Archive for the ‘James Blog’ Category

April 6, 2015 · by James · James Blog

It’s only March, but my 2015 season is already well underway. Unlike the British golf season – typically April through to September at best – being in Asia means I’ve been in the full swing of it since early January. And it’s already been a hectic couple of months. Towards the end of January I played at Asian Tour Q School in Thailand, which I narrowly missed by a couple of shots. That was followed immediately by PGA Tour China Q School in Shenzhen. I was the right side of the cut line that week, earning “conditional” status, which basically means I’ll play most if not all of the 13 scheduled tournaments. The Asian Development Tour looks like hosting around 22 tournaments this season, so combining that with the PGA Tour China means my schedule this season is going to be rammed. Which is fine. I would much rather have it that way than be struggling for playing opportunities.

At the moment I’m in Johor Bahru preparing for my fifth tournament in a stretch of seven straight. Then I get a week off, before another run of four on the spin. I can’t complain. In fact, I’m extremely fortunate. Not many players competing in the lower tiers of professional golf get to experience a 30-35 72-hole tournament season, with world ranking points available in each. And that frequency of competition gives me the chance to regularly test myself in good quality fields, rather than being stuck at home for weeks at a time, stagnating, hitting dimpleless balls off mats and watching Sky Sports News on a 15 minute loop all day.

Eleven tournaments in twelve weeks could arguably be pushing it a bit, and I will more than likely choose to sit out one of those eleven, but at the same time I’ve always maintained that playing golf tournaments isn’t actually very tiring, and I’ve never understood people who claim it to be. I used to swim competitively, and I can vouch for the fact that swimming 63km each week is extremely difficult, both mentally and physically. Then the Olympians probably go as far as 100km or more, which frankly blows my mind. But golfers don’t even walk half that far in a week (typically about 40km), and in my experience, walking is a hell of a lot easier than swimming butterfly.

I’ve never really understood the likes of Woods or McIlroy or Stricker shaving their seasons down to just 12 or 15 or 18 events, albeit they must have their own reasons. From my perspective, each of them seem to have played their best golf when they’ve played regularly, building momentum and taking confidence from one week to the next. Indeed, over the last couple years, it feels like Woods’ participation has dwindled down to the odd cameo appearance, to the extent that when he does actually play, the media scrutiny around him is laughably intense. Whether it’s a bounce game at Medalist or a morning jog, if he’s not showed his face in a while, the mystique around him intensifies and everyone wants to know exactly what he’s been doing. For example, “TIGER WOODS’ PLANE SPOTTED AT AUGUSTA AIRPORT” was an actual headline on Sky News last week. A man landing at an airport in a plane. Never mind the war raging in the Middle East for a second, Tiger Woods was at an airport. Sure enough, within minutes of the news there was speculation spreading all over the internet; golf journalists debating what the plane’s license number was, and TrackMan enthusiasts debating what its angle of attack was.

Tiger’s aversion to competing is a bit difficult to figure out. His latest reasoning was that he didn’t want to compete until he felt “tournament ready”. In my opinion, though, he would have done a much better job of getting ready by playing in actual tournaments. I can’t see how he feels tournament ready now, when he hasn’t finished a round since an 82 at TPC Scottsdale. Instead of playing, he decided to retreat into the shadows for a while and figure it out there when no one was looking. But as a result of that, when he finally makes his return at Augusta this week, everyone is going to be looking, and the media microscope will be so zoomed in on those into-grain Augusta pitch shots that we’ll see every inch of grass and mud that hits his wedge before the ball does. And no one really wants to see that at all, apart from Brandel Chamblee.

Personally, I’d much rather watch full shot-by-shot highlights of Sandy Lyle’s inevitable opening 70, or Bradley Neil’s debut, or anything that Fred Couples does, than listen to a bunch of ex/non-players debating whether or not Tiger Woods has the chipping yips or whether or not his glutes are activating properly. If he’s not contending, then aside from the obvious side-note that our sport’s GOAT is in decline, which we shouldn’t be particularly surprised about, then who actually cares? We all want to know how he’s getting on, but in terms of the tournament coverage, if he’s not up there he shouldn’t be anywhere near the headlines, not least when he’s at the rear end of the field. *ahem*

If you’ll excuse a wee tangent for a second, it is surely one of sport’s greatest ironies that the one player in golf who has always prided himself on being the fittest, leanest, meanest player in the entire game, is undoubtedly one of the top 5 least fit players over the last half dozen years. If you define being “fit” as being able to compete injury free, then he’s failed that test in recent times more than almost everyone on tour. And that includes the likes of Daly, Herron, Stadler and Calcavecchia, who with the greatest of respects to, would probably admit that fitness isn’t their number one priority. Woods, on the other hand, has been so committed to his physical training over the years that the fact he went on training missions with the US Navy Seals didn’t even come as a surprise.

Aside from Gary Player, and his highly debatable 1000 sit-ups,1000 push-ups per day routine (I tried it once, got to about 150 of each and called it a day), Tiger has been easily the most influential man in golf’s drastic shift from metal spikes and hip flasks to flat-billed hats and protein shakes. And yet incredibly, this pioneer of supreme fitness and athleticism is often not even fit enough to finish a round of golf – something centenarians are often able to accomplish without breaking sweat. 

Tiger Woods - Fittest golfer on tour? That depends on how you define it...

Tiger Woods – Fittest golfer on tour? That depends on how you define it.

It’s highly unlikely that Woods will ever get back to his awe-inspiring, unrivaled best. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do hope he does. But if he is to do so, I believe he needs to spend less time at the squat rack and more time playing golf tournaments. That is his job, after all. We constantly hear him harping on in interviews about needing more “reps”, but reps on the practice tee or in the gym are very different to reps on the 1st tee on Thursday, and in my opinion those are the kind that he’s massively short of. I’m not suggesting that playing eleven tournaments in twelve weeks is right for everyone, but can you imagine Tiger even trying it? Absolutely not. He’d sooner go back to Butch Harmon, or be fashionably dressed in public.

I accept that my current stretch of tournaments might be pushing the boundaries a little, but there’s obvious benefits too, and if in some imaginary world Tiger actually committed to playing that frequently I have no doubt that he would eventually start to figure out his chipping, sharpen up his distance control, putt better, get on a few hot streaks of form, build confidence, and who knows, maybe even notch up a win or two, even if it was “just” the Shell Houston Open for a measly $1.2 million. But for some reason, he doesn’t want to be seen at the smaller events. Winning breeds confidence, and Tiger has shown that in numerous seasons when he’s won multiple times, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

Anyway, I was about to say rant over just there but I’m only giving my opinions so I’m not sure at what point that becomes a rant. Tiger-based opinions over then, it’s time to talk about the Masters, and I’ll wrap this up with a few predictions. I haven’t looked at their prices yet, but my money will be going on Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth. Spieth seems to be the form player in the world right now and by not winning in Houston yesterday that could well take some of the pressure off of him. Unless he now goes and wins the par-3 contest, which would be utterly daft. Matsuyama is maybe a bit of an outsider but is one I feel is on the verge of a major breakthrough very soon, as is Spieth. And as for Stenson, he’s just a ball striking machine and those types of machines tend to perform well at Augusta. As opposed to coffee machines or washing machines, who tend to struggle for some reason. Too much spin perhaps.

I would of course love to see Tiger make a run at it, but I just can’t see it given his lengthy absence and and the ridiculous media scrutiny he will be under. He might have changed his swing again and fixed his short game, but if you haven’t played in a couple months it’s a massive ask to come out and win a major against the quality of field he now faces. If you absolutely insist on putting money on him though, the smart money might be best placed on anything with letters, such as WD, DQ, MC, NR or INJ. Those last two don’t exist really but you know what I mean.

That’s all for today, then. Stay tuned next week for a blog on physical training, proper scheduling and irony, when Tiger Woods inevitably wins the 2015 Masters.

March 6, 2014 · by Paul · James Blog

Despite successfully negotiating the Asian Tour Qualifying School in both 2012 and 2013, unfortunately this year I wasn’t able to pass the test. I use the word “unfortunately” sparingly, as I generally don’t believe in luck, but on this occasion it’s fair to say I was drawn the short straw (I’ll get to the incident later). Overall, there’s not many positives to be taken from the week, other than a good run of holes in the 2nd round that nearly saw me through the cut, but ultimately I just wasn’t good enough over the 36 holes. It’s a setback that makes my ascent through the professional game certainly more challenging, but it’s not a debilitating one. Sure, I would have loved another chance to play on the Asian Tour and improve on my previous results, but there are still plenty of options available to me and I’m still looking forward to the season ahead. And besides, it’s often the long, arduous climb that offers the greatest reward once the summit is reached. The guy who enjoys a smooth ride in a chopper might get there quicker, but he doesn’t feel much satisfaction when he lands, and he doesn’t learn anything about himself on the way. This particular nudge back down the slope hasn’t caused me to lose sight of my goals, it just means achieving them will feel that much better.

I wasn’t particularly nervous going into the tournament, but an inexplicable shot on the 2nd hole put me immediately behind the 8 ball. I recovered well with a couple of birdies at 3 and 5, and was facing a putt for a 3rd birdie on the 6th hole to complete the bounce-back. The putt was nearly impossible to leave stone dead, requiring about 10 feet of break and a precise enough touch for the ball to race up a steep diagonal slope but to only trickle down the other side, falling left to the hole (think 18 at Valhalla). I judged it perfectly, and the ball reached its apex with almost no speed, before making a quick left turn and slowly feeding down towards the hole. I knew it had a chance to go in, but with about 5 feet to go, I, along with my playing partners, suddenly realised there was a problem. The pin was still in the cup. My caddie was a young woman in her late 20s and from my past experiences with Springfield caddies, I assumed she would be proficient with the rules. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As it was, I may have drawn the only caddie in the whole of Thailand, never mind Springfield, who didn’t know that the pin needs to be removed if tended. And sure enough, as the ball inevitably found the cup, she raised her right arm in an ironic celebration, whilst the other clutched the pin that had just cost me 2 shots. A perfect putt, and with it another birdie and a great bounce back, struck off and replaced by a momentum sapping bogey. The other caddies informed her of her error, she apologized, and I accepted it with a forced laugh, before trying my best to clear my head and get on with it. I stuck in the rest of the way, but finished with a 4-over 75 which left me requiring a 67 in the second round to make the cut. It was a tall order, but the next day when I birdied the 11th to reach 4-under for the round, I’d given myself a good chance. Going into the closing stretch, I needed one more birdie, which was frustrating as I knew without the penalty I’d instead be inside the cut by one and able to play safely coming in. As it stood, I pushed for a further birdie on my 17th hole, going for a par 5 with an island green in two shots, didn’t pull it off, and my ball along with my spirited comeback sank to the bottom of the lake.

On reflection, it’s easy to blame the caddie and it was certainly an incident that was tough to shake mentally, but ultimately it was my job to play well enough to make the penalty irrelevant. I compare the situation to football managers, who repeatedly point to refereeing decisions to justify their team’s failings. Just last week, Arsene Wenger bemoaned Arsenal’s bad luck in conceding a soft penalty to Stoke in a game they would go on to lose 1-0 (to my dismay), even though they played terribly. Against a team like Stoke, a decent performance would have been a 3 or 4-1 win and the penalty incident would have gone unmentioned. And similarly, had I put in a good performance and shot 15-under, the couple of shots lost to “bad luck” would have soon been forgotten.

Looking ahead to this season, my number one priority, as always, is to play better golf. I’ve always been a believer that in sport, progress must be measured by performance rather than results. Process rather than outcome. Results in golf depend on too many uncontrollable factors, such as the form of other players, favourable draws, and if you’re in Asia, untrained caddies. This year I’m taking a slightly different approach to my practice, focusing far more on the mental side, and a bit less on the physical side. I’ll touch on that in further depth in another blog. In terms of which tours I want to play this season, I have a number of options, and at the moment I’m leaning towards staying in Asia. As I post this I’m currently in Kota Kinabalu in East Malaysia playing One Asia Q school, which is a strong tour that boasts $1m+ prize funds and competes with the Asian Tour. So hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be able to add those events to my schedule. Aside from that, I’m fully exempt on the ADT after winning last year, and those events have the draw of world ranking points. I have considered Mondays and mini tours in the States, but expenses are sky high and there’s no promotion for the best players. In Europe, the EuroPro and Pro Golf Tours are both viable options, but no more attractive than One Asia or ADT and more expensive to play.

