Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - an exciting year of golf, learning and preparing, maturing and progressing.

It is time to write a short recap of what we were able to accomplish in the past 12 months. 365 days to professional golf was started to be a real time and no gimmick diary of my way to professional golf. For those who follow me or read my blogs, you know that I am writing without reservation and without holding anything back. It is a true account of my game, my thoughts, my opinions. Simply put, it is exactly how I feel.

The idea was to work very hard for 365 days and reach a handicap of 2 or better to then play on bigger tournaments and enter some mini tour events to progress further. I was totally aware that this is a huge task and I received some great messages encouraging me and supporting me right from the start. It seemed like a huge goal to many who did not know me and were not aware, that I am not starting as a beginner or even as a high handicap player or mid handicap player.

I was lucky to find one dedicated sponsor to start my journey at the beginning of this year. Well aware that this is a very tight situation, I was determined to proceed and to start a regiment of practice and play. This was for every single day. Go to the range at least 4 times a week and play the other 3 days plus tournaments on different AM tours as well as plenty of skins games and city championships.

My schedule was huge at the beginning of the year. There were dozens of tournaments I was planning to play.

We started out well. Practicing and playing whenever it was possible. Not exactly easy in the beginning. I did not work out for a long time and my body had to adjust to the constant strain you experience when playing competitive golf or practice for long hours. But I was able to get the adjustment done and did not have any problems. With a specific practice plan in mind and a good schedule one can progress nicely over time. When I say over time I mean just that. Most golfers or people think that you can learn golf fast and then progress to be very good to excellent in a short period of time. I have to say that when you are a beginner and work hard , you will move fast up to a certain handicap. From there on it becomes harder and harder.

So I worked hard every day and started playing tournaments. In the beginning there were not many success stories I could write about. But things got better every months. The more balls I was hitting on the range, the more theory I was applying to my game and the more I played on good courses, the better I got. Soon I started to see some good results. Some wins, some seconds and some top tens. Naturally I had some bad rounds. Came in at the bottom a couple times. But that never bothered me. It is all part of the process.

But the most important part was that my game progressed nicely. I started shooting 70s more and more and worked towards low 70s. There were a few rounds I was on my way to par or even better. Great feeling and it showed me that I am on the right way. I played some very good rounds out there on some very tough courses. I was excited how things went.

One of the biggest things which helped me to move forward were my new golf clubs. For the first time ever I actually got a brand new, top quality and pro fitted set of irons. I can not even tell you how excited I was and still am. What a difference to my old little blades. I think I have lost years using my old tiny McGregor VIPs ( don't get me wrong, I love those clubs).

Getting those golf clubs was a blessing. It took me a little to get used to the bigger heads and the fact that they are not forged irons. But, once I got adjusted, things changed. My iron game improved big time. My shots were longer, more accurate and I had more spin when I needed it. Every aspect of my iron game improved with those clubs. I started to win some more here and there and played great rounds in games we play in the area. It is much more fun to be part of the top groups and actually make some $.

One of my biggest projects was my driver. My driving distance was not good. Not good at all. When playing long par 4s ( 410 and longer)  I often had long  hybrid shots into the green. Even 3 fairway woods were not a surprise. So I needed to get some distance from somewhere. I just could not figure out what happened to it. 280 was no problem some years ago. Even if not always in the fairway , I was able to get out there. But somewhere along the way I lost it. I figured if I can average 260 I would be in good shape.

So I worked hours and hours on my driver. Even hired a coach a couple times. Shot videos and used my swing analyzer. On top I used trackman data to help me. It took months and a ton of hard work, but the result is here. My driving average went up by at least 20 yards and I now can reach long par 4s with a short hybrid or even my 5 and 6 iron. That is exciting and elevated my game to a new level.

