What a week to remember…And not for the right reasons!
(Double blog so may be a long read!)
September returns the middle eastern swing back on the MENA tour, and how exited I was to compete again! Aside the one off Europro I played in Mid August (which I’ll get onto why I didn’t blog about later) I haven’t competed since May!! It’s feels like it’s been an eternity as I’m used to competing week in week out. I found myself in “no mans land”. Earlier this year I went to South Africa to qualify for the Sunshine Tour and narrowly missed out, I traveled to China full of confidence that I would earn myself a China Tour Card, to fail miserably. I missed Qualifying school for the Europro, which left me in what I call “no mans land”, I had no playing rights on any tour except The MENA tour, but there were nearly 4 months since the last tournament. I asked for Challenge Tour invites but to no avail, it meant I had no tournaments to compete in.
I did however manage to gain a sponsors invite into a Europro Event at Wychwood Park thanks to James Whittaker at my home club of Moor Allerton. I got off to a flying start and after two days I was lying outside the top ten looking promising. [As mentioned before in my last blog, I’ve been working the past few months with a coach on my short game, whom I believe has already brought me to another level]. The final round wasn’t so promising and I made 84 blows (or I think it was something like that). It felt no different to the 69 72 the previous two days but that day Joe Heraty didn’t turn up. That’s officially the worst score I had shot in any tour event and it came as much of a shock to me than to everybody else asking me “what happened?”. I fell from 10th to rock bottom in the space of 18 holes. It’s hard to fully describe what happened, it was a combination of a loss of trust and commitment, I was the same person holding the golf clubs as the previous days but something was off that day. I wasn’t angry or frustrated, I was smiling and laughing (probably more in embarrassment) at what was happening. I even managed to birdie the last hole 😂. I didn’t blog about it as I tried to hide it under the carpet, I didn’t mention it to anyone that didn’t know. But soon after realising, we are only human, not robots, we can make mistakes, as damaging and embarrassing they may seem, they’re there to make you better.
Some people have already asked me and maybe you may want to know. “Why go and see a coach when you’ve got this far doing your own thing?” Well the answer to that is simple and I’ll explain why. At the level I was at the end of last year and beginning of this year, I wasn’t going to get on the European tour and win, no chance, maybe I could gain a tour card and struggle to make cuts but even with that at a push that’s not what I want to achieve. I want to become the best player on tour, the best player I can be. Sounds daft and out there but that’s how I see it and that’s the only way I’ll get there.
Warning, Technical golf Jargon below!
To break it down there’s many grey areas in my game that we’re holding me back, and there are still more to work on! Here’s an example, Ok, from 40, 60, 75, 90, 100 and 120 yards with 3 clubs (LW, SW and GW) I was pretty good when it came to pitching. These were the yardages I worked my short shots around, 6 numbers with 3 clubs. But what it if had 53 yards or 84 yards or 110 yards? I would just go on feel on that day depending upon what shot I felt comfortable with (too much guess work and room for error). Anyway, since working with Graham, we’ve narrowed the margins in between those numbers down, by a lot, to the yard. I can now play 6 yardages with each of my 5 wedges (LW, SW, GP, PW, 9). 30 numbers available as opposed to 6 or 7. Sounds a lot but with margins in golf being minuscule we have to be as precise as we can. I can control the spin and trajectory more consistently now. Say I have 80 yards to the flag, I can hit that number with 4 different clubs and flighted shots, if the greens are soft and spinny I’ll hit a pitching wedge, or if the greens are firm and bouncy I can hit a lob wedge. With the many different variables in golf, having as many shots in the locker possible will overall have an advantage over my competitors. Graham teaches the England and Yorkshire squads and coaches numerous European tour players. Without his information and coaching I would have never unlocked my potential to improve. Plenty of “Ah Ha!” moments when we work together!
Ok so back to this week…
Where do I begin! Let’s start from the beginning. I’m very fortunate and grateful to have my missus (girlfriend) work for Etihad airlines, where I can travel on discounted flight tickets (which saves me a hell of a lot of money). However with mega busy flights back to England after the tournament I couldn’t take the risk of flying on a standby ticket, so had to pay full whack with British Airways from Manchester to Abu Dhabi connecting via London. The flight from Manchester to London was delayed by a couple of hours resulting in me missing my connecting flight. As there was only one BA flight to Abu Dhabi a day, I was over the moon when they put me on the next Etihad flight available that day. My new airline was departing from a different terminal and I didn’t have long before it was taking off. I asked the BA geezer if my luggage would get on alright as I just sensed there would be complications and he said yeah, no problem. I got to Abu Dhabi maybe 3 hours late of the original ETA, and by 3 o’clock in the morning I was Billy no mates waiting at the luggage belts, with no clubs in sight (baring in mind all my clothes, shoes and toiletries including contact lenses were in there). I filed a missing luggage report and headed to my mates to crash for the night. After 3 days calling, emailing, tweeting both BA and Etihad, I wasn’t getting anywhere so I decided to travel up to the airport the night before heading to Dubai for my practice round to check if they had arrived. Still no luck. Panic and frustration, serious frustration was kicking in and BA were still reluctant to help passing the blame onto Etihad. Thankfully my pal Steve helped my by lending me his clubs, not ideal as they weren’t custom fit for me but I wasn’t complaining. And also thankful to Abu Dhabi golf club, for crediting some clothes and kit that I can reimburse, hopefully if I have a successful compensation claim. They know how to look after their own!