Wherever it is I end up playing this year, whether it’s for $1m each week or $60k, the goal remains the same, and that’s to keep a positive outlook and learn and improve. If I can do that, I believe I’ll get to the summit eventually, regardless of how many times my crampons might slip. There’s no shortcuts in this game, and even if there were, I’d probably prefer the scenic route.

Till next time.

February 5, 2014 · by James · James Blog, uncategorized

This past week I’ve been in Bahrain practicing and playing at the excellent Royal Golf Club in Riffa. It’s the first time I’ve been to the Middle East and it’s been great so far. The weather is ideal – not too hot but infinitely better than in the UK which I hear is currently being battered by storms – and the people have been very hospitable. I’d played once in two months so it’s been good to get back on the course and have some sun above me for once. I’ve had some competition too, which I probably needed. My friend Sam Macneil is also out here preparing for the upcoming season and the members even allowed me to enter their Monday Stableford! (More on that later). Anyways,  I’m not going to bother with a long post today as there’s not a great deal to write home about. My daily routine has pretty much been gym, eat, practice, play, eat, practice (like a really boring version of that Fatboy Slim song), so I’ll just post a few photos that I’ve taken during the week.

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Above: Teeing off on the picturesque 14th hole at the Montgomerie Course at Royal Golf Club. The course hosted the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour in 2011 but was discontinued due to political unrest.

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Sam hitting it about 40 by me on the 14th.

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View of the 17th hole looking back from the green.

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18th tee shot.

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View of the 1st from the 2nd tee.

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 Tricky par 3 2nd hole. The Montgomerie course is somewhat infamous for its undulating greens and took a lot of stick during the 2011 tournament from guys like Ian Poulter who claimed it was severe beyond reasonable fairness. A bit harsh in my view, as the humps and tiers place huge importance on course management. I think it’s a great test.

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17th.

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View back down the 18th from the clubhouse.

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Hitting the gym. The club is managed by world renowned Troon Golf and the facilities are great. In recent weeks I’ve done a lot less general strength work and put more focus on cardio, core strength and mobility. Yoga obviously helps with the latter two and for cardio I mainly just like to run and cycle. My 5k time is down to 19:59 now which is pretty decent. 6 minutes slower than Mo still, but at least I’m slowly getting fitter.

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The locker I was given. Next to Ruud were Tim Henman, Joe Montana and Gianluca Vialli. Montana probably the most successful of those guys, but Ruud will do.

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The results of the members’ Monday Stableford. I was given a handicap of +2 and on a really windy day I thought 37 points would be a winner. Sure enough though, in the very last group a supposed 6 handicapper comes in with a gross 74 and takes all the money. Typical!

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That’s all for now. Four more days practicing in Bahrain and then I go onto Hua Hin, so I’ll check back in in a couple weeks or so. In the meantime you can keep up with me on Twitter at @jamesbyrnegolf.

Till next time.

January 16, 2014 · by James · James Blog, uncategorized

Happy New Year everyone. I’m pretty sure my last blog began with a similar message it was that long ago, but I’m guessing the onrush of emails from fans expressing their outrage at my lack of blogging must have been pushed straight to my spam account, as I haven’t received any. *cough*

I do enjoy writing blogs though; it’s a chance to archive my experiences which I can occasionally look back upon, and also for other people (the faithful handful of you) to read about them. Not many people get to travel and see as much of the world as I do, so it’s a bit selfish to keep all those experiences and memories to myself. Last season was a tough one for me, and most weeks I just didn’t have the motivation or desire to write about what I was doing. But in hindsight, if I only blogged on the weeks that I won or played great, you would all be given a false impression of my life and career, and that’s not what I want. If you scrolled through the blogs on my website now, you’d think I was the happiest person in the world and had about a 92% winning percentage. Sure, I’m an upbeat person, but not all of the time, and I certainly don’t win 92% of the time. So my goal with these blogs from now on is to portray myself a bit more honestly and accurately, and by doing so, give you more genuine insight into my life.

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Start them young.

My parents and I spent this festive season over in Houston visiting my Uncle Steve and his side of the family. It used to be somewhat of a family tradition to spend Christmas in Houston, at least from about 2000 until 2007 until I went away to college in Arizona and preferred instead to spend the holidays back at home so I could see my friends. So this was the first Christmas we had spent Stateside in about 6 years, and it was really nice to go back. It was great to catch up with my Uncle Roger who I hadn’t seen in years, and also spend a bit of time with my cousin Tracy’s 4 month old baby, Cameron.

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Practicing at Champions Golf Club with 1995 USPGA Champion, Steve Elkington.

I didn’t play much golf (aside from a couple hours on the range at Champions with Steve Elkington, which was great fun), but I hadn’t really planned to. As I said, 2013 was a long, frustrating and particularly tiring season for me, so I went to America with the full intention of just being lazy and enjoying the holidays. I woke up late, ate far too much food, drank far too much beer and coffee and wine (not at the same time, although now I’m slightly intrigued), watched too much TV, and just had a nice time. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, and my birthday on the 2nd were all celebrated to the fullest and I’ve no doubt the 747 we flew home on was significantly heavier than the one we arrived on. I’m 25 now by the way, a quarter of a century old and counting. Where the hell did all that time go? Sometimes I really wish I was 4 years old again and could start over. But then I remember I’d have 17 years of education ahead of me, and quickly change back to being satisfied with being 25.

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Sticky Toffee pudding. Great for the taste buds; not so much for the waistline.

I got back on January 6th and without even having to weigh myself knew I’d be 10lbs heavier. Which didn’t particularly upset me as I was in reasonable shape to begin with, but the idea that I’m not getting the best out of myself just annoys me. As it’s turned out, that fortnight of overindulgence may have actually been a blessing in disguise, as since then I’ve been in the gym almost every day trying to burn off the Christmas and birthday cake, and I’m now in a great routine and feel really motivated about the year ahead. I’ve started going to yoga classes with my friend and fellow pro Callum, and I can’t see myself stopping until I get as flexible and strong as I really want to be. I’m working on a few swing changes ahead of the 2014 and I’ve been putting more hours in on the range than I typically would, and I can already see good improvement in that area. And of course, I’ve started blogging again, which has actually been more difficult than the other stuff, even though it’s just typing a bunch of letters. I suspect it’s because golf and exercise come quite naturally to me; whereas writing, although I enjoy it, takes a little more thought and effort. But I’m glad to be back on it, and I intend to keep it going for the rest of this season and beyond.

The next month or so has quite a bit in store for me, primarily Asian Tour Q School in Hua Hin, Thailand on February 12th-15th. I’ve successfully negotiated that qualifying in both of the previous two years, so I have a lot of experience and some great memories of playing those golf courses which is great. Since I’ve not been playing a lot of golf, my tentative plan is to go to either Thailand or maybe Bahrain at least a week in advance, and get myself out of swing change mode and back into competition mode. It’s an important adjustment, as I’ve learned over the years. Competing whilst tweaking just doesn’t work and should be avoided, and I fully intend to avoid it.

Until then, it will be more of the same stuff: getting fitter, stronger, stretchier and technically better, as I prepare myself for the start of the season. I’ll also be checking in with another blog within the next couple weeks, perhaps not quite as long, but at least an update of sorts. If I don’t, be sure to send me an email. I’ve changed my spam filter.

Till next time

James

February 15, 2013 · by James · James Blog, uncategorized

After a successful but thoroughly knackering couple of weeks of Q-schooling, it would have made sense to have a bit of a rest. I’d just played 13 rounds in 14 days on two different continents, so a week lying about on a beach somewhere off the coast of Thailand wouldn’t have been at all unreasonable. I’d deserved the break, and surely a celebration was in order. However, I’m what you would call a golf junkie. I’m the kind of guy that goes to a remote island off Indonesia with a few mates on a supposed “holiday” and plays 54 holes of golf every day for 5 days straight (yes, that happened). So rather than sipping on passion fruit based cocktails with umbrellas poking out of them that serve absolutely no purpose  for a week, I decided to find another golf course and hit my ball round it some more.

2 days after that heart stopping morning at Springfield, I packed up and flew to Kuala Lumpur, for the Asian Development Tour season opener, and my official season opener, the CCM Rahman Putra Masters. Hardly the most glamorous of stages to kick off the 2013 golf season, but unfortunately I don’t yet have the luxury of being able to kick back in a Scottsdale/Orlando mansion for 2 months and tardily show up at the 7th or 8th event of the year, as so many of the world’s best seem to do these days.

So ADT it was, and levity aside, it’s a very good tour which is growing at an astronomical rate. Considering it was only launched in 2010, it’s incredible to think that 3 years later, the tour already boasts nearly 20 events (all 72-holers), purses of up to $120k and crucially now, world ranking points. I played 3 ADT events towards the end of last season and really enjoyed them, so I’ll certainly be looking to add more events to my schedule this year.

I got to Rahman Putra GC on the Monday and went out to play the back 9. I asked for a local caddie, but when he picked up my tour bag and slung it round his back and started marching with the strap diagonally across his chest, much to the amusement of onlooking pros, I figured he might not be one for the long haul. Mind you, at a price of £8 for the round, I don’t know what I expected. 9 painful holes later, I got on facebook and messaged a Malaysian caddie who had worked for me before, going by the name of Eddie. He agreed on £20 a round. Bargain.

I started the tournament with a pair of 71s. I couldn’t get much going, and I wasn’t surprised given my exertions over the previous two weeks. In the third round I finally got hot, and started out 4 under after 5. I kind of expected myself to then keep going and shoot in the mid-60s, but I played really poorly after that and had to scramble my socks off to shoot 68. That back nine was key, as I probably should have shot 4 over and finished level for the day, but I managed to cling on to my under par score and stay in contention. The 68 left me at 6 under for the tournament, 2 shots behind 3 players including Asian Tour veteran Zaw Moe.

Making birdie from the bunker on the 3rd.

Making birdie from the bunker on the 3rd.

I was in good position to make a run at it, but I had played so badly on the back nine that day my confidence had taken a bit of a knock. I knew it would probably take a 66 or 67 to win, but given the state of my long game I couldn’t see how I was going to put it together. I knew better than to write myself off though, and I also knew better than to waste energy worrying about winning or losing. Why would anyone worry about winning anyway? That’s an opportunity you should relish.

I started the final round by making about a 10 footer for birdie. I missed a 14 footer for birdie on 2, before driving it into the greenside bunker on 3 and hitting it stiff. On the par 3 4th, I hit a 4 iron to about 4 feet and made that for birdie. I parred 5, and on 6 hit a pitching wedge to about 6 feet and made that. Then on 7, I laid up 60 yards short of the green and wedged it to an inch. So I was 5 under par after 7, and had now moved to 11 under. As far as I knew, I was in the lead, but the opening holes are quite easy and I wouldn’t have been surprised had someone else had made a few birdies too. Besides, I don’t look at scoreboards; it’s a pointless endeavour. I’ve always believed that unless you’re standing in the 18th fairway with a 250 yard carry over water to the green to weigh up, there’s no benefit whatsoever from knowing the scores. So, whenever the sign carriers from the groups ahead or behind were in view, I just looked away.

On the 8th, my red hot start came to a sudden, screeching halt. For some reason, I just don’t seem to like it when things are going serenely. There needs to be drama, so I gave myself it in abundance. I don’t know what happened, but I skied my tee shot with a 3 wood and left myself a mile into the green. From there, I hit it up 30 yards short, and proceeded to flat out duff the pitch shot. Taken aback slightly, I duffed the next one too. I got up and down for a double, but as it turned out I lost my lead as Malcolm Kokocinski in the group behind had also got to 11 under.

At this point I’m going to throw in another story from Fearless Golf – a book which I mentioned last week – this time about Jack Nicklaus. The story goes that the Golden Bear reached the par 4 17th hole in the 1984 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, holding a 1 shot lead over Seve Ballesteros and playing partner Andy Bean. Uncharacteristically, Nicklaus stepped up and hit his tee shot straight out of bounds. When later asked, “What were you thinking after that shot?”, Nicklaus responded as follows:

“I didn’t have time to dwell. I was too busy already thinking about my next shot. There were guys behind me trying to win the golf tournament, so I wasn’t going to waste time wondering why the ball flew out of bounds. I was busy asking myself what I needed to do in order to win the golf tournament.”

Rahman Putra Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur

Rahman Putra Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur

And he did exactly what was needed. He split the fairway with his 2nd drive, saved his bogey, and won the tournament in a playoff against Bean. As revealing an insight as any, surely, as to why Nicklaus is the most accomplished player in the history of the game. How many players would have lost their head after the first ball and not recovered? Somehow, Nicklaus was able to stay calm and simply ask himself “what do I need to do to win this golf tournament?”.