Another big issue was my putter. I played a Nickelputter 909 after I gave up my Nicklaus Acushnet Offset ( played that for almost 2 decades). I thought I need to use technology to help me. But I never got it going. Then a friend one day had a Ping2 in his hand, a putter which I owned before and which I really liked. Talked him into selling it to me and I was on my way. My putting improved from here on and I am right on track with it again. I will not give it out of my hand again. I have a nice practice area at home where I play 3 to 8 foot putts often and it helps. My practice mat has about 11 speed, so that is pretty good to work on.

I think the driver was my biggest hurdle and I managed to actually get over it. The foundation I build with my driver I will use to make it even better. Equipment wise I feel pretty good now. Great clubs, good driver and my old putter. Couple weeks ago I used some certificate to get a real 3 wood. First time in ages. Best thing I got in a while. I now have all my distances covered and am able to reach anything and plan my rounds better. Great golf club. As always I will review items in my other blog as this one here is for my golf mission only.

Also I was lucky to get new golf shoes. Switched to Ecco and am excited and very happy. No more hurting feet, better feel and they look good on top. A good shoe is important and will help you to improve. I just never thought it was that big of a difference.

So I worked hard and played lots. My tournament schedule however was cut dramatically. Playing tournaments and bigger tournaments especially costs $ and lots of them. There is much involved. Including travel, boarding and food. There are also practice rounds and tournament entries to consider. So we scaled down my original schedule to make sure I have my focus on all the other events. That worked out well. Although I am aware that this was yet another set back in terms of time towards my goal, it did result in some good success stories and I was able to get other things done which are already part of the preparation for 2014.

But what I will do and what is planned for 2014 I will write in a second entry in the next few days. I can promise. It will be bigger, more and even more in focus for golf.

On September 8th 2013 one thing happened which I simply did not even consider. I injured myself. Playing a game at IMG Country Club I arrived at Hole 3. A par 3 which from the second tees is about 170. Not a big deal. As a matter of fact a beautiful golf hole. Elevated tee, huge water to left and in front, elevated green with large bunker on front left side. We were hitting straight into the wind. The pin was right behind the bunker. We had about 165 to the pin. With the wind I figured about 185. There I made a wrong decision. Feeling in great shape and feeling good about my game I used a 5 iron into the wind. Thinking 190 I gave it a huge rip. It was a great shot. As a matter of fact I was putting for birdie. However, when I did this huge turn, I felt something in my back. Not paying attention at first I finished the round with growing pain.

Next day I woke up and could not move. It took me over 2 months! to get back on a course. A disaster for my time schedule and my plans. In the status I was in any longer break would move me backwards by months. But what can you do ? I needed to wait and make sure I am fit long term. That is exactly what I did. I waited and waited and waited. No play, no practice, no work. Frustrating. Nothing went forward. Absolutely nothing.

It set back my game, my work and my plan. After this time I started playing. But only playing. No practice. Just going to games and play some tournaments. It went well and I overcame my fear of hurting myself again. So I am swinging freely again and I am back on the range. Not every day yet, but I am back.

This two months literally stopped my progress. I reached a 5 handicap and was moving forward to get better. But those two months derailed me totally. So I thought. Fact however is, that I have a set back, but that I am still in the race. My game suffered a little, but not too bad. Still playing very good rounds. I was able to practice so much, that even after this long period of laying, I shot one of the 2 best rounds of golf this year the 2nd round after I started playing. So, all the work was worth it.

The last few weeks were just playing a some practice. Won 1 AM event and followed up with my worst round of the year. Then played an ok round and followed up with a great round right after that. Rollercoaster golf. But not a big deal. I can live with that.

It gave me time to make a plan for next year and what needs to be done. After all, although we worked hard and accomplished much this year, we did not come close to what I wanted to do. Still no camper or RV, still a small team, still not at 2 or better and still no golf school visit.

So there is plenty to work on starting tomorrow!

2013 was a wonderful year. A wonderful golf year and a wonderful year in general. Certainly my golf game improved dramatically and I was able to show my future potential partners and sponsors that I have the will , the determination, the talent and the work ethic to get it done.

I learned a lot. On the course and off the course. About my game, about the game, about practice, about sponsoring, equipment, course management. I met wonderful people. Tour players, tour caddies, new friends. With all that I matured into a different golf player and maybe even person.

