Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How do I avoid a mental breakdown in golf ?

That is a great question and I really am in need of an answer. Until two days ago I was convinced , that my mental game is part of my strong side in golf and that even with some limited abilities in my technical department , I can use this strong mental game to the course and get the job down.

Yet, when I played my last round I experienced again the total opposite. It literally was like there was two people on the course. One playing the front 9, one hacking the back 9. Two different swings, shot shapes, putts, behaviors. Scary would be the word I would use if I would see someone play like that.

The difference was , that I was that someone.

In the end it became clear, that I easily can shot par or better on any 9 holes at any time, if I am able to keep my focus, have my thoughts sorted and directed, block negative feelings and thoughts completely and let my natural swing do the job.

On the front 9 of Miami Shores Golf and Country Club I played a good round. Not sensational , but a good round. Despite not striking the ball as good as I can, I kept it in play, moved the ball forward nicely and gave myself opportunity to make some parts. I did make a couple birdie putts. So it was OK. Got up and down a few times. I felt good, calm and content with what I had done.

On the back 9 I started out with a birdie opportunity which ended up in a bogey. My mind was immediately starting to race a little. My next tee shot almost made to he hazard. I was able to get to the ball, but made a very poor decision in regards to club selection and only moved it forward a few yards. Leaving me a clear shot to the green, but way too long for those fast greens. I saved a bogey , which was a little miracle. But I was very unsettled inside.

That showed on the following holes. I never really felt comfortable over the ball again. My mind more busy working on the outcome of the round and the tournament than being in focus for the moment.

I was not able to get myself under control and dropped shot after shot, even missing a 2 foot putt ( which I did not in months). With every shot I lost, my confidence suffered more.

In the end I shot one of my worst back 9 ever. Frustrating.

I can not comprehend why that happens. Out of my last 6 rounds of golf, I only had one decent 76 and not in a tournament. It seems that I am able to start well, but that I am not able to contain my focus and my positive attitude and block all outside influences. Circumstances around me seem to enter my thought process on the course. If not conscious then subconscious. At this point I could not even tell what it is all about. Work, finances or whatever. But there is a distraction within me and it causes a lot of trouble. I am able to restrain this distraction for parts of my golf rounds and for parts of my practice sessions. But there is a trigger somewhere, which starts those things to come out and in and sneak into my brain.

Until just recently I was on the way to tackle this exact task 100 %. I know that some of my supporters and friends say that this is normal. Even the PGA big shots have those moments. I agree, there are moments like that. But we are talking about moments! Not entire rounds or days or weeks.

So of all things I need to work on, this very mental aspect is number 1 on my priority list. Practice is good and playing is important. But all is for nothing if I am not able to keep my mind in focus and under control.

I guess the first thing I need to do is to find the source of the problem. That I will have to do by myself. At least I figure that there is nobody who can help with that. The second thing I is finding some ways to understand, learn and practice my mental game even more.

For that I will seek help online. There is plenty of information. But I also reach out to all my fellow players. Professionals and amateurs alike. Also to all other athletes or specialists.

I would appreciate any information about sources, ideas, tips or maybe even experiences.

Being in the middle of preparing for some bigger evens I really need to find a way to get myself back in a mental state which allows me to 100 % focus on the task on hand and when on the course be exactly there.

I guess that is where I caddy comes in. As Jordan Spieth said in his press conference. He was not hitting good shots at all. But his caddy encouraged him, helped him to pick clubs, shot shapes and read putts and motivate him to stay on it.

But where would I get a caddy like that with my current status? Right now I have occasional help on the course. That is nice, but in the end not the help of a caddy.

There needs to be a way to get this done. I believe I have all I need right now to play. But I need to have my mindset realigned.

So let the ideas and tips roll in and let's see if there is something I can find to be helpful and doable.
This week is an off week. I practice and play one or two times before another event on Sunday. So there is some time to work on this or at least start working on it.

Looking forward to get some messages.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Next goals: Represent the USA at the WGAT World Championship in Turkey, qualify for the Mid Amateur Championship of Florida

Play, Play and Play. That is what it is all about. Jack Nicklaus said, like others before, that playing golf is the best practice. I will follow his lead.

While I still have other obligations I have to fulfill, I have the opportunity to play often. Mostly in events hosted by different golf tours. Like the World Golf Amateur Tour, The FSGA, Golf Channel Tour and so on.

On top of that I have a great membership at one of the best clubs in Florida. Add the skins groups I am part of and you find that I have plenty of chances to play.

But I have other things to do as well. There is work around our home and work in general. I think I average about 3 rounds a week right now. Certainly not enough, but pretty good. A combined 10 hour practice I have going for me as well. That is not counting the constant practice I get in at home even without owning a practice net or simulator.

So in all, I am doing pretty good with what I have.