Much as I’d used Gary Player’s words about adversity to my advantage the previous week, I took a lot from that story about Nicklaus. On the 9th tee, I internally yelled at myself to forget about the duffed chips and instead focus on what I needed to do to win. In order to win, I’d have to make birdies; so that’s what I focused on. I drove the ball in the fairway, hit a pitching wedge to about 20 feet and made a curling left-to-righter for a bounce-back birdie. On 10, I made a downhill 12 footer for birdie, and on 11 an even bigger sliding left-to-righter from about 15 feet for birdie. The ultimate bounceback – 3 birdies in a row to counter the double. Nicklaus would have been proud.

I’d built up a 3 shot lead, and par golf the rest of the way was good enough for a 2 shot victory. I hadn’t been scoreboard watching though, so I still didn’t know where I stood. But when I found the green with a 5 iron on the final hole and the spectators around started calling me “champion”, I figured the W was in the bag.

It was the 2nd win of my professional career following the Northern Open last year and my first on the Asian continent. It was a great feeling to have won but even more so to have done it in the manner that I did. Teeing it up in that final round with what I thought was dwindling confidence in my long game, I’d made 8 birdies in the first 11 holes to all but secure the victory. And even more satisfying than that was the bounceback. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever made 3 birdies in a row following a double, so I picked a good time to do it.

Final word goes to all those who have been so supportive of me recently and throughout my career. Especially when I’m playing at the other side of the world, to have that much encouragement coming from back home is incredibly comforting. Particular thanks, in true Oscar-winning speech style, go to Mum and Dad; all my family here in Singapore, especially Uncle Lloyd, Auntie Margaret and my cousins Andrew, Stephen and Michael who have been kind enough to look after me whilst in Asia and make me feel at home; all my family in the UK and in the States; Andrew Locke and Dean Robertson; my sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management, Craig Group, Taylor’s Industrial Services and Titleist; my caddie Eddie; and lastly, David Law for winning on the EPD Tour the week before and giving me that extra motivation to make it 2 wins in a row for the North East. It’s great to see your peers playing well and winning and by doing so we certainly get the best out of each other. Long may it continue.

My first event of the full Asian Tour season starts next week in Myanmar. Eddie will be coming, but I fear the price might have gone up from £20.

imagesIf anyone is interested in the Asian Development Tour and would like more information, check out http://www.asiantour.com/adt_home.aspx. If you’re quick you might even be greeted on the homepage by a handsome young chap holding a trophy.

Till next time.

 

james-byrne

February 5, 2013 · by James · James Blog

2012 was a disappointing year. I’ve not had too many of those in my golf career, or indeed my life, but there’s no doubt last year was a bit of a downer. In a landmark year when British sportsmen and women seemingly kept trumping each other with their incredible achievements, I completely failed to show up to the party.

Yes, I am actually that good.

Yes, I am actually that good.

I didn’t even know there was one. Whilst Britain’s finest athletes ate free pizza, drank sparkling grape juice and danced the night away to One Direction and that strange Emili Sande cover of her own song, I sat at home and played Fruit Ninja on my phone (1150 on arcade mode is not to be sniffed at though). So the turn of the year was welcome as ever. January 1st is just another day of course, but mentally it’s a chance for a fresh start. And of course, it’s always nice to log into my stats site, www.golfdatalab.com, and see that my season long stroke average no longer reads 73 point something.

I’ve endured plenty of setbacks in my career but losing my Asian Tour card was right up there with the biggest. I’d failed at European Tour School in October, and hadn’t even entered Alps Tour School, so when I lost my playing rights in Asia suddenly the prospect of playing an entire year on mini-tours and on invites became very real. I knew that doing so would be a massive step backwards, potentially setting me back a couple of years, so the pressure going into the Asian Tour School was particularly high.

It was a big challenge and one I wasn’t actually all that prepared for. I’d just taken 4 weeks off, and although I was physically and mentally rested, I genuinely wasn’t sure if I could break 80. I’d barely touched a club for a month, never mind put in meaningful practice. So a back up plan was needed, and that’s when we decided I should give the Sunshine Tour School a try. It would fall the week before the Asian Tour School, allowing me to play both, and essentially doubled my odds of having a place to play in 2013. Yes it would be a gruelling 2 weeks, but it made sense. So the forms went in, and on Jan 10th I set off for Bloemfontein, South Africa.

18th hole, Bloemfontein Golf Club.

18th hole, Bloemfontein Golf Club.

On the journey over, I started to feel a bit anxious. Not for fear of flying, I’ve never had a problem with that. Instead, it was a lingering sense of unpreparedness that was all too familiar from my school days. That daunting prospect of having a big exam around the corner, and knowing my textbooks were still unopened from their plastic covers.

With half a mind simply on making contact with the ball, I began Sunshine Tour School surprisingly well. 68 66 put me at 10 under par and in 3rd place. Rather than my game having rotted away during that idle month, I’d actually felt refreshed. The break had actually done me the world of good. I followed that hot start with less spectacular rounds of 73, 71 and 70 and took the 12th card of an available 30. Good performance, and I’d done exactly what was intended – to secure a place to play for the year, and relieve some pressure for the following week.

An interesting/terrifying 3-hour taxi ride from Bangkok to Hua Hin.

An interesting/terrifying 3-hour taxi ride from Bangkok to Hua Hin.

Straight from the golf course to Bloemfontein airport then, and 3 flights and a 3 hour cab ride later I was in Hua Hin, Thailand, just in time for my second exam. Fortunately, I’d played both courses the previous year, so missing a practice round wasn’t so much a sin as a smart move. The textbooks had actually been read for this one, albeit a long time ago.

On the first hole of the first round, I ripped a drive about 320 yards down the fairway, and hit a sand wedge to about 15 feet. Solid start, but I missed the birdie putt. Oh well. Then I missed the par putt. Oh dear. Missed the bogey putt too. Oh ****.

I finally found the cup on the 4th attempt to open up with a double. A truly awful start. And it didn’t get much better. 15 holes later I was at 5 over par, and with the 36 hole cut looking like falling at 1 under, it was almost game over. If the tournament was a 10 page exam, I was already skipping questions at page 2.

Image002

Getting underway.

Fortunately, on the journey over I’d reread a favourite book of mine. It’s called Fearless Golf, by Dr Gio Valiente. I strongly recommend it. It’s not a revolutionary book, more like your standard golf psychology book, but reading it had improved my attitude and state of mind just enough that on 16 I didn’t completely implode. I was right on the verge, but somehow managed to stay on the right side of the fine line between determination and despair. Without reading it, I don’t think I’d have even lasted 16 holes.

So back on the 17th tee, equipped with this slightly improved attitude, I was fighting just stay in it, when out of nowhere, I began a stretch of some of the best golf I’ve ever played. Rather than continuing the downward spiral, I played the next 32 holes in 17 under par, catapulting myself from something like 190th place into sole 1st. In that period I’d made 14 birdies and 2 eagles, 15 pars and a lone bogey, and suddenly I was no longer fighting. I was cruising.

Image004

On the morning of the 3rd round, I should have been catching a flight back to South Africa, but instead I was 12 under and leading the tournament. It made no sense at all, but it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course. I was just letting it happen. Birdie runs like that are the reason I play the game; just seeing how low you can go, how good you can be. That’s what got me hooked to the game in the first place, the sheer fun of it. Not for the nice scenery or the fresh air. Not for the trophies or the accolades or the money. Not even for the companionship. Pushing your own limits physically and mentally and finding out how good you can get – that’s what it’s about, for me.

So anyways, I went into the final round in the last group. Not leading anymore, but still 7 shots ahead of the projected qualifying mark. Making the top 40 was a guarantee, and all that mattered at this point would be my position.

Or so I thought. Don’t ever, ever, ever count your chickens, folks.

Final round, and after a bogey, bogey start, I got to the 5th and hit my tee shot in the right hazard. Not miles right, maybe 15 yards. It was a decent swing, only slightly pushed, but the ball was wet nonetheless. Teed another ball up. Shaken a little, I then overcompensated and hit the next one left into a bush. I took a drop and punched out into the greenside bunker. Splashed out to 10 feet and missed the putt. Then, as I went to tap in for an 8, the ball moved. So I tapped in for a 9 instead. Then, rather than bouncing back with a string of birdies, I followed it with another water ball on the 6th, and a three-putt on the 7th. I was 7-over after 7 holes, and in the space of an hour I’d gone from 11-under to 4-under. I was now bang on the cut line, with 11 more holes to play.

4th hole

I’ve been nervous plenty times on a golf course, but at this point I was approaching a new level of nerves, previously uncharted by anyone, anywhere. My tee shot on 8 hooked so violently it must have been in the air for about 3 seconds, before settling in behind a tree. If the previous two days had been plain sailing, then now I was on an upturned dinghy in the middle of Hurricane Bogey with a puncture in it. The cameras were on me, and I was well on my way to shooting 90, a round which surely would be the most embarrassing in history of any Q school ever held.

After two rounds of carefree, blissful golf, I found myself right back on that verge, only this time I was clinging onto the wrong side of it. By my fingertips. Fortunately however, as I walked over to the lady waving her little red flag, I stumbled upon a moment of inspiration. That morning, I’d read a great quote by one of the legends of the game about perseverance, and it just happened to come back to me. See if you can figure out who is speaking:

“People who want to resist and avoid adversity are cheating themselves. It is how you handle adversity that defines you as a person, as a golfer and as a champion. I see guys out there all time who let the littlest things undo them, undo their confidence and undo their motivation. I say, “Get in there and play the game with some courage, man!” It’s part of the game to have bad times. I think it’s built in there to weed the weak people out. Nobody has good times all the time, so get up and fight! Show me some courage. Show me some patience. Show me some determination, for goodness sake!”

Woods is renowned for his never-say-die attitude.

Woods is renowned for his never-say-die attitude.

Those were the words of 9-time major winner Mr. Gary Player, who had of course gone through some hard times himself during the apartheid era. Apparently spectators threw stuff at him on the course, but unperturbed, he still managed to go on and win 163 times. The quote was a game changer, and I decided on the spot to stop feeling sorry for myself, and instead maybe show a bit of courage. I was also reminded of Tiger Woods in his prime and his apparent incapacity to ever give up. The temptation to throw in the towel simply isn’t in their DNA. So, with my chin back up off the ground and carrying a bit more purpose about myself, I wedged it out of the trees, pitched up to a foot, and saved par to finally stop the bleeding (there was a trail of it zigzagging all the way back to the 5th tee).

On 9, I finally drove the ball in the fairway, hit a 9 iron to about 20 feet, and made the putt for birdie. Back in the game. On 10, I made a 15 footer for par. Parred 11 too, but then on 12 hit my tee shot miles right into the middle of a lake. Show me some courage, man. OK Gary, got it. I laid up with a 5 iron, hit a wedge to a difficult tucked pin into about 12 feet, and made the par putt.

Scrambling for a crucial par at the 10th

Scrambling for a crucial par at the 10th

And then I parred the last 6 holes, hitting every fairway and every green to within 20 feet and safely two-putting. Bit of an anti-climax, eh? Well, not quite for me.

When I tapped in for par on 18, to sneak in by a single shot, as I did last year, I was emotionally drained. No wild fist pumping this time around, just an inward sigh of relief. As I mentioned to the press later, it was easily the best and most satisfying 77 I’ve ever shot. If I’d let things continue to spiral, it could have been 100.

But with the help of Mr. Player and perhaps some of my own inward fortitude, I’d regained control and played the last 11 holes without dropping a shot. I could have viewed the closing 77 as bitterly disappointing or a complete failure, but I was genuinely proud of myself for hanging in there. I took massive confidence from a round of 77, and it’s not too often you say that.

So, job done then. 2 passing grades and even if they weren’t both A+’s, I’ll take them. As my wise friend Scott Pinckney used to say when we were in college together, “C’s get degrees”. He wasn’t wrong. School’s out now for another 8 months or so until the European version rolls round again. And hopefully that will be my last one. I’m getting too old for this.

The dreaded but stunning 18th hole island green at Springfield Village GC.

The scary but stunning 18th hole island green at Springfield Village GC.