So I am very satisfied. We accomplished a lot. Using all the resources we had available and taking advantage of opportunities when they showed up.

I can not even tell you how thankful I am for my sponsors who without question were the main force behind me. Making it possible to play and practice on an almost professional level. My family who 100 % stands behind the task and offers support with believe, work, encouragement and more work.

It is a tremendous effort to reach the goal I set for myself. An effort to be done by many people. It is not a one man task. It is a group effort. A team coming together working on the ultimate goal, believing that nothing can stop them. Just like a football team running for the Superbowl. We are not a big team yet. But, this year we built something which will be the foundation for the coming year and years to come.

If you followed my blog. You found many things. Disappointment, joy, frustration and excitement. You learned about me, what I think and what I do. You got a true inside of what a person working on his dream and passion has on his mind and how he deals with situations on and off the course.

I received many comments and messages. All of them positive and I thank all for that. It is great to know that there are people who have an honest interest in your work, passion and in helping you. 2013 was a great year, no doubt about it. Now 2014 is waiting and it will be an even bigger year. More determination, more effort, more work. Another 365 days to professional golf and I will get it done.

Monday, December 16, 2013

West Florida Golf Tour - Last event at Bradenton Country Club

It was a good and successful year. I will write a recap of my year towards the end of this months. Today was the last event of the West Florida Am Tour for 2013. Bradenton Country Club is a nice and not easy track. My goal today was to try out my new GPS watch. A nice tool which will help to learn about my game and to score better. I had a rough start into the round. But it was not all bad. There were great bunker shots, good putts and a couple good tee shots. The back 9 was better. I scrambled along and the last 5 holes I actually played par again, which was satisfying. It is always good to be able to come back and play good holes after playing bad front 9s. Much more difficult than playing 9 good holes and stay on it. There is not much to criticize about my game. Had some wonderful and tough bunker shots, some incredible lob shots and very good drives.  I am not doing my regular practice and it shows in my short game and approach shots. But knowing the reason helps to handle those situations. My swing is good, my touch is fine, my mental set up absolutely OK. I believe if next year I am getting some professional help to get back on track ( looks like IMG or PGA in St. Augustine) I will find my old game and can move forward to better scores. Again, I will go in detail later this year. We accomplished so much.
My around at Tatum Ridge yesterday was good. Missed the 70s by 1, but am satisfied with what I am doing.
My old coach told me that I am like a Ferrari who needs some tweaking and I heard that again not too long ago. So let's get tweaked. It some times is difficult to handle the fact, that you know you can shoot great, but shoot OK, good and some times very good.
We had a good time again . The players on the West Florida Am Tour are nice and easy to get along with. There is some very good golfers in this group and I love the fact that we shoot for Pro Pins on Pro conditioned courses. Makes it really hard to play very low scores. The rest of the year I will just play some skins groups, keep it slow on practice and enjoy time with family. Probably do some practice at home , putting , chipping and using my net. Just take it easy. We have some ambitious goals for 2014 and a huge playing schedule. So a couple of weeks rest will do good :). I will keep all updated about what is going on and towards the end of this year I will analyze what I did, what we missed, how we build our team, who will be part of our team in 2014 and what the new goal is. So be patient and thank you for all the positive messages. It is great to know that there is plenty of people out there who believe 100 % , just as I do, that I can be playing on circuits again. Just a matter of time, believe and hard work.
Keep your emails coming. They keep me moving and working and staying on it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A few days of rest can get your game back on track

