to compete, I expect another big house name to take home the silverware.
The course, having played it numerous times, suits players able to fly it over 300 yards. The course design has bunkers situated at 290, so if you have the power to carry those then the course widens significantly. Add a hot putter who’s straight into that who’s high in confidence and in form then you’ve got the champion… Question is: who I think that will be? Here’s my picks:
Either way, it’s going to be low scoring and the best golf on display!