December 31, 2012 · by Paul · James Blog, uncategorized

As we approach the final hours of 2012, I figured it might be a good idea to reflect one last time upon the past 12 months. In about 2 hours time, 2013 will be upon us, and 2013 is no time to be writing or reading about 2012. So, reasonably briefly, here’s my wrap up of my 2012 season:

After securing my Asian Tour card in the second week of January, I was really excited about getting started as a professional golfer and the opportunity to play on a major global tour. I wasn’t officially getting started – I’d had a short stint as a pro at the end of 2011, but it was a handful of events through invites on various tours, and I hadn’t had much of a chance to establish myself anywhere. 2012 was to be my first full season, so in my mind, I was just getting started.

Unfortunately this year, things just didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped. Coming off the back of a successful amateur career, I thought I’d be able to contend most weeks on the Asian Tour. Admittedly, this wasn’t the case at all. Yes the courses and grasses and weather and culture and food were a little alien to me, but the bottom line is that if you aren’t shooting 10 under par on any given week, you probably aren’t contending. And I wasn’t shooting 10 under par each week. Before I went to Asia, I somewhat ignorantly hadn’t even heard of the likes of Thaworn Wiratchant, Prom Meesawat, Manasori Kobayashi or Anirban Lahiri. It didn’t take long before I realised they were actually world class players. It’s not that I was overawed by them, I was just taken aback somewhat by the numbers they were shooting. It clearly wasn’t going to be plain sailing.

Unique but awesome practice range in Taiwan

The Asian Tour took a break over the summer for about 3 months, and by that halfway point I had made most cuts but not made enough money to sit inside the top 60. I played a few events over the summer to fill the void, with inconsistent results, and went back East to finish the season there. Knowing I needed a couple of strong finishes to keep my card, I went back and missed 2 cuts in a row. Then I came back for European Q School, missed that, and went back East again and missed the next 2 cuts by a single shot, the latter being the Indian Open which was a $1.25m purse, substantially more than our normal purses. Ouch.

It was a brutal spell of tournaments, and something I wasn’t really used to in my amateur career. There, cuts rarely fell under par and I can only ever remember missing one or two. Missing four in a row was a totally new experience, and it was a tough period mentally trying to keep plugging away. On good days you think the tide is just about to turn, but on bad days you just can’t see where the next cut is coming from. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from 2012, it’s the power of self-belief and the ability to quickly forget. Selective amnesia I think it’s called. Remember your great weeks, relive them and savour them, and then just dump the rest.

The incredible movable island 17th green at Amata Springs, Thailand. 132 yards front.

After four weekends in a row laying by the pool (and in the gym of course, kinda, not really), I decided I needed a change of scenery. I entered myself for three consecutive tournaments on the Asian Development Tour, the Asian Tour’s feeder tour. It turned out to be quite a good move. Without having to worry about 3-under cuts, I relaxed a bit more and finished 9th, 3rd and 30th. My mind was certainly in a better place, and I finished up my last 2 events on the Asian Tour playing much better golf, albeit without outstanding results. Of course, that wasn’t enough to retain my playing rights, which means in a couple weeks I’ll be back off to Thailand to try to earn it back.

So that wraps up my year on the Asian Tour. Certainly not the year I’d hoped for in terms of results, but the experience overall was incredible, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. I played on some of the best golf courses, in some of the best cities in the world, and met some fantastic people along the way. In addition, I’ve learned a lot about my golf game and what needs to be improved, physically and moreover mentally. I also found out what a chicken’s foot tastes like, but perhaps I won’t go into the details.

Before finishing up this exhaustively long summarised season review, I will of course mention my win the Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open at Meldrum House. It actually came just before my stretch of missed cuts, which shows how absurdly fickle this game is, but it was certainly a welcome victory and was my first as a professional. I shot 66 66 66 70 for 12 under par, and was delighted to lift one of the most prestigious trophies in Scottish golf at a place so close to home.

Holding aloft the Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open Trophy

So there we have it, 2012 has come and gone. Before I finish, a quick note on my New Years Resolution. I actually haven’t really thought of a good one yet. Let’s just say it’s to get better. Even if it’s just half a shot per round, the goal has to be to get better. Half a shot isn’t asking a lot. I figure in golf, as long as I remain healthy (touch wood) and driven, I should have another 30 years in the sport. So if I can improve by half a shot each year, I should be a decent player by the time I’m 53.

Lastly, for those interested, below I have compiled a list of all the tournaments I played in 2012. This extensive table also includes all my scores, finishes, and comments.

 

 

Date

Tournament

Venue

Rd 1

Rd 2

Rd 3

Rd 4

Total

Finish

Comments

Aug 28-31

Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open

Meldrum House Golf Club

66

66

66

70

268

1st

:)

 

 

Remember, savour the great weeks, dump the rest.

Wishing you all a successful 2013.

James

 

Some other snaps from this year:



Amazing view of the 16th fairway at Kuala Lumpur GCC

 

The Singapore skyline. One of my favourite place in the world. Taken from the Singapore flyer – Singapore’s version of the London Eye.

 

The incredibly daunting 17th hole at the Macau Open. 220 yards with a 50 foot drop in elevation!


August 12, 2012 · by James · James Blog

Evening all, long time no blog.

I’m just about to watch the men’s 4×100 relay, and whilst they’re all faffing about and flexing their muscles to the crowd, I figured I might as well try to squeeze in a quick update. I seem to be faster at typing on my phone than on a keyboard (the youth of today, eh?) so let’s see how far I can get before the relay finishes. It’s obviously been a long, long time since my last blog, so apologies once again for that. I wish I could blog every week, but I only really enjoy writing about great performances (much as you probably only enjoy reading about them), and unfortunately there hasn’t been enough of those of late. I figured though, golf is a game of ups and downs, and there goes Usain Bolt and it’s yet another gold medal for him and Jamaica. Why are they so good at sprinting?! It’s got to be something to do with that jerk chicken they eat over there. Anyways, golf has it’s ups and downs, and although I’ve no interest in reporting negatives it’s about time I contribute to this blog or some people will start to think the only event I’ve played this year is the Panasonic Open.

Swimming as a 14 year old in the 200IM at the 2003 British Age Group Championships

Like many of you I’m sure, for the past fortnight I’ve been glued to the TV watching the Olympics and I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Team GB + Northern Ireland (why on earth aren’t we just called Team UK?) have done exceptionally well and it’s been a particular thrill watching former teammates and competitors of mine doing so well in the pool. I often wonder what I might have achieved had I stuck at swimming, but then I remind myself that I’ve not had to get up at 5am every morning for the past 8 years, that I’ve had a reasonably normal youth, and that my hair is no longer that weird chlorine-bleached grey colour that it used to be. Having said that, I have huge, huge admiration for the likes of Robbie Renwick, Hannah Miley and particularly Silver medalist Michael Jamieson, all of whom I competed with nearly a decade ago, for the commitment they’ve put in and the sacrifices they’ve made for little reward other than personal pride. It really is sport in it’s purest form and it’s a joy to watch.

When you consider that the vast majority of these Olympians aren’t paid to compete, you realise how lucky we golfers are to play not only for personal achievement and satisfaction, but also for a living. Interestingly, golf is being introduced as an Olympic sport in Rio 2016, and inspired by these London games, I would love to be a part of that. In order to be there, I realise I’m going to have to start thinking like a swimmer, rower, cyclist or runner, and apply myself to my sport as any other aspiring Olympic champion would. Just because golf is not a physically demanding sport doesn’t mean excellence can be achieved through less effort. You hear guys like Mo Farah constantly talk about hard work and sacrifice and it’s no coincidence he’s now a double gold medallist.

Usain Bolt cruises past Ryan Bailey to win gold for Jamaica.

So back to golf then. Since my last blog entry, the Panasonic Open, I’ve unfortunately had very little to write home about, or indeed type about. I played well in my final event in Asia, the Indonesian Masters, but for whatever reason since coming back to the UK I’ve been unable to build on that form. It’s a fickle game, golf, and I’ve begun to realise it’s probably more vulnerable to weakness in the mind than any other sport. Watching Bolt just there, and Mo Farah before him, I’m wondering to myself how much of running is mental, and how much is physical. For me, speed and endurance sports are nearly 100% physical. Of course the mental strength that’s required to reach maximum output plays a big part, but if you’re faster than the rest, then you’re simply faster than the rest. When Yohan Blake handed over to Usain Bolt for the final leg of the relay and Jamaica were neck and neck with the USA, it was all but over. Bolt is simply quicker than Ryan Bailey, and there’s nothing Bailey could do about it.Golf is completely different. You never know what’s going to happen. You can hit balls to your heart’s content, perfect your swing, and still miss fairways. You can stand there for hours and perfect your putting stroke, but when you’ve got a 5 footer on the 18th green to win a fiver, and a tiny ounce of doubt creeps in, that 5 foot putt you just made 4 million times in a row might just lip out.

Luke Donald encapsulates the ideal golfing mindset.

Golf is completely unpredictable, and with that in mind I have an even greater respect for the likes of Luke Donald, who somehow finds himself in contention every single week with a skills set that to most spectators would appear ordinary. Luke clearly has a belief and a strength of mind that is probably second to none, even Tiger, and it is that mindset that I aspire towards. But it’s not all been doom and gloom. I did play some great golf in spurts at the Lyoness Open on the European Tour recently, and shot one of my best rounds all year at Rowallan Castle on the EuroPro Tour a couple weeks ago, shooting 67 in pretty strong winds, so there are positives to take and I certainly feel I’m back on an upward curve. I’m working harder and with more focus on my game than I ever have, and I’m starting to really enjoy the process of improvement. There is still a lot to play for this year, with a possible start in the Johnnie Walker Championship, European Tour School, and of course a return to Asia for the 2nd half of the Asian Tour season all coming up. 2012 has not been a great one so far, but there’s still plenty opportunities to make it my best season yet.

Right, that should do it. I’m off to the pub.

Just kidding! I’m an aspiring Olympian now. Got my alarm set for 5am.

Till next time.

 

April 1, 2012 · by James · James Blog

Delhi Golf Club, New Delhi, India

Delhi Golf Club, Sunday 1st April 2012.

Just over a month ago, I arrived at Delhi Golf Club for the first time for the SAIL Open. I had been previously warned about the perils that lay ahead, but despite that I was still taken aback by the daunting nature of the golf course and the corridor like fairways. The fairways are not actually that narrow, but just yards from the fairways lay a dangerous tangled mix of trees, branches, thorns and bushes, with hundreds of peacocks and a handful of deer sneaking around ready to greet an errant visitor. It truly is a terrifying golf course and one that requires you to do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play, punishing those who feel like being a little more adventurous. You need to be disciplined with your game plan, constantly suppressing the natural urge to squeeze the ball out an extra 10 yards down the fairway, concentrating instead on finding the fairway in the first place. That week at DGC, I was a nervous wreck, and although I made the cut I steered my way through the weekend and left India with my confidence a little shaken. This golf course can do that to you. However, I put it down to a learning experience, an experience that I would use to my advantage this past week.

This time around, I knew what my game plan would be, and I stuck firmly to it. I decided to hit an iron off every tee other than the long 3rd, and to lay up on the par 5s unless I could reach with two irons shots. My driver, it goes without saying, remained in my hotel room all week. In the final round at the SAIL, I had gotten a little greedy, hitting a few 3 woods where I shouldn’t have, and I paid the price (literally – those tee shots cost me several hundred dollars). This time round I was determined that my mistakes would come from bad swings, rather than bad decisions.

I began well with a 2 under par 70. The winds got up during my back nine and got up even higher in the afternoon, causing scores to go through the roof. I actually ended the day in a tie for 2nd place. Not what I expected but a good position to be in nonetheless. My game plan had paid off nicely, and perhaps I could have held the sole lead had I not made a couple silly mistakes around the greens. In round 2, I was going along smoothly, even par after 8 holes. On the 9th, I pushed my tee shot and was left with a tough decision. There weren’t many places I could drop, but going back to the tee and facing that same tee shot again wasn’t inviting either. I decided to drop in the trees, and although I got a gut-wrenching bounce towards a bush I managed to manufacture a sideways chip into relative safety. I still had 210 yards to the green, and although I missed an 8 footer for 6 a short while later, it was a pretty good triple-bogey 7. I played the remaining holes in even par, and signed off for a 75. Delhi Golf Club had shown it’s teeth, and the bite was pretty painful as I fell down to 25th place.