Yes it is absolutely true. I did not think that I am tired after 3 days of golf, but I guess I was wrong. When I played last Monday and did not get a game going it for sure was mental and physical fatigue. There was no other explanation. I did not have pain and my mind was clear. So I just kept working for a few days and did not do much for golf, just one little session at Suncoast last Thursday. It was good. Took me a few balls, but then my drive was back to almost normal. Straight, long and consistent. My wedges were much better and my mid irons OK.
Friday I played Bobby Jones. Good skins game with good players. Had a good group going. My goal was to hit fairways and good drives. Secondly to hit some good shots and give myself opportunities attacking pins. Attacking pins always involves risk of finding traps and roughs. I was happy. Found 13 of 14 fairways from the blue tees ( which were tipped out yesterday) and averaged about 250 r 260. Not very long, but long enough to reach greens and go for pins. I felt comfortable with my driver and worked with about 80 % of my power. This is a good goal for this Sunday and Monday as well. Just use 80 % and get the ball in play. My approach shots were not that great. 180 to 150 was good. My 5 iron, which I use between 170 and 190 worked OK but I have to get some work done with that. My 6 through 8 were good and dependable. My wedges were good just not accurate enough to score well. Putting is very good. Biggest struggle at Bobby Jones are the traps of which I found 3 of them. They are so inconsistent. You never know what you get. Lots of sand, no sand, little sand, dark sand or whatever. It is like Christmas packages you open. You never know what you get. One trap in particular was funny. I try to hit a good shot from about 15 yards out of a huge trap. It was so soft I scooped out 2 or 3 inches of sand and moved the ball about 4 yards within the trap. So I figured I do it different. Just to find out that in this spot I had about 1 inch or less of sand to work with. Oh my. What an experience, but I knew it can happen so I did not even think about it for a minute. Come Sunday and Monday I will have nice traps to work with. But I am not planning to be in them anyway. After all I had a stretch of a few months not finding one single bunker anywhere. Much more enjoyable golf. So , I had a good round, accomplished some goals and had a good time with the group. Did not win any $, but there is another round coming. Today I will follow up with a short practice session at Terra Ceia. Just short game and then some driver and hybrid. 2 or 3 hours. Just a light session to be in shape for tomorrow at Tatum Ridge. Skins game with close to 90 players. Will be fun. Monday we are back at Bradenton Country Club. I am looking forward to it. Need to come back and confirm my first tournament. I am not affected by bad scores. It is something that happens when you play risky or when you are tired or not in focus. So , I will go out, do what I do best and have fun on this last WFGT tournament for this year. Holidays are coming up and my focus is shifting to family time. Although golf is my life and is what I like to do best, family always comes first in the end. But I elaborate on that maybe later, after practice or so. For now there is breakfast and coffee on the list.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recap of a long weekend of golf

