It seems to have been a long wait, but the 2019 season has finally begun!
Before going to tour school in December, I remember thinking and telling a lot of people that my plans for this year would become much clearer once I had been to tour school. Then I would know where I stood and what status I would have for 2019. So I came home from Morocco, had a little bit of time off over Christmas (much needed!), and then got cracking with trying to arrange a schedule for the season. But I suddenly felt really uncertain again about my plans for the year. Yes I had gained status on the LET Access Tour, but I still wasn’t really sure what events I would get into and how I would plan accordingly. I entered the first event of the year and was immediately put on the reserve list. Now, ask anyone that knows me well, and they will tell you that I am a massive worrier. And so as you can imagine, I was in a bit of a panic, probably more internally than anything else. How would I plan? How would I know what events I’d be playing and how could I be sure that I would be playing in enough events? Well with the help of a few friends and my parents, I have managed to get my head around it all (I think) and the season is underway!
I started the year with my first event on the Santander Tour a couple of weeks ago in Spain. They run a series of smaller 36-hole events all over Spain, so it was perfect for making my professional debut. Shorter trip, smaller field, bit more relaxed…and of course a bit of sunshine was a bonus! I travelled with a friend who was also playing the event, so we shared a car and got an AirBnB – highly recommend, by the way, for anyone who travels a lot – and we had a blast. Having time off from competition through the winter definitely has pros and cons. I had plenty of time to work on some technical things with my coach, and also time to rest up a little bit and spend with family and friends. But I always tend to feel a little uneasy about the first event back. Not unconfident, but just nervous and I suppose keen to see if all of the graft over the winter months has paid off. I was pleased with how I played, although definitely a little bit rusty here and there, and I felt as though my major errors were more mental or course management related, so that was very promising.
The following week I travelled to the south of France to play in the LETAS Terre Blanche Ladies’ Open, a 54-hole event and the first on a very strong LET Access Tour schedule this year. I have played in 3 Access Tour events before as an amateur so I felt very comfortable, and honestly was just really excited to be there! The course and facilities were fantastic, the standard of golf was high, and I was really pleased to have made my first cut and finish tied-19th overall!
Something that quite a few people have asked me since turning pro is whether or not it feels any different being a professional golfer. My answer is always not really. I mean, I’m travelling further afield now, and I’m playing for my living, but I’m still the same golfer, setting goals and working hard towards them just like I was before. But something did feel different the last few weeks, and it’s kind of difficult to explain. The processes were all the same – arrive at the course on the first practice day, register, collect all the necessary info, play a practice round, and so on. Tournament day routine was the same – get to the course an hour and fifteen minutes before my tee time, stretch, putt, hit the range, putt some more, same routine as normal. But the atmosphere is just different to amateur golf somehow. Everyone is that much more focused, and that much more intense, but at the same time, the atmosphere is far more relaxed and friendly than it ever was in amateur golf. We are all there trying to make a living, all opponents, but there is so much support between all the players. It’s something that I never really felt in amateur golf. It felt a lot lonelier than professional golf does now, and I expected it to be very much the opposite.
I suppose that is one of the many, many things I will learn this year and in this new chapter. Professional golf is definitely different, but hey, change is good! Making the decision to turn professional was a massive one for me, as it is for anyone. I questioned over and over whether I was ready and whether it was the right time and the right choice. Even though I have only just started, and I know there is a long way to go – a journey full of ups and downs, great results and missed cuts – I think I can confidently say that this was the right step, and I feel so comfortable in this arena already that I don’t feel anything but excitement for everything that is to come.