Looking for the fairway on 11th tee at Delhi Golf Club during practice

The 3rd round was a similar story, as I played solid golf for 17 holes but strayed into a bush on the 11th. That lone mistake turned a decent 72 into a poor 74, and now I was well and truly out of the tournament. Today (final round), I went out with the intent of getting myself into the top 10. I figured a 65 would probably do it. With the exact same game plan, I managed to create a host of great birdie chances on the front nine, and I had I taken just half of them would have turned in 32. I gave myself the opportunity to shoot a great round, but just failed to convert. As it was, I turned in 35, made birdies at 10 and 12, but gave them back on 15 and 17. Drained from a mentally exhausting 5 days (yes, even the practice round was nerve wracking!), I was happy in the end to close with a birdie 4 and shoot 70. Phew.

I think I’ve finished around 25th, which is not spectacular but is certainly a big improvement on last time around and my best result so far this season. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get into or at least near contention, but it’s something to build on. Next week is the Handa Singapore Classic, so I’m looking forward to having some local support there and the chance to turn good performances into great rounds. Till then.

March 23, 2012 · by James · James Blog

Well, firstly I will apologise for miserably failing to live up to my previous promise to blog more often. My schedule has been busy thus far so time has not been on my side, but perhaps my motivation to write about golf has simply not been there. Had I won my first event in Myanmar, I would have written a ten thousand word report on it, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Post-game evaluation is fine, but I’ve never been one to dwell on bad weeks. And hence, if my blogging seems to dissipate, I’m probably just not playing that well. However, I am currently taking a week off in Hua Hin, Thailand, and I figured now is as good a time as any to reflect upon a rather “interesting” first 2 months on tour.

To say that playing poorly is just part of a learning curve is a bit of a cliche, but it’s true. Every time you don’t play well is an opportunity to improve; to figure out where the mistakes are and what can be done about it. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect, so mistakes are a guarantee in every single round. Based on that theory, every round is a learning curve. Tiger at his absolute best still claimed he could make massive improvements, so where does that leave everyone else? The key, I suppose, is to accurately identify strengths and weaknesses, and that’s something I’ve been focusing on.

Royal Mingalardon Golf and Country Club, Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar was a bit of a wake up call. I played solidly but didn’t quite make the putts and shot even par, which was 3 shots off the cut mark. I’ve played in amateur events on short courses where the cut has been 3 under, but never on a 7200 yard layout. I had not been aggressive enough in the first 2 rounds, and had I known scoring would be so low I would have certainly approached the course differently.

James negotiating a green at Wackwack Golf Club, Manila, Philippines

Wack Wack Golf Club in the Philippines more than lived up to it’s name. Tight from the tee, it did not call for aggression from the tee but accuracy was at a premium. The cow grass made chipping and pitching awkward, and the greens were so severely sloped the pins looked like they were about to fall out the cups. I started well with a 2-under 70, but struggled thereafter. I actually was going well for most of the 2nd round, but played a wrong ball on my 15th hole and capitulated. The collapse affected me mentally, and I tried to steer the ball round over the weekend, which was never going to produce good results. I made a few hundred bucks in the end – better than a weekend twiddling my thumbs.

Final Hole SAIL-SBI Indian Open

I’d heard interesting things about Delhi Golf Club, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I played it for the first time. I, along with several others, chose not to carry a driver, replacing it with another iron or wedge. It is easily the tightest golf course I have ever played and a stern all round test. I set my game plan, which was to hit a single 3 wood on the 3rd hole, and irons from every other tee. With a 2 iron that I can hit up to 280 yards at times (dry fairways), nothing else was required. I made the cut on the number, shot a poor 3rd round, went out in 4 under in the final round but proceeded to give them all back on the closing stretch. Another disappointing effort, but at least it was another cut made and some positives to think about.

Angkor Golf Resort, Cambodia

Last week was the Cambodian Open at Angkor GC. Another new country to see and a new culture to embrace. A Sir Nick Faldo design, it was easily my favourite of the courses played this year. Playing on the same grass that we get in the UK (bent?), I felt a lot more comfortable on and around the greens. Paired with my old college roommate, Jesper Kennegard, I was excited about the week and my swing felt great in practice. For whatever reason though, I just didn’t have it on Thursday. Despite a confidence-boosting 68 in the second round, I missed the cut by a handful and was set for another idle weekend. I used that time to check out the famed Angkor Wat temple, built in the 13th century and an unbelievable feat of engineering. I’ve put some pictures in the photo gallery, but they don’t really do the experience justice.

Black Mountain, Hua Hin, Thailand

So 4 tournaments gone, and there’s not a great deal to cheer about. I’m here this week at Black Mountain in Hua Hin, staying with Rikard Karlberg, a 2 time winner on the Asian Tour. He’s a great player and it’s been good practicing and playing with him. I’ve done a lot of short game practice so far and I believe that’s what I need to turn 75s into 70s. It’s a fantastic spot here at Black Mountain and I’d be foolish not to make the most of it. For me, the learning curve continues. It’s just been a little steeper than I had hoped!

January 27, 2012 · by James · James Blog

It has certainly been a while since I last wrote a piece on here and for that I apologise. Part of the reason is that The Walker Cup was such an incredible week and I really wanted that to remain as the “cover story”. It will be strange not having that image of the GB&I team celebrating with the trophy greeting me as I enter the site, as it has done for the past four months. However, in golf and indeed in life we are always looking to achieve greater things and create new memories, and I think as you read on you’ll agree that last weeks events are more than worthy of a report.

For those who aren’t sure what I’ve been up to since The Walker Cup, here’s a quick update. I turned professional the following week and made my debut at the Allianz Toulouse Open on the Challenge Tour. A T24 finish represented a solid start to my professional career and I followed that up by making the cut and placing T45 at the Dunhill Links Championship. It would take me ten thousand words to report on that week but let’s just say it included an opening 67 at Kingsbarns, a hole in one followed by an eagle for a 71 at Carnoustie, 72 70 over the weekend at St. Andrews, R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson as my pro-am partner throughout and Padraig Harrington, Rafa Jacquelin, Tom Lewis and Lorenzo Gagli as my playing partners. A fantastic experience.

The following week was Stage 1 of the European Tour School in Portugal. I struggled throughout, perhaps due to fatigue, and missed the cut by five. At the time I was gutted, but soon realised golf is a long, arduous journey, and for me it had barely even begun. I took a month off, and in November embarked on a six week trip to South East Asia and Australasia. The trip included the Barclays Singapore Open, the Johor Open, the BMW New Zealand Open and the Aussie Masters. I travelled alone which was tough in itself, but in addition I was off form, low in confidence and desperately searching for something resembling my golf game. I did manage to make the cut at the NZ Open but had a poor weekend and failed to contend. In the other three I had a few flirtatious moments with the cut lines, but ended up on the wrong side in all three. I packed up and left for the UK just before Christmas, and needless to say I was bitterly disappointed with how I had performed. As encouraging as Gleneagles, the Walker Cup, Toulouse and the Dunhill had all been, the two months that followed it were equally as disheartening. As Christmas approached I was ready to forget about the end of 2011, enjoy the holidays, and start 2012 afresh.

Asian Tour Q School

Day 1 Imperial Lakeview CC, Days 2-4 Springfield Royal CC

Springfield Royal Country Club

I travelled to Hua Hin, Thailand on January 13 for the Asian Tour Qualifying School, knowing that failure there would leave me with very few options. I would be limited to mini-tours and sponsors invites; a route I was desperate to avoid. It had been a month since my last competitive venture and I knew I would undoubtedly have to deal with a few spots of rust. The pressure was on, and although I’m generally confident in my ability, the doubts were lingering and were extremely hard to shake off.

I made 7 birdies in my opening round and posted a 4-under 68. I drove the ball particularly well – a trait that has characterised my game over the years but often eluded me for much of 2011. 68 was a good score but I wasn’t even inside the top 10. I needed to keep it going. The next day we played in the afternoon, and the wind was up considerably. I finished with a miracle escape-shot birdie on 16, a 10-foot par save on 17 and a 30-foot birdie putt across the green on 18 to shoot a 3-under 69. It appeared to be smooth sailing but was far from the case. I was well positioned at this stage though in 9th place, and turned my attention towards catching the leaders.

With the tournament starting on a Wednesday, Friday became moving day, but for me it was sadly in the wrong direction. On a day where I had hoped to get a few shots clear of the lurking cut line and nearer the lead, I fell back with a 75 and put myself in an horrible position; 2 shots inside the cut, with seemingly nothing to gain and everything to lose. The nerves were there in abundance on Saturday morning, and I reminisced back to the morning of the Amateur Championship final, where I had a very similar sensation. This time it was different though. This time I was playing for more than just a trophy and a ticket for the Open and the Masters; it was my livelihood. I managed to focus myself and began steadily, although I knew if I didn’t make birdies early in the round I’d be walking a tightrope towards the end. Sure enough, my first birdie didn’t come until the 12th hole, a reachable par 5, basically a par 4. I was trying to force matters, which was probably understandable given the situation. My partner, Rahil Gangee, made 8 birdies and an eagle alongside me, and I felt like a 28 handicapper in comparison.

By the time I reached the 17th tee, I was 4 under par for the tournament. The tightrope was right in front of me. My gut feeling suggested that the cut would be around 4 under, but could potentially go to 5. With no projected cut line on the scoreboards, I had no idea. I flew a 6 iron over the green, fluffed a chip and 2 putted for a bogey. Back to 3 under. Oh dear…

The par 5 18th hole at Springfield Royal is a sharp dog leg left from the tee, that leaves a long iron approach to an island green for the 2nd, or alternatively a lay up and a wedge. After at least a 20 minute wait on the tee, I chose an aggressive line up the left, and caught it a fraction out of the toe with a little too much draw. The landing area is blocked by trees, so I anxiously waited, along with a dozen people around the tee box, to see what colour flag would be raised. Red for OB, Yellow for hazard, Green for fairway/findable. There was no hazard where I hit it, so like some sort of cruel game show, my qualification now rested on the raising of a red or green flag. The little old spotter lady on the corner got to her feet, looked around for a while, had a cup of tea and eventually raised a flag. It was red. Game over.

I reloaded another ball, split the fairway, and tried to accept what had just happened. After three testing months with barely a birdie to cheer about, I struggled to come to grips with the fact that I was about to be kicked in the teeth once again. As I turned the corner, however, about twenty people came into view on the left, searching among the trees, bushes and rough. I was confused, but it soon dawned on me that perhaps the little old spotter lady on the corner had made a mistake. Just as I was about to enquire, she started yelling from about forty yards ahead, in the first cut of rough. I was sceptical, so without getting too excited, I slowly walked over and checked the markings. Titleist 2, red dot, that’s me! I resisted the urge to drop to my knees and thank the golfing gods, and tried to focus on the shot at hand.

The lie had a hint of flyer about it, but equally looked thick enough to make the ball snag. I had just 159 yards to the front and about 190 to the back. The pin was tucked in the back left corner, surrounded by water short and left. The wind was blowing hard down and from the left, and holding the ball on the island green was going to be very tricky. I strongly considered the lay up, but knowing I needed a birdie, decided it was now or never. I pulled an 8 iron, committed to the flyer and aimed for the middle of the green. My hands were shaking so bad I half expected to let the club fly mid-swing, but luckily the ball took off right where I aimed it. Then it started drawing. Normally in this situation, I would be screaming at the ball to fly, cut, bite, go, whatever it may be, but on this occasion my mind was incredibly quiet. The ball was completely at the mercy of the wind, and I knew any instructions from my end would fall on deaf dimples (sometimes the ball does listen, just ask Sergio). Despite the fade wind, the ball continued to draw, and as it started it’s descent it’s line was barely right of the pin. The landing area on this line was tiny.

To my astonishment, the ball landed barely over the wooden surround, raced over the green and settled in the back fringe, just a few paces from the water at the back, as if it were a 747 trying to land on an aircraft carrier. I had been fighting a state of panic just a hole earlier, but now I was overcome with calm. 2 putts from 20 feet would be enough; it was almost over.

In the back of my mind, though, I wanted the eagle, just to be 100% safe. Stranger things have happened in qualifying schools than a cut line to dramatically change at the last second. Inevitably, I missed on the right side and left myself around 6 feet coming back. Disaster loomed, but I repeatedly reminded myself what an easy putt it was. 6 feet, uphill, straight – a piece of cake. I knocked it in and gave probably my first fist pump since the Sunday afternoon of the Walker Cup.

As I stumbled off the green, mentally exhausted, a spectator asked me, “What did you finish on?” “Four under”, I anxiously replied. “Congratulations”, he said, “and good luck this year.”

And so the Asian Tour looms. I officially have a job! I’ve spent this past week in Singapore to save a long journey home and head to Myanmar tomorrow for my first event. Earlier in the week we celebrated Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, one of twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Having been born a ‘Dragon’, I wear a gold chain with a dragon pendant, so perhaps 2012 will be a year to celebrate.

