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.

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