4 days of golf are over and I learned a lot. Started out at Carpris Isle on Friday , where I played a practice round or the weekend tournament. This Friday round had only one purpose. Map the course, get some feel for the course and learn about distances. It worked well. I just hit the ball , but from the get go had a strange feeling about my swing. It just was not there. Especially my drive. After hitting 90 of fairways for a while and having a driver average of 250+, I did ice not even get close to that on that. My right arm felling strange, no turn etc. However, we had a good time and I was able to accomplish what I wanted. As a nice bonus I made some money with a good birdie. First round of the tournament was interesting and nothing special. Again the same feeling with my swing. My right hand did not let go and I was not able to find any rhythm at all. My putting was ok though and I always could get the ball close to the hole and put out. As a team we played an ok round, but I was disappointed of what I could bring into it. This is a course where a par round should not be a problem. Went into Sunday with new and good spirits and we played better. I had a better feel and my drives were much better although still not like they were all year. Good rhythm. However, I was holding back all day long. Which resulted in short drives and short irons shots. But at least something was going well. My putting was very good and I was pleased with my short irons, which I was not able to play well the two days before. Two holes however, decided our finish. In a two men best ball event the idea is to have 1 ball in play at all times. We did not accomplish that. Two holes we both played in the water of the tee and were not able to get a bogey out of it. Pretty sad I have to say. The 4 extra strokes we got out of that literally cost us the win or being in the money. It was a fun weekend and a fun format. We won one skin. A birdie putt I made on 2. Not much money in it, but at least something. Overall I had fun. Clearly I miss my practice and the set back is bigger than I thought.
After the tournament I put my focus on Monday. The Ritz Carlton Members Club with the West Florida Golf Tour. One of my favorite tracks. I won 2 times there and got 1 second place. My last tournament good result was a Golf Channel Tour event not too long ago. A stroke play event were I came in second after playing a great round of golf. So I was looking forward to go out and bring in another good result.
I felt great. No pain and just a little tired from the weekend. My warm up indicated that I had a good feel with my short irons, ok with the mid and long irons , good with the hybrid. Yet again, my driver felt strange. However, I still could move it forward nicely.
It was a very interesting round of golf, which resulted in the worst score in over 1 year. It was pretty amazing. I hit 2 out of 14 fairways. On that course, not being in the fairway is an automatic extra stroke. The rough is difficult and getting balls out can be hard. I managed a couple times, but that was hit. When I was not in the rough, I was in the water. Incredible. I did not think it was possible to hit that many bad shots in one round of the tee. On par 3s I found the traps. I never get frustrated so I worked on every shot, never really finding any rhythm or confidence. My short irons were very good. I pulled of some incredible shots which probably saved me another 5 or 6 strokes and I actually had 3 birdie opportunities which were as close as 5 feet. But I made none of them.
I spend over 4 hours trying to get my swing back and was not able to make it happen. It is hard, when you shoot in the 70s for the most part of a year and your drives are straight and long and getting straighter and longer and all of a sudden you are facing a situation like that. Not good.
My sand shots where all very good. Giving myself chances to save par, which I did not, but the chance counts. Chipping was good, but not confident and a little short. But I was able to get it on. Only had one 3 putt. Now that is a good thing, but also shows how bad my game was on the course.
Overall it was a good learning experience. Maybe there was some mental fatigue in play , but in all honesty, I think it is the bigger picture. I did not practice one shot since September 8th. I go out there and play. This is wrong and I am not happy about it, but there was no other way to do it. This is a different player out there on the course and I do not like him. If you know you can shoot par or better and are not even close to that number, it takes plenty of mental strength to keep going and not let anyone disrupt your thoughts and goals. Here is the good news. I can not be disrupted. I know I can play par or better on any course, hit 300 yard drives and make it happen out there. But I also know what it takes to do all that. It takes time, practice, investments and a team of people who believe. Like Stacey says in here commercial. It takes practice, hard work, more hard work and the total believe that you can do it. Passion. You need to be able to block negative out and do not let bad days like that throw you of track. It is golf and things happen. Mentally I am absolutely fine. This had no impact on my goal or game. Reset and move forward. The only challenge I currently have is practice. I should be out 2 times a day working on my game and get ready to join IMG to pursue new levels. However, I am not. Have to work and due to some other factors there is no way I can do what I need to do. We have one more tournament this year and I will put my effort and focus on that one event to finish with a good round of golf. Then this year is over and we will see where we stand with my game, our team, our complete set up. First I will focus on this one event at Bradenton Country Club and after that I will go through the year and put together a report on myself :). It is 8 am and I should be getting ready for the range. Yet, I am getting ready for work. If things go well and my body holds up nice, I can go practice or even play a skins game later this afternoon. But we will have to see how things go.
One thing is for sure. I love this game and I can not wait to get out again. No matter what round I put on the card, I would not want to be anywhere else other than a golf course for work and fun. Well, other then off time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Laurel Oaks Country Club East - West Florida Golf Tour Event and the week in the making

