Saturday, December 15, 2007

One Break Will Not a Career Make

I've recieved some amazing words of encouragement from some great friends in the past few days about moving forward. What happend to me on the second hole in the second round of final stage was extreamly unfortunate and possibly unfair, but as one bit of encouragement went, " really bad break will not define a career. It all balances itself out in the end." So now I need to move forward with the knowledge that I am getting better and have improved my game and golf career since I have been in Asia. I just found out that I actually will be exempted into a few Asian Tour events this year based on my performance in stage 1. Maybe a 'lucky' break combine with some great play will have me winning one of those events.

It's time to get back on the horse and find a new road.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Last round of Final Stage

A ball which is hit in "abnormal ground" (ground under repair, deemed by an outline, or casual water) in the USGA rulebook, through the green (Normal grass playing areas) and lost can be dropped and played without penalty if it is certain the ball landed in the 'abnormal ground' area. USGA Rule 25.1.c.

I'm sure the universe tested many dreamers' faith today, but it still doesnt seem fair. On the second hole of the day, a par 5, I hit a perfect drive and followed it up with a good looking approach shot that soared towards the left side of the green and landed a few yards off, into a large, safe, rough area. The course was extreamly wet at 7:20 or so when I hit the shot and this shot did what every shot all day did, the ball embedded into the ground. There were two spotters next to the green who saw the shot bury into the ground, as well as my playing partner, who was already closer to the green after having layed up his second shot and walking ahead.

We searched for that buried ball that everyone had seen come down three yards off the side of the green, 30 feet from the hole, for five minutes to no avail. Thinking that because the golf course was so wet and everyone saw the ball come down and bury into the ground in the same place, I might be able to drop in that place without penalty, I played two balls (an option that you have in golf when you are unsure what a ruling would be), one ball at the location of my buried second shot, and in the unfortunate case that a rules official would deem that ball "lost," I went back to the origin of the shot (250 yards away) to replay another with a penalty stroke incured.

The ball I played from the buried location, I chipped up to one foot from the hole. To give you the abridged version, two rules officials came and told me that although my ball was seen by two spotters who were within 15 yards of the ball when it landed and saw it embed in the ground and my playing partner, our caddies and I had seen the shot land in the same location within a few paces of the side of the green in an extreamly soft area, the ball was deemed 'lost' and I had to take the penalty.

I protested nicely at first. That cordiality gradually transformed into rage as the old rules official seemed to take delight in delivering his ruling. I proceeded to make a double bogey after the penalty, which essentially costed me three strokes. We found four other balls in the small area while searching for mine. We had to step on all of them to find them because they were so deep in the ground. The ground was not 'normal golfing ground,' which should make it 'abnormal,' therefore I should get a free drop. The rules officials on site didnt see it my way. They said it wasnt marked as 'ground under repair' prior to the event and everyone had to play it that way. Not everyone had a 7:00 am tee time though when already wet, soft ground was more so that way.

Tonight I sit here after a journey filled with an eclectic group of experiances ranging from seeing some of the most brilliant scenary in the world and winning a tournament, to losing over 20 pounds in a week and having one of the highest fever I've ever experianced. Yes, I could have putted better, avoided a few mistakes, played in the moment more effectively and even with the penalty, I could have qualified. I didnt play even close to the standard I set for myself last week. Therefore, this is not an excuse, just an extreamly unfortunate situation that makes me cringe because after everything plays itself out, I will miss the two round cut by one shot and not have the chance to return to that standard.

I will wake up, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few days and come to the realization that nothing worth attaining is ever easy. To achieve a worthwhile dream takes overcomming mental, physical, emotional and spiritual challenge, time and time again. But tonight, that Titleist 3 nose-diving deep into the wet earth, only steps from success, will be the thought I need to put to sleep.

Thank you for all the support over the last two weeks,
Better days are on the universe's horizon, they have to be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Round 1, Final Stage

The big headline on today's Asian Tour website doesnt include Mark Baldwin. It is a picture of Jean Van De Velde with the title, "Van De Velde gears up for Asian Tour Qualifying." Suprisingly, they mention his 'near win' at the 1999 British Open. Poor guy can't ever escape one bad hole.

Today was one bad round for me. But I will be able to escape it with a repeat performance of last week's third round, tomorrow. After 12 holes that included me playing down the wrong holes, hitting shots out from behind trees and missing short putts, I found myself at +4. I birdied 13, 14 and 15 to make a little charge which was deflated by a 3 putt bogey on 17. I finished at +2, 74.