I’ll try to post again before another four months pass, hopefully after Myanmar. Until then, have a good one.

James Byrne Audio Interviews – Asian Tour School

September 15, 2011 · by James · James Blog

The Build-Up

The team spirit was great from the very start. Most of the lads knew each other and with great characters in the team like Stiggy, Mikey and big Jack, there were plenty of laughs had throughout. The week building up to the Walker Cup was very relaxed; just practicing and playing when we wanted to really, although everyone played at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie which was good fun. The Irish boys cleaned up all the money. Carnoustie in particular was excellent preparation as the winds were in excess of 25mph.

By Thursday and Friday the atmosphere was starting to build around the course and the boys were raring to go. We had been put up in 5-star accommodation at the start of the week at the Fairmont Hotel and the Marcliffe was no different.

One of their big suites had been turned into a team room with DVD player/X-box for us, so there was plenty to do at night. Sully and I in particular took advantage of the Marcliffe’s snooker table most nights and managed a few decent breaks (41!). Golfers tend to be pretty sharp on a snooker table; must be something to do with the hand-eye coordination.

On Friday night Nigel sat us all down and read out some letters of encouragement that had been sent to him by Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Monty, Darren Clarke, and even Eduardo Molinari and Jose-Maria Olazabal. We knew we had the whole of not just GB&I but most of Europe right behind us. Stiggy, the only remaining player from Merion, bravely stood up and said a few words. Although he came up against tough opposition in Cantlay and Uihlein over the weekend, Stig was brilliant in the team room and an invaluable member of the squad. To finish on Friday night we watched the Ryder Cup 2010 DVD and a few clips from previous winning Walker Cups.

 

The Matches  Saturday and Sunday

James celebrates after holing an 85 foot putt on the 17th hole to close out his match with Nathan Smith

I was disappointed to be left out of the morning foursomes, but was determined to put a point on the board in the afternoon singles. I went out with Mikey Stewart and Tom Lewis in the morning and watched a fine display as they beat the American top pairing of Peter Uihlein and Harris English 2&1. Further wins from the Irish pair and Jack and Sully put us 3-1 up after the foursomes.

My match against Nathan Smith was tight the whole way and I spurned some great chances to edge ahead by missing from close range. I felt that going into the 17th hole, I should have already closed the match out. Ironically, having not made a putt of note all day, I rolled one in across 2 tiers from about 85 feet on the 17th green to close out the match 2&1. I have never heard a roar like that in my life and perhaps never will again. I can’t remember exactly how I reacted but I have vague recollections of shouting come on!, waving my hat in the air and running all over the immaculate green. A moment I will carry for the rest of my life, undoubtedly.

James and Rhys Pugh celebrate after sinking a putt on No. 16 in their foursomes match against Cantlay and Williams

After winning a point each in the Saturday singles, Rhys Pugh and I were drafted into the Sunday foursomes as the anchor match. Up against world number one Patrick Cantlay and number ten Chris Williams, we barely put a foot wrong and won 5&3. Again, I was charged up throughout and was fist pumping and high-fiving all over the place, which generally is not like me at all.

In the singles I came up against a brilliant player in Harris English. I fought hard but didn’t quite have enough in me to beat Harris, who will without question go on to achieve great things in the coming years as a pro. Fortunately the boys had already done the business, and the pain of defeat soon turned into elation as I ran the length of the 18th hole to celebrate with the rest up at the green.

The closing ceremony came and went; Nigel gave a brilliant, emotional victory speech, we hoisted the trophy, and we spent at least the next hour in the team room drinking champagne and signing various items (t-shirts, flags, etc.) for memorabilia. Songs belted out on the bus on the way back (“there’s only one Captain Edwards!!”), more swigs of champagne, more signing stuff, more photos.

CHAMPIONS!!

We had a quick change at the hotel, attended the closing dinner and promptly left for a night in Aberdeen. Can’t say Aberdeen on a Sunday night is remarkably exciting but we made it a night to remember, let’s just leave it at that!!

I will be turning pro this week and won’t have the honour of playing another Walker Cup, but I will be forever thankful that I had the chance to play in just one, and a winning one at that. To have had Balgownie as the venue made it all the more special. I said to a few of the lads before Sunday, that unless we play in Ryder Cups, we will never play golf with that much passion and emotion ever again. Never again will we play for Nigel, for our respective nations, for Great Britain and Ireland. With that in mind, we cherished the moment, played with heart and determination, and came out victorious.

 

Below: The 2011 Walker Cup by INCHMARLODC

 

April 20, 2011 · by James · James Blog

Western Intercollegiate, Pasatiempo GC – 73, 72, 75 (+10), T33

Following a T9 finish at the ASU Thunderbird, I felt my game was improving nicely and was confident going into the Western Intercollegiate, hosted by San Jose State at the famed Alister Mackenzie designed, Pasatiempo Golf Club. The field was strong, with several top 10 teams including national champs Augusta State. The course was set up in true Mackenzie style, with fast sloping greens acting by far as the course’s greatest form of defense. The format was pretty strange, as 2 players from each team were paired together and paired with another 2 from another team. We were drawn with 5th ranked San Diego State, and I played with teammate Oscar Zetterwall, Englishman Tom Berry and Alex Kang.

In the practice round I did much chipping and putting around the greens, as it was evident managing the greens well would be the key to success. Unfortunately, one practice round was not enough and despite my attempts to get to grips with the place in the practice round I simply was not prepared for the greens and the pins. I stuttered through round 1, falling to +5 after 12 holes. I did recover somewhat with a couple of birdies and posted 73 to at least remain in the tournament. I had actually played decent golf, but the pin positions had caught me out and I finished the round frustrated at getting so little out of a pretty solid performance. One of MacKenzie’s favourite all-time holes is the 16th hole (pictured) which has unquestionably the most severely sloped green in competitive golf worldwide. The 16th at North Berwick has a half-pipe in the middle of it, but even that doesn’t compare to this monstrosity of a green. Somehow I played the hole in even par for the week, but without a couple of 15-foot putts and a nice lag from 50 feet, that could have been a couple more.

Round 2 saw more severe pins, and bumpier greens. The poa annua grass on the greens ran smoothly in the morning, but with so many players trundling their spikes over them during the course of the day, spike marks were popping up all over the place as the shadows lengthened. My putting for the most part was solid, but I was leaving the ball in the wrong positions, often after good shots, and leaving myself very little chance of 2 putting. I played steady golf all afternoon in the 2nd round and made only 1 real error, but it came on my 15th hole, the 11th, the hardest on the course with an average of 4.74, and it cost me a triple-bogey. Before then, I had played solid par golf and only dropped 1 shot courtesy of an inexcusable pin location on hole 8, a par three only requiring a 7 iron but with a green so severe the best the entire field could do on average was a miserable 3.49. A 2 hour fog delay in the morning meant the 2nd round was never likely to be completed and sure enough, 1 hole after my crippling mistake, we called it a day. I had only hit a couple of poor tee shots all day, and my iron play had been steady, but my lack of course knowledge gave me very little chance of creating meaningful birdie opportunities. Rather, every time I thought I hit a good shot, I was left with 15 feet for birdie with 10 feet of break. Never mind birdies, the only thing on my mind was to somehow escape with par.

I started the final round strongly, beginning with a par at 15 and somehow making birdie at 16. I consolidated it with a few pars to start the front nine, but soon began to drop shots and couldn’t stop the leaking. With the pins even worse than the previous 2 days, often in simply unreachable locations, I found myself in the wrong position time and time again, and was unable to build any kind of momentum. The course, in essence, ate me up, not as a result of poor play but as a result of poor positioning. It gave me a feel of what it must be like to play Augusta, the most famous of Mackenzie’s courses, which was designed with Pasatiempo in mind. I finished the round with another bogey to shoot a miserable 75, and I finished in the middle of the pack in 33rd.

PAC-10s is coming up in roughly a week, hosted by Stanford at their difficult University course. The same 6 players will travel and hopefully we can lift the spirits and put in the kind of performance we are capable of. If everyone is well prepared and on top of their game, there is no reason Jesper and I cannot be part of another conference winning team.

Thanks for reading. Go Devils!

April 12, 2011 · by admin · James Blog

ASU Thunderbird Invitational – 72, 71, 69 (-1), T9

After failing to make the team for Vegas, I was happy to be back in the swing of things at our home ASU Thunderbird Invitational at Karsten GC. Unfortunately I wasn’t included in the starting line-up, but I played as an individual and knowing I would have a chance to win the tournament was enough motivation for me to prepare to my absolute best. Karsten is a golf course I am very comfortable with – I have played it probably over 100 times during my 4 years at ASU – but I wanted to make sure I knew every bunker, every pin and every read. I played the course probably 10 times in the space of 2 weeks, shooting well under par a couple of times and shooting 29 for the front nine on one occasion. By the time Saturday rolled around, I knew I was creating a lot of birdie and eagle chances and to win I would just have to convert them.

After almost 10 days straight of 90+ degree weather, the clouds predictably rolled in early Saturday morning and we played the entire first round in pouring rain. Being a Scot, and having played countless rounds in conditions that Americans would liken to the apocalypse, I was enjoying the weather and had my fingers crossed that it continued all weekend. Such was the extent of my confidence in the adverse conditions, I started my 7am round with 4 birdies in my first 5 holes. I tried to think back to the Eisenhower Trophy last October, where in howling winds and heavy rains I shot a bogey free 68 to drive Scotland into the top 10. My perseverance and patience would be to my advantage, but in Arizona, unlike in Scotland, rain isn’t followed by more rain, and sure enough after a few hours the sun showed up. I dunked it in the water on 18 from the right rough and never really recovered. At the completion of round 1, I had played 72 shots and was 6 behind the leader, my roommate, Scott Pinckney.

36 hole days in the UK are typically broken up with an hour for lunch. If the field is big, that break might only be 20 minutes, but it gives players a chance to regroup and catch their breath. In most countries, 36 hole days aren’t considered reasonable and are avoided altogether. College tournaments in the US, however, are littered with 36 hole days, and ONLY in this country have I seen time and time again, players being asked to walk straight from the 18th green to the 1st tee. No break, no lunch, no time to use the bathroom. “You’re late, please get to the 1st tee immediately.” The result is effectively a 10 hour round of golf; a never-ending slog that requires about 8 miles of walking and on average about 150 shots to be struck.

In addition, players are REQUIRED to carry their golf bags. The purpose of such a rule, who knows? On a rainy day such as Saturday was, my golf bag contained the following: 14 clubs, 9 golf balls, 3 soaking headcovers, 1 rangefinder, 50 tees, 2 pitchforks, about 5 quarters, a couple pencils, a set of keys, a wallet, a pair of mittens, a wooly hat, 2 towels (one damp, one saturated), a pair of socks, 1 jumper, 2 bananas, an apple and a bottle of water. Once the sun appeared for round 2, you can add to that a pair of waterproof trousers (wet) and a waterproof jacket (wet) and a large umbrella (wet). Needless to say, I believe asking players to drag these items around for 10 hours in cold, wet conditions with no break is both irresponsible and imprudent.

Perhaps parents and tournament organisers in the United States like to think they are toughening up their kids by making them haul that stuff around all day. Well, I’m certainly not a kid any more and the only toughening up I experienced were blisters on my feet and a sore back. Do not think I was alone in my displeasure. Rest assured, I was far from alone; 1st round leader Scott complained of soreness all over his legs at the end of round 2 and followed his 66 with a 74. San Diego State, tournament leaders with a couple holes left, playing in poor light and almost certainly on weary legs, finished with 4 double-bogeys and a triple on the 18th and fell 9 behind USC. Tournament over.

I suspect the reasoning behind the whole “36 straight” philosophy is to speed up play, but that also makes little sense. You speed up play by setting rules on slow play, and actually enforcing them. Penalise the culprits and actually do something about it. Starving the “innocent” players of rest or food achieves nothing.

The soap box is away, let me talk about the rest of the tournament. I began the 2nd round poorly; whether or not that was a result of tiredness or the fact I had to play about 5 shots whilst chewing on a sandwich is not important. What’s important is that having been 3-over-par for the round after 7 holes, I played excellent golf from there on in to shoot a level-par 71 with a bogey at my final hole. I still wasn’t converting enough birdie chances, but I had stayed patient and calm, despite my frustration, and played my way back into the tournament.