Playing the practice round was fine, however with my contact lenses missing and my glasses slipping off my nose due to the serious heat and sweat I found it rather difficult to see 😂. The irons, the wedges and putter were fine as they were similar to my own, but the woods and driver I struggled to control as the shafts just weren’t fit for my swing. Dubai creek has a couple of tee shots that has no bailouts with water on both sides or serious trouble. Not knowing where I was hitting the ball off the tee resulted in dropped shots after dropped shots. I played good(ish) and shot +3 the first day, finishing bogey, double. Under the circumstances it wasn’t bad but I was 13 bloody shots off the lead. I’ve always said, never blame the tools, blame the man but in this case it’s a little different. At BAs fault, I couldn’t play to the best of my ability, see it as an excuse you may but when you prepare and practice for weeks, play the holes over and over in your head on the range with your own golf clubs in your hands, it’s upsetting and frustrating that all the hard work was for nothing.
After round 1 I was outside the cut line and it was starting to look like it could be an expensive trip. I stayed on the driving range until half 7 that evening trying to work with Steve’s clubs in preparation for round 2, until luck struck and my hours and hours of calls to the baggage claim service had got back to me and said a delivery driver was on its way. I felt like crying when they arrived, for the past 4 days, on the other side of the world feeling so helpless and out of my control, the huge weight on my shoulders had been lifted as a small Indian man in a dodgey looking delivery car dumped them outside reception at the golf club.
My clubs were back, my things were back my happiness and confidence was back and I bounced back with a 68 -3 to get back in the pack, and by pack I mean the large group of players in awe at Rayhan and MG Keysers 61s, 10 under pars. Rayhan set a new world record with 9 consecutive birdies which made my 68 look like a measly hack around the park. The final round saw me struggle in the gusting winds and fail to break par with 73 +2. The 3rd round is like moving day, shoot low and you climb the leaderboard and go home happy, shoot over par and you slip down the leader board and with it you, your paycheque. There’s nothing more in tournament golf that I hate, than going backwards on the final day. Coming down the stretch whilst your not playing your best it’s difficult not to see your $$$ disappear when you don’t hole the 5fters for par. I finished the tournament T34th. A position I see as below average (maybe an expectation i need to let go of). I was thankful of every bodies offers for support during the most stressful week of my life. After, people were congratulating me for making the cut and making at least some money from the week but inside it makes my stomach churn, like I’ve said before in previous blogs I come to play tournaments to win, not to just make cuts and pick up money to cover the costs for the week. This week approximately cost me £700, I earned after exchange rates and taxes, roughly £300, making a loss of £400. Thanks BA 👍
With this week over and finally back on my way home, I’m exited to be competing next week in my first European tour Qualifying school. The Big Boy tour school. The first stage of 3 for me is at Stoke by Nayland in Colchester. Make it all the way through to final stage and finish top 25 and you’ve gained a European tour card. After the tough year I’ve had so far I believe through all the downs there will come the ups. Hopefully in the couple of months to follow!
On a final note of this extra long and hopefully not too boring blog, I’m close to, if not, skint… I’ve heavily under estimated the costs of qualifying schools, Sunshine, China and now European tour school have cost me close to £8,000 and with nothing to show for it, it’s not only disappointing but also gut frustrating. £8,000 would have roughly allowed me to play 16 regular tour events to make enough money back, I’ve only played 6 regular tour events this year, and with no finishes inside the top 20, money has disappeared fast. I’m currently looking for sponsors and support from anywhere and everywhere (call it desperate times). If you’ve not already switched off from the blog and you may know anyone that would be interested to help including yourself please, please get in touch. Any small contribution can go a long way.
If you’ve made it this far I just want to say thanks for reading and joining in my journey through my eyes and thoughts. The joys of professional touring golf it’s not all glam and this week definitely rang home some wake up calls. Lessons to be learned and experiences (all be it not happy ones) gained.
An update for those concerned. My old mans health hasn’t been as good as of late, his speech and communication has deteriorated to barely yes and no replies, he has his good days and he has his bad days. As upsetting it is to our family and frustrating for him, he is still the same person. He shows me and others around him true grit, resilience and fight, to not give in, to keep going, all the way until the end. Inspiring whilst also heart wrenching, it portrays the true meaning of life. In the end, what you’ve achieved isn’t really what matters, it’s about the people and the journey that you take to get there.
Until next week
P.S. As I’m writing this BRITISH AIRWAYS HAVE AGAIN LOST MY BAGGAGE ON MY RETURN FLIGHT HOME, TIME TO GO THROUGH THE WHOLE PROCESS AGAIN!!! Stay away from BA with connecting flights!
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Joe made 11 birdies this week at the Dubai Creek Open