The field will be cut in half tomorrow, meaning, I am in dire need of an impressive round come morning. One great round tomorrow is all it takes to put me back on Tour Card Road. I play at 7 am on Sabah CC, the more difficult of the two courses. Shooting a low score on the difficult course simply means potential to move farther up the leaderboard. I'll test how much leaderboard potential lies in a low round tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Final Stage Game Plan

The Finals are here. Starting tomorrow, I will play for one of 40 asian tour cards against 190 other players from around the world. The competitors consist of '07 Asian Tour players finishing between 60 and 120 on the money list, European Tour players, the top 10 players on the South African Sunshine Tour, the 10-top ranked players on the Canadian Tour and Japanese Tours and 40 first stage qualifiers, including me. A strong field.

The two tournament venues are Sabah GCC and Sutera Harbour CC. Sabah GCC is a narrow and water-logged course that utilizes cow grass on its fairways and rough area (meaning: all areas are rough areas). Fortunately, the course I practiced at in Kuala Lumpur for two weeks prior to comming to Borneo had the same grass and similar conditions.

Sutera Harbour is a well-maintained, resort course with lots of water and firm, undulating, grainy greens. It is like playing a typical florida course where everything is in front of you. There are no suprises. The grass is bermuda, making it more similar to a florida course. This course is set along the ocean and has some beautiful views. The grain of the grass on the greens makes putting challenging with all the added slope.

The venues are very different from the course I won first stage qualifying on. Borneo CC was a long course with soft, flatter greens. The wind gusts were strong off the ocean and could make a very long hole, very short or vice-versa. Although one of the venues is on the ocean here, the locals call this place "the land below the wind."

My focus this week will be on getting the ball in the fairway in wedge range. My wedge play is stronger than ever and I have lots of confidence that if you put a wedge in my hands, I'll show you where the hole is. The next order of business is putting. With all the slopes and grain this week, a great ball striker could get shut out if he is not placing the ball under the hole. This week, the difference between birdies and bogies could very well be hitting the ball 15 feet under the hole as opposed to above it.

What worked for me in stage one was my ability to relax in the heat of battle. When I was faced with my most challenging shots last week, I was at my calmest. This emotional stability led me to gain strokes on the field because I hit great shots where a more nervous competitor made a tenative and costly swing. I also played in the moment last week, paying little attention to score and position. I didnt know where I stood until I found out I was playing in the final group on the last day. When I made a ten foot, par saving putt on my 72nd hole, I had no idea it was for the medalist position. I didnt pay attention to leaderboards, only to individual bests. I tried to shoot the best score I could. I was only playing against myself. There was a tournament, a competition, but in my mind, there was no cut and no first or second place, there was only me attempting to shoot the lowest score I could.

I'll adopt this mentality again this week and when my last shot is holed, I'll look up to the leaderboard to see my name.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Stage 1 Q-School Results

Tonight I am just too wiped out to go into much detail beyond saying that my scrambling ability allowed me to post a round of 68 today for a four round total of -16, 272 and first place position at the conclusion of Stage 1. Stage 2 starts this comming wednesday where I will battle for 1 of 40 tour cards that will be issued. has the final results of todays events in their fourth headline on the homepage.

132 players started at my stage on wednesday. The field was cut to 80 players after two rounds and 18 players advanced today to final stage.

I will write more tomorrow, thanks for all the support this week!!

Asian Tour Q-School Pics

New Pics from Borneo Golf and CC:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Round 3

Round 3: I hit 18 greens in regulation...maybe the first time I've done that ever in competition and posted -8, 64. My three round total is -12, 204 and although I havent paid any attention to standing this week, I would have to assume I have a great position heading into the final round. Tomorrow I have the luxury of spending the final round playing to be the medalist of the first stage instead of grinding away, worrying about what the cut number will be. I will keep on playing in the moment, like I've done all week and when the stage 1 is complete tomorrow, I will write a detailed account of the event and post new pictures. Thanks for sending the encouraging messages this week...whatever vibes everyone is sending is much appreciated and helping me shoot great scores.

PS~ I made my Asian TV debut today following my round...introduced the far east to the yankee cowboy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Round 2

After a blustery afternoon on the oceanside links of Borneo GC, I posted a round 2 score of -1, 71. My two round total is -4, 140. The field is now cut in half and the final two rounds are approaching. I think I am somewhere around 10th place. I am trying to play in the moment this week and not get overly concerned with scores, both mine and my competitors, so I havent really checked my position.

My putter has been letting me down since the begining of the tourney but after some minor tweaks on the practice green this evening, I am confident that dynamic will change tomorrow.