I figured that going into round 3 I needed about a 63 or 64 in order to make the leaders nervous. I began steadily, with birdies at my 1st and 5th holes to get 2 under par. When I bogeyed 16, my 7th hole, I lost all previous momentum and from that point onwards I knew getting back into contention would be a big ask. Good birdie opportunities at 17 and 18 were squandered, and when I finally made about a 10 footer for birdie on 1, I gave it back straight away with a dropped shot on 2. Squandered chances was again the story from that point onward, although I did make a great birdie on the 500 yard par 4 5th hole to reach -2, where I would remain until I stood on the 9th tee. Knowing I was probably inside the top 10 (my secondary goal), I figured I needed another par to stay there. The water that lines the right side of the fairway stared me in the face, and I pulled my drive left into nasty rough. From there I played one of my best shots of the tournament, a hard 4 iron from 205 yards that started on the flag and never left it. It pitched just past the pin, and bounced over the green into tangly rough, which I hacked out of to about 15 feet. My putt had perfect line and speed as soon as it left the blade, and when the ball dropped I smiled at a disappointing but certainly positive day.

The bonus is my T9 finish exempts me for The Far Western at Pasatiempo next week, a course which supposedly gave Alister MacKenzie the inspiration to design a reasonably well known course called Augusta.

With 4 tournaments left in my college career, I’m hopeful I can end it on a high note.

Sorry about particularly long post this week, but thanks for reading and for bearing with me. If you have any ideas on how to improve the 36-hole day format, please send me your comments or even better, send them to The Golf Coaches Association of America at info@collegiategolf.com as they have the power to actually do something!

February 21, 2011 · by admin · James Blog

Waikoloa Beach Golf Club, Hawaii

February 2nd – 4th 2011

Waikoloa KIng's Course

It had been a long time since I had played competitive golf – the World Amateur at the start of November to be precise – but I had a couple weeks of practice at ASU and felt ready to get started on the 2011 season. We arrived a few days early and did our usual routine, playing at Mauna Kea and Nanea, before having 2 practice rounds at the tournament venue, Waikoloa Kings. The course was fairly easy and it was clear the winning score would be low, and it was, as it turned out to be -13 in windy conditions.

We started with a new team: myself, Phil Francis, Thomas Buran, Jesper Kennegard and our latest recruit, Oscar Zetterwall. Oscar joined us in August but had been ineligible to play due to some NCAA restrictions. Strangely, in contrast to my freshman year when we played with 3 or 4 freshmen in the team, all of us were seniors.

The first round did not start according to plan. I started on a short par 3 over water, and hit it straight at the pin but short in the drink. Double-bogey. Next hole, bogey. Next hole, bogey. 4 over after 3 and in great danger of playing myself out of the tournament before it even began. I would drop another shot on the 3rd, my 6th hole, to be 5-over after 7. Fortunately, I hung in there and recovered well. I played the rest of the round bogey-free with 3 birdies to post a slightly more respectable 72.

In round 2, I continued my good play and starting on the 12th, played 15 holes with no bogeys and 5 birdies. After 33 holes, I was now 3 under for the tournament and looking like finishing even better. The 9th hole was my 16th of the day, and it proved to be the hole that would end my 26 hole bogey-free run. I leaked it right a touch into the lava, and was unable to take a good drop. Not wanting to go back to the tee and risk hitting in the lava again, I dropped back 50 yards in line with the pin, pulled a 4-iron out, hit it a fraction thin, struck a tree, ended up behind another tree, chipped out, pitched on the green and 2-putted for a 7. Back to 2 under, where I finished, for a 36 hole total of even par, 144.

I was out of the running individually, and down the field in about 25th place. In the final round, I started poorly but this time didn’t recover. I struggled to maintain the high level of focus required and gradually leaked more shots. By my 10th hole, the 16th, I was 2 over par. I hit a good tee shot, reached for my 4 iron to hit my approach with and to my horror saw a club with the number 2 on it. I had used my 2 iron in practice, but had always pulled it from my bag before the round, as it wasn’t really needed on this course. I knew by having the extra club I would incur a massive penalty and 4 strokes were duly added to my score, taking me to +6. For the remaining holes I struggled to motivate myself as I no longer featured in the tournament in any form at all. I managed to par until my 16th hole, where my tee shot found water and I ran up a 7. 80 sounded like a disaster round and it was, but with the needless penalty shots 66 would have also been a disaster.

Although I had an encouraging 26 hole stretch of 18 pars and 8 birdies, clearly my game was not sharp enough and I was looking forward to getting back to Tempe to work on it. The team finished in 7th place; very disappointing considering we were in contention at one point. On the bright side, we showed several signs that good golf is around the corner and we can absolutely still be confident of a successful Spring season.

November 3, 2010 · by admin · James Blog

Buenos Aires, Argentina
28th-31st October 2010

Buenos Aires Golf Club

To get some quality practice in and to acclimatise to the change in time zone, we spent five days before Argentina playing and practicing in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We wanted to arrive in Argentina refreshed and ready to compete, and there was no better way to prepare than to spend a few days playing golf and chilling out. We spent the first two days at Sao Fernando Golf Club, and the last two at Sao Paulo Golf  Club. Both clubs were very hospitable and they were delighted to host a national team at their facilities. On the third night we went to watch a cup match between Palmeiras, one of the best football teams in Brazil, and Universitario Sucre, a lower division team. Strangely, the game didn’t start until 10 pm, but it was an amazing display of football and was certainly worth the late night. The final score was Palmeiras 3 – 1 Universitario.

Opening Ceremony

We got into Buenos Aires on Saturday morning and spent the day at the hotel. We would play practice rounds on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, before an unscheduled day off on Wednesday due to the Argentine Census. We began the tournament an Olivos Golf Club at 12:40 on Thursday afternoon, and the conditions were difficult. The course was already firm and fast, and the wind was increasing as the day went on. I was naturally nervous on the first tee, but got off to a flying start. I hit the pin with my pitch shot at the first leaving a tap in for birdie. Another tap in birdie at the 3rd took me to 2-under, but I was wary that such a fast pace would likely not last. I made the turn at 1-under, with Ross and Michael both around 3 or 4 over at the time. At the 11th I took four to get down from a poor lie in the greenside bunker, and it would prove to be a costly turning point in my round. I played the next 5 holes in 5 over par, and found myself on the 17th tee at 5 over for the round. It was nothing short of a disaster, and given the enormity of the event I was devastated to have let so many shots get away. I regained my composure and hit an excellent tee shot to the par 3 17th, before finding the par 5 18th in two shots and closing with a birdie. I had posted a 4-over-par 75, and I knew I had let the team down. Ross came in with a 76 and Michael closed out our round with a 75 to leave us in 42nd place, 15 shots behind the leaders at 8-over-par.

Sun Devils in Argentina

It had been a struggle of a day, and a terrible start. No team had ever come back to win from that many shots back on day 1, and we knew it would take heroics just to give ourselves a chance at defending our title. Fortunately, we had an excellent mentor and coach in Ian Rae in our camp, and he ensured that we would not dwell on the poor start for more than a few hours. We started our second round rejuvenated, and ready to fire ourselves back into the tournament. The weather during round two was nothing short of awful; the winds were strong during our first 7 holes before play was finally suspended due to the threat of lightning in the area. Upon resumption of play, the strong wind had now been replaced with heavy rain; rain which would fall relentlessly over the course of our entire round. Despite the tough conditions, we dug in deep and all three of us made the turn in under par. I hit a great 5 iron into the par 3 5th hole, and made a 15 footer for birdie to get to -2. I hit my tee shot at the next into trees, but chipped out and made a great par to keep the momentum going. I made another 15 footer at the 8th hole for birdie, before closing with a 7 iron to 20 feet and making the putt to post a 4-under 68. I signed my card and rushed back out to watch Ross coming in, only to find he was absent from the group. I knew he had made the turn in -4, and I was excited about the prospect of us shooting well under par for the round. Little did I know, however, that he had been sick several times on the course, and that by the time he reached the 5th hole, he was unable to continue playing. We had been reduced to two men, and as it turned out it would remain that way for the remainder of the competition. The only good news was that Michael had a steady round going, and he posted an even-par 72 to give us a team round of -4 140 and fired us all the way up to 10th place.

Approach to 17th Green at BAGC

We had shot the best round of the day, and given ourselves a genuine opportunity to get back into the tournament. Or so we thought. That evening, the decision was made to reduce the event to 54 holes, thus virtually eliminating any slim chance that we had. We sat 11 shots behind France, and would require two career rounds, in the absence of Ross, in order to make those shots up.

I woke on Sunday morning and opened my curtains to lively treetops. The wind was up again and I knew we would thrive in the testing conditions. This was great news. We began the round with only 2 players (Ross watched from the side) and started brightly again. The pressure was on; this time we knew from the start that every shot would count and in the high winds only the slightest lapse in concentration would lead to dropped shots. I lost my way half way through the opening nine with 3 consecutive bogeys, but kept my head screwed on and managed to bounce back with 4 straight birdies from the 17th to the 2nd. I glanced at a couple of leaderboards; we had finally moved into the top 5 and had a slim chance of challenging the leaders. As we got to the last few holes, however, it was clear that we needed another 18 holes and that the end of the tournament was coming too soon for us. I made a great up and down from 50 yards on 18 to save par, to post a 1-under 71, a 1-under total and place in a tie for 4th in the individual standings. Michael shot 3-over, both scores being good enough for solo 5th place as a team.

Worthy Winners Alex, Romain, and Johann of France

Considering the difficulties we faced from the 1st round onwards, 5th place can certainly be regarded as a good result. We played 2 rounds with only 2 players, and ultimately had the tournament been 72 holes we would have had a much better chance of catching the winners, France. I was pleased with my finish individually and it puts a nice gloss on what has been a successful 2010 for me. France were certainly worthy winners and their total score of -7 was very impressive given the weather conditions.

We closed the tournament with a dinner and prizegiving, which ran on well past midnight, although we didn’t stay long. The great thing about the World Amateur is having the chance to meet and catch up with friends from all over the world, and fortunately for me I will likely see many of them on my travels with Arizona State next Spring and during the Summer. Over the next three or four months I have no tournaments at all, which is the first genuine break from tournament golf I have had in ten months. It may seem like a lengthy lay off, but it gives me a great opportunity to work hard at my game and catch up on schoolwork, something I have fallen behind on over the last few weeks.

The next tournament I play will be in Hawaii in the first week of February, but I will write another blog before then. I have plenty going on in my life between school, practice and the Christmas break, so I will try to keep you all posted.

Go Devils

James

October 1, 2010 · by James · James Blog

Karsten Creek Golf Club, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

26th – 28th September 2010

After an extremely tough test of golf at Olympia Fields, we had about 5 days off to prepare for what we knew would be an even tougher golf course at Oklahoma State’s home course, Karsten Creek. The course is famed for its difficulty and when Sun Devil Alejandro Canizares won the individual NCAA title there in 2003 his winning score was only -1. Despite that, we had a few days of good practice and managed to learn a lot about the course in the practice round. After our despicable last place showing at Olympia, all the guys were determined to put in a good performance.

10th Hole at Karsten Creek

Fortunately, by finishing T20 at Olympia, I was exempt from qualifying and could spend the time catching up on school. After 2 rounds of qualifying, we would make just one change to our lineup, bringing Spencer Fletcher in after Thomas Buran pulled out with a sore back. Spencer took the spot by finishing 2nd in qualifying.

Oklahoma is renowned for being a windy state, and on the first round the winds gusted at at least 25mph. A more accurate description would probably be a 15mph wind on average for the day. I am used to the wind, playing my summer golf at home in the UK, but those are on links golf courses. This course was not designed for low runners, rather the ball had to be played in the air and landing softly on the greens. The difference between Karsten Creek and Olympia is that wayward shots at Olympia could be found and occasionally one could salvage a par or bogey. The dense rough and bushes surrounding the fairways at Karsten allowed for no such lucky breaks and as a result there were lots of provisional balls being played. Even though I would consider my ball flight to be generally quite high, I managed to keep the ball in play and post a round of 74 (+2) to lead us after day 1. Unfortunately, the guys found it tough and we posted a 19 over 307. Playing amongst one of the strongest fields of the year, the average score was 77.8.

With OK State shooting (an outstanding) even par on the first round, it would be an uphill climb and we knew we had left ourselves too much to do. To make things worse, Scott woke up for his 2nd round with a popped rib, and wouldn’t strike a ball for the rest of the tournament. That left us with 4 players meaning all our scores would count for the last 2 rounds.