My first event on this tour went well. That is what I can say. We played on a course which I like and I was able to play a good round. Even though I made some mistakes and was not 100 %, I was able to shoot a nice 78. 6 over par with one double bogey. Not bad at all I must say. It brought me a nice win and some spending money for the pro shop. Unfortunately none of my skins held up. Amazing how many birdies people play. Most important was that I accomplished some other goals. 1. I was planning to hit 14 fairways. Although I did not hit 14, I did find 13 and that is a very good ratio. 2. No 3 putts. Despite me being away as far as 60 feet on tough greens, I accomplished this very important number and I am truly happy about it. I love to putt on fast greens and they were fast and in good shape. Those were the two most important things I tried to work on. Further I worked on hitting draws of the tee, which worked ok but there is lots to work on. Also it is worthy to mention that I did not find one single sand trap. I like that fact. Not that I do not feel comfortable in any sand trap, but for sure it is better to not be in it. No penalty stroke. My one errand drive was behind a tree on a 420 par 4. I punched it into the fairway of the other hole and had a blind shot over a ton of trees. 180 or so. I put it within 9 feet. Missed the putt. Was a great shot. The putt was downhill and fast and I over read the break. A great start into the season and with my set back because of my injury, I am very happy with what I did. Official money leader. No matter how you get there, lead is lead :) .
1 day rest after that. Well, it really was not rest. Had to remodel the bed room floor. Big project and it took me much longer than I thought it will. No rest for this golfer. But it worked out fine and it needed to be done. After all this is part of our life as well. Today there is some work on the agenda and short practice. Nothing to big. Just focus on putting and some shipping.
Next tournament coming up is a two men best ball at Capri Isle Golf Course in Venice. Never played there but heard good things about the golf course. Must be tough, nice greens. This is an interesting format and I will play with Adam Zaidel again. Good player and friend. He did well at Laurel Oaks as well. As a matter of fact Adam played a great round there and had a good finish and good earnings. It is always fun to play well and have all friends play well ( I have to mention that my group won big time last Monday overall). So we will play a practice round on Friday and see how the course is. I hope the greens are fast. West Florida Golf Tour at Ritz Carlton Members Club is coming up and the greens are extremely fast there. So it would be nice to find some fast greens in Venice. It is exciting. I love the game, I love to compete and I love to be out there. This is what I like to do. For now, making a living is hard. But those times will change soon. Give it some more time. I am a little behind with my plan, but I am truly moving forward. And honestly, it is not all about winning $ and so on. It is also about living a passion and a dream and that is what I am working on. Ok, breakfast and then getting ready for take off. I will be back later and update a little on plans and dreams. My back is all good and that gives me new energy.

Monday, December 2, 2013

West Florida Amateur Golf Tour - winter season starts and I am in

Today is the day I have been waiting for. The West Florida Amateur Golf Tour stats again and I am in and ready to go. Well, ready to go is a thing of definition. I am healthy enough to play and my back is good to go. But I missed 2 months of practice and that will be a little difficult to make up . However, it does not change the fact that I am excited to play and go out and compete. It will be different than I thought. The idea was to be fully prepared for the winter season and play tournaments which will catapult me into the pro circuit of this tour. This will be a little slower then I had in mind. Nothing I can do about it. Fact is , that my practice I did over the past 12 months changed my game and brought me to a different level of golf and mental approach. Now I will apply what I have over the next few weeks. I start practice this week. Slowly working about 10 hours on my game this week. I play this event at Laurel Oaks Country Club to begin with. Laurel Oaks Country Club is one of my favorites. We play the East Course on which I won before and which I like very much. It always has been good to me and I feel like I have a connection to this side. We will see how this course and I will connect today.
The West Florida Amateur Golf Tour is a good test. Great courses with Pro Pin Placement and a small but good field. I am excited.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday it will be practice at Terra Ceia Bay Golf Club. I have not been practicing in over 2 months, but feel that I am ready to start again and work towards my goals. Friday we have a practice round at Capris Isle Golf Club in Venice. There we will play a two men best ball tournament. I am partnering with Adam Zaidel. Good friend of mine and a very good golfer. This will be a German team up ( although I am American , I am born in Germany after all ). I think we will complement us nicely and have a good chance to get into some winning ranks of this Cadillac sponsored event. Followed by December 9th at the Ritz Carlton Members Club with the West Florida Amateur Golf Tour. I love , this is my life , this is what I like to do and this is where I feel that I am alive and happy. It is very early. I could not sleep anymore. I am excited and ready to go. Hope it is not too cold this morning. But then again, better then too humid.
First on the agenda of getting ready: Coffee, little breakfast and water. Plenty of water. No doubt , you will read a recap of today's event later.