I birdied the 16th by sticking an 8 iron to 3 feet and followed it up by narrowly missing a 20 foot eagle opportunity on 17 and taping in for birdie. The finishing hole had me in the short side bunker (a trecherous place) with a steep lip and the pin seemingly resting ontop of it. I hit the perfect sand shot that lipped out of the low side of the hole and came to rest a foot past the cup. Lots of good vibes heading into tomorrow's 3rd round. Stay tuned, great things to come.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

And their off...

I was able to get a day 1 7:30 tee time starting on the more difficult of the two nine hole sides which meant: the more challenging side's ground would be softer and I wouldn't have to contend with much wind. After my name was announced at 7:32, I hit my opening tee shot 315 down the left center of the fairway with a slight cut into the middle.

There is an art to the game in general, but the opening tee shot of a major competition adopts new meaning because it carries with it more emotion and adrenaline than a player will typically face all day. You've prepared for weeks, maybe months, rehearsed every shot over a thousand times. You've envisioned yourself playing this particular opening shot for the last few days yet, your hands still manage to shake a little; it becomes a test of faith. For some players, those little jitters and hand shakes translate into negative energy. For me, it is the highest form of being. It means you're alive, living in a defining moment and you are being tested. The prep work leading up to the event is monotonous, painful and can be boring. This moment makes it all worthwhile. It's like laying down your inner fortitude as the bet on the black jack table. It's about taking control of your life and then letting it go to regain control again. No matter what happens, this moment is nothing short of spectacularly revealing.

I was able to take advantage of the morning conditions and made the turn in three under par 33. I played well on the following side, but it failed to yeild as many birdies and donated a couple bogies to the cause. When the dust settled, I walked away from the course with a scorecard that read 69 and a belief that there are a lot more opportunities waiting for me to grasp hold of tomorrow. If I can manage to find and maintain a comfortable emotional state for round 2, the leaders of the tournament are going to find themselves getting passed like my ball over my competitors' on the tournament's opening tee shot.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Green light

It's tournament time! That is refreshing to say. The time before tournaments is almost too much to handle. It's like the drive to pickup your dream girl for your first date. There is all this emotion and excitment, pressure and anticipation building and waning inside in random bursts and it is your job to manage all of it; to pick up the blocks and put them where they fit.

When we finally arrived at the tourney site two days ago, there was no record of me having requested a hotel room and no rooms available in their 27 room chalet. The resort is an hour and a half from civilization and the nearest small town in over half an hour in the opposite direction...I opted for the small town and am now staying in a small motel in an extreamly remote Malaysian village. It consists of a few hotspots: a local grocery store, a chinese restuarant, a few indian restaurants and some small shops, one of which happens to be an internet reminds me of a small college. It has a bubble enviroment feel.

The golf course is very challenging. Three holes are on the ocean and use it as a hazard. The wind blows strongly off the ocean and onto the well-designed course. Nicklaus did a great job with this course...lots of decisions to be made. For examlple, the 13th is a 425 par 4 with a giant pond running down the center of the hole. You tee off on the right side of the pond and at some point have to make it to the left side. If you choose this route off the tee, you contend with a 250 carry over the pond, straight into the ocean breeze. If you play down the right and cross on shot 2, you're landing area is considerable narrower on shot 1 with water and OB in play. Then you have to cross the pond on shot 2 and play into a narrow green surrounded by water and bunkers, not to mention the ocean breeze that blows across your shot.

I mention this hole because it is here where I will pick up shots on the field: I can use my driving abilities to an advantage and cross on shot 1, leaving a shot wedge into the hole. There are more subtle choices all over the golf course.

Despite my weakened condition and dramatic weight loss, my preparation has been flawless and the results have dictated that. I had the two best practice rounds of my life in the last two days. Monday I hit the ball beautifully and found some shots I can rely on this week. Today, I made my final decisions as to aiming points, club selections, etc. and executed like a man on a mission. I know that if I can stay confident, faithful and relaxed in the heat of battle tomorrow, there is nothing that should impede me from making the goal of qualifying for the asian tour a reality.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sorry for my lack of attention in the last week to my was an unfortunate matter of priorities. Long story synopsis is I contracted the southeast Asia hebbie jebbies and couldnt keep any food or water in my body for the entire week. That, combine with a high fever, didnt leave much energy for anything besides attempting to sleep.

Good news is I'm on the mend. Today was the first day out of bed and I made it out for a short practice session. I also got on the scale to find whatever was in my body, absconded with 20 pounds. I have a new 'trim' self. But hey, it's the Asian monk way..."when in Asia..."

Q-School starts this comming Wednesday and I am headed to the tourney site tomorrow. I'll get at least two good days of practice Monday and Tuesday and hopefully plenty of rest tomorrow so I can be ready for them.

As the comming week's days pass, I will keep the blog updated.