18th Green

Apart from 6 holes on my back nine in the 2nd round, I managed my game well over the last 36 and shot 78, 74. On the 14th hole in round 2, I hit a wayward drive to the right and totally lost my rhythm. Over the closing holes, I tried desperately to steer the ball into play somehow and inevitably, failed to do so. From being even par after 12 holes, I had to settle for a disappointing 78, and my tournament was effectively over. However, I played steady golf again in the final round and although I was unable to break the top 20 for another exemption, my 2 over 74 was enough for a top 30 finish. Not what I was hoping for, but after my disastrous finish to round 2, far from a disaster. As for the team, we had no chance without Scott and placed well down the field again in 11th place.

Next up for us is The Prestige tournament at PGA West, Stadium Course in Palm Springs. I will have to qualify again but my game is feeling good at the moment and I feel like my putting is finally starting to come around. So long as I can keep focused throughout qualifying I am confident of making it through and hopefully I can finish the fall season in style.

Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony

In the meantime, the Ryder Cup begins in less than 5 hours and unfortunately for me coverage starts at 11:45pm. I have been waiting for this for a long time though and am determined not to miss a shot. Better go get some coffee then!!

Go Devils!

.. and Europe!

September 20, 2010 · by admin · James Blog

Olympia Fields Country Club

17th – 19th September 2010

Jesper, Phil, Scott and Thomas

As defending champions, we were given the luxury of staying at the clubhouse, rather than at the normal hotel which is 20 minutes away. It was far more convenient, and it gave us some extra time after our rounds to do a bit of practice or chill out for a bit longer.

Olympia Fields has a reputation for being one of the hardest golf courses on the collegiate circuit. The scores back that reputation up. Since the first college tournament in 2006 there have only been 2 winning scores under par; 2007, when Rickie Fowler shot an incredible 63 in the second round, and this year, where Peter Uilhein shot an outstanding 204 and won by 3 shots.

I had been working hard in the lead up to this event, particularly on my wedges, chipping, and swing. I hit the ball great all 3 rounds, hitting 40 greens out of 54, which was probably up there with the tournament contenders. I did not, however, take advantage of my ball striking and missed far too many birdie chances and par saves than I could afford. My average putts per round for the week was 32.33, which was probably 3 putts per round more than I needed to be. On a normal putting week I would have finished 2nd alone, and on a good putting week might have won. The good thing about stats though, is that I know where improvements have to be made, and on the back of this tournament it is clear I need to hole a few more if I am going to score better.

Me with Asst. Coach Mickey Yokoi

Having said that, I didn’t score too badly and finished at 5 over par to finish in a tie for 20th. Unfortunately for us, my rounds of 71, 75 and 69 were the best on the team and we finished in dead last. This is the first time this has happened since I’ve been at ASU, but perhaps it’s the kick in the teeth we needed to spur us on to making some serious improvements. What is for certain is that we have a quality team of players and with 5 seniors in the team we’re determined to go out with a bang. My 69 was one of the best scores of the final round, and considering in the past I have struggled in final rounds, I was delighted to move up 18 places into a respectable finish. Another highlight was to have no double-bogeys on my card. This might sound strange, but on a golf course like that keeping the high numbers off the card is critical. By making nothing worse than bogey all week, I was able to stay in the game and keep a much more level head. It’s also probably the first time I’ve managed it in over 3 years of college golf.

A bonus for me is that my T20 makes me exempt for team qualifying and already have a ticket booked for Karsten Creek next week. I mentioned Olympia is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, but Karsten Creek outdoes them all. From the reports I’ve heard, it’s easily hard enough to host a US Open and the boys at Oklahoma State regularly shoot in the 80s in qualifying. It is going to be a brutal test of patience and concentration, so luckily my exempt status gives me a week off to prepare for what will surely be a mentally grueling 54 holes.

Aside from practice, I have about 5 papers to write and a test to take this week, so it’s going to be a stressful one. These are the times when time-management becomes imperative, and hopefully I can manage it so that I’m not worn out by the time we leave on Friday.

Thanks for reading

Go Devils

September 10, 2010 · by admin · James Blog

Castelconturbia Golf Club, Italy

27th & 28th August 2010

I flew to Italy from Arizona after spending just a week back at school to prepare for the upcoming year. I had to move all my stuff into a new apartment which took up the majority of that time. I spent the week rooming with Laurie Canter, who has had an incredible year winning numerous major amateur events as well as competing in this year’s Open. The hotel was nothing short of expectations and boasted an amazing view over Lake Maggiore. I was also given the additional pleasure of being handed 4 boxes of GB&I kit upon arrival. Glenmuir shirts and sweaters and Oscar Jacobsen trousers; the R&A certainly don’t miss a beat. Playing for GB&I is arguably the pinnacle of a British amateur’s career, and the extras thrown in made the experience even more special.

Moving on from the goodies and on to the golf..

We arrived to Castelconturbia on Tuesday for a practice round, and we tried to get a feel of who our foursomes partners might be. On Wednesday, we switched the pairings again, and by the end of practice it was fairly clear who would be matched with whom. The course was in poor condition after months of drought followed by heavy rain, but the layout nonetheless was excellent. The course clearly has pedigree as it has been voted one of the best courses in Europe. Our Captain for the week would be Nigel Edwards, Walker Cup stalwart and GB&I hero in 2003, when he secured the winning point. His vast experience in international golf and passion for GB&I golf in particular was hugely influential on the team, and come Thursday morning all the lads were raring to go.

I would be paired in both foursomes games with Paul Cutler, a teammate of mine in two Jacques L’Eglise Trophies and winner of this year’s Lytham Trophy. On the first day’s morning foursomes, we came up against Italian Nino Bertasio and Kalle Samooja of Finland. (Matteo Manassero stopped by to watch, on his way to Switzerland where he would place 3rd at the Omega Masters.) Paul and I linked up nicely, and worked up a 2 hole lead after 6 holes. However, we would let that lead slip, and by the time we reached the 18th tee the match stood all-square. Kalle crushed a drive, leaving just 60 yards to the pin. Paul had found the right semi, and my wedge shot came up short, leaving about 30 feet with a lot of break. Nino, as expected, pitched to about 6 feet leaving a straight birdie putt. We both knew Paul would have to hole, and sure enough with about 3 feet left, the ball was destined for the centre of the cup. However, it took a sharp left turn and slide over the lip. Kalle would hole, and a very even match would agonizingly end in defeat.

Onto the singles, and I was drawn against the Frenchman Romain Wattel, ranked 4th in the world at the time. I found myself 3 down at the turn, but a word of encouragement at the turn from Nigel spurred me on and I would play the next 6 holes in -5 to get back to 1 down. Crucially, I missed the fairway at the 16th, bogeyed the hole, and all momentum was lost. I lost on the 17th green, 3&1. I was gutted to lose both games, but equally knew I had put up a fight and probably deserved more.

Me and foursomes partner Paul Cutler

We trailed the Euros 7-5 going into the final day, and Paul and I were drawn against Pontus Widegren and my college teammate Jesper Kennegard, both of Sweden. After starting nicely we found ourselves 3 up after 9. We would consolidate that lead with a birdie at the 10th, and after 13 holes the match stood 4 up. The Swedes birdied the 14th, but we held firm with pars at the next 2 holes to take the match 3&2. I had a point under my belt, and more importantly, we had drawn within a point of the Europeans going into the singles.

I would lead us off in the singles and faced a rematch against Nino, who I knew based on Thursday’s game would be a tough opponent. The match was again tight and a lead of more than 2 up was never established. Yet again, by the time we reached the 18th tee, there was nothing between us. At this stage, a point on the board for us would be crucial, and I knew it. The pressure was high; Nigel was following in his cart, and crowds had appeared in support of Nino. The 18th hole awkwardly dog-legs right, with tall trees guarding against a push. We both drove to the left and found decent lies, but the wind was swirling and it was difficult to judge distance. I would play first, and from just over 90 yards, the swing felt good. The ball was straight at the pin, but I could only watch in despair as the wind shot my ball from the air and it fell just short of the green. Nino had perhaps 70 yards remaining, and although a tricky lie in the rough, I had a gut feeling what would follow. The shot was blind, but his ball landed with an eruption from the local support, and it was obvious it was close, probably a tap-in. As we reached the green, his ball appeared and it was 18 inches from the cup. I hit my chip stone dead but it came up just short, and Nino tapped in to beat me at the last with birdies on consecutive days. It was a killer blow to nyself and the team, and as the matches panned out it became evident we would fall just short. We won just 2 of the final 8 matches, and fell victim to a 14-10 loss.

It was a tough loss but all the same a tremendous experience for all the GB&I players. Nigel was gracious in defeat and had been a brilliant captain all week. It was a great feeling to wear the lion of GB&I and now that I’ve had a taste I can honestly say I am already counting down to next year’s Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. However, that can only be dictated by my results between now and then and hopefully a successful college season can help to secure my place. What’s for certain is that with the majority of this year’s team returning next year, the Americans will have to be at the top of their game to retain the Cup.

In a week’s time we will be leaving to Olympia Fields Golf Club, Chicago (host of 2003 US Open) for the Olympia Fields Invitational.

Go Devils

Postscript:  Nino Bertasio would go on to win the Monday qualifier for the Omega Masters at Crans-Sur-Sierre and place T38th, after being T7th with a round to go. On the same weekend, Romain Wattel accepted an invite to the Allianz Challenge Tour event, and won by 3 shots. He is the 5th amateur to have won on the Challenge Tour.

March 30, 2010 · by James · James Blog

Las Vegas

12th-14th March 2010

I have played some brutal courses over the years, including Carnoustie in the rain, Muirfield in the wind, and Purdue with the rough up at 5 inches. The course at Southern Highlands was well up there with all of them. Never have I played a course with such challenging par 5s.. indeed, even par on the 5s for the week would have been a great achievement. I played them in +14, basically what prevented me from challenging for the title. My teammate Jesper, individual medalist at +3, played them in even. The rough was up, the wind was up, and the greens were so fast and dried out they were basically dead. When the wind got up to 30mph in the 2nd round, reading putts was no longer a necessity, reading the wind was more important. With my 54 hole total of 17 over par, I placed in the top half of one of the best fields of the year and (with my par 5 trouble) could have easily contended.

Vegas is certainly one of the more expensive tournaments of the year. We stayed in the Luxor (pyramid) hotel, and ate at the some of the best spots in town. The golf course would easily get into my top 10 favourite such is the quality of the fairways, greens and surrounding foliage. As for the running of the tournament, players are met with Pro-v1 range balls to warm up, Gatorade every 3 holes, and cookies and apples on the 1st and 10th. Even the announcer goes the extra distance by announcing players from their hometown, rather than just their school.

The first day was easily the most benign, weather wise, with a dozen players breaking par. Strangely, it was also my best ball striking day of the 3, off the tee anyway, missing only one fairway. But every time I misjudged an approach shot, I ended up short sided, and on this golf course short sided means bogey or worse – no exceptions. Here, the miracle flop shot landing soft as a butterfly simply doesn’t work. From above the hole, the balls runs 20 feet past regardless, often much further. In the practice round, I tried a chip from the back right of the 18th green, barely letting the ball reach the surface. 30 seconds later, it was 50 feet from where I stood. A frustrating opening round finished with a double bogey, and I was well adrift.

Rumours spread on the first day that 30 mph winds were due for the second round. Sure enough, they arrived and the scores ballooned to highs probably rarely seen at this level of college or even amateur golf before. The average score for the day was 79.5, with more than half the field failing to break 80. When I reached the turn at +5 for the round, I was heading in a similar direction. But birdies at 12, 13 and 17 got me back on track, even back into the tournament. My 9 iron approach to the last hole pitched 8 feet from the cup, and I was confident of finishing the round at a commendable +1. However, a combination of fierce wind and a hint of backspin sent the ball careering down a false front, 30 yards off the green and almost into a hazard. I couldn’t get up and down, and signed for a 75.

Starting on the same nine I ended my 2nd round on, I continued to  move up with birdies at 5 and 7. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it going and my first really bad drive of the tournament on 11 cost me a double bogey. From there I couldn’t get off the bogey train and although I still had a solid round in store, I took 7 down the brutal 18th hole for a 77. I knew I had played some excellent golf over the 54 holes, but the par 5s inevitably cost me dearly. +14 when I usually play them well under par. Had I managed the 5s in even (impressive as that is), like Jesper, I would have tied him for the victory.

(Below: Record high scoring. Note Number 1 ranked Oklahoma State, and 4 ranked Florida.)

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