The last 3 weeks were not easy. I fell into a hole with my swing and with my scoring. I simply was not able to get the job done. My drives were of and all over the place. My approach shots did not approach the areas they should have and my putting was without simply off.

As a result I played some really bad rounds of golf. The last 5 events I  played I did not even come close to the top 5 and I have to admit that it was hard to keep focus. If I would have done something different than before and played better based on that, fine. But I really did not change much. Not in golf and not in my life outside golf.

That made it very hard to stick with what I started since working with my pro. But I did and last Wednesday I finally played a decent round of golf again. Although 77 from the 6600 golf tees at Sarabay CC is not exactly stunning, it was a good and solid effort I showed there.

My drives found more fairways, my approach shots were getting to closer to the target area again and my short game was almost back to normal. I depend on my short game greatly and when it is out of line, my entire game is suffering.

So I was very happy about this golf round and I think I will get a fresh confidence boost.

The day after the round I took it easy on my body. Playing in the heat is very demanding and it is crucial to not overdo it. I used my Smash Bag for swing practice and kept working on mental practice and preparation.

I read some great articles about mental practice and really need to learn how to use those techniques. The PGA Pros do and all winning athletes do.

There is 3 goals for the rest of the year which I am shooting for.

1. Winning my flight at the WGAT USA National championship and become part of the US Team, playing in the World Final in Turkey.

2. Qualify for the Mid Amateur Championship in FL and play the Mid Senior Championship in Florida and make it to the final rounds.

3. Shot another 5 rounds under par.

While there is more goals, those 3 are a top priority for the last few months of this year.

Number 1 is one of my favorite goals right there. Qualifying to play for the USA Team was a dream of mine for years. Sure , I thought about different teams back then. But once your age advances, you are not that picky any more.

The WGAT USA is an interesting Amateur Golf Tour. Not exactly a huge tour, but a good format and with some good things you can win.

I play plenty of local events on this tour. All over Florida and maybe even Mississippi and Louisiana. Tampa being my home tour, I am leading this very tour for two categories. Ranking and Player Of the Year. Both I want to win on this tour. 1 giving me free entry into the National Championship in Pa, Shawnee Inn Resort and the second one paying for Travel and Hotel.

Both are great benefits and compared to other AM Tours, those two are big prices.

This weekend I play in Tampa and Miami on this very tour. Both small events, but both loaded with points for the rankings.

It all looks pretty good and I am overall satisfied with my progress on this tour. While only 11th in the National Ranking and without a chance to win that outright, I am doing well in the local events and will be nicely prepared for the championship in September.

There I have a chance to win my flight and with it the tremendous price.

A fully paid trip to Turkey to represent the USA. Including trip, food, drinks, golf, bag, shirts, hotel and so on. It will be well worth it.

My second goal, qualifying and playing in the official events of the FSGA does not have a big price to be won. But it does have a bigger impact on my long term goals and my career goals towards the mini tours and senior tours.

Those events are counting towards the World Amateur Golf Rankings. My name is not even in this ranking, but needs to be there. So I will work hard to get into the championships and make sure that I play well. This World Ranking will be crucial in the near future to enter bigger events, talk to future sponsors and earn status in all kinds of ways.

But it is not easy. I played in the Florida State Amateur Qualifier and it was tough. Literally there were only 3 players over 21 in the entire group. The rest were kids who are students of IMG academy, college players and other young talents.

Tough environment. But I did well. Shot a good 82. Not that this is a good score. But with how I got it, I am happy. Had a hard time to find the fairway, but my short game saved me often. Finished tied for 28th in this qualifier. Which put me in the midfield of all 300 qualifiers. Not too bad for an older guy :).

The Mid Amateur is for players 25 and over. So chances are getting better right there and the Mid Senior is for players over 40, which puts me right in the mix to win.

I am excited about all those events and work as hard as I can to be prepared and to keep my mental state in positive mode.

The last goal mentioned in this article are the under par rounds. I did shoot under par last year and this year. But by far not often enough. I played several good front or back 9th. Shooting 1,2 and one time 3 under par. On the second 9 however I lost the strokes again. A frustrating fact.

It always seemed like I was not able to keep my focus. Not sure why it was and at times is. That is why I am working more on the mental aspect than anything else.

I have another half year to accomplish those rounds and I am convinced that I will make it, maybe even exceed my goals.

So I am in good spirit. No doubt that I will accomplish all three top goals and move on to better things next year. Patience is important and luckily I have plenty of that.

I am thankful that I have great people supporting me. Without them I would not be able to proceed or it would be much harder to get things done. And I will continue to improve my circumstances, which I am in total control of.

As always I am looking for ideas on how to improve my situation in terms of home practice, support and everything what can help to move forward in this business. So if you have ideas, suggestions or contacts and would like to share. I would be very thankful.