“Opp-Season”

Winter. What a horrible time of year. I am a huge fan of cold, bright, and crisp winter mornings…the ones where you can wrap up nice and warm and go out for a walk, but unfortunately those seem to be few and far between in England at the moment! Instead, it’s just windy and wet. All the time. During the winter months, I have always really felt for the people who work outside – the gardeners, the labourers, the guys doing road maintenance, and so on. And sometimes it takes me a few minutes to realise that, actually, I am one of them. I’m a professional golfer and my office is the golf course, and let me tell you, there are plenty of times throughout the winter where I think to myself: “why on earth have I chosen to play an outdoor sport?” (*insert face palm emoji)

However, as miserable as winter can be, it is probably the most important time of the year for us. Our competitive season runs from April to October – and even longer for some – so we have from November to March to take some rest and then get prepared for the next season. It seems like quite a long time, but with qualifying school usually somewhere in the middle, it is so important to try and maximise the time we have either side of that and work on the parts of our game that need improving. My strength coach at uni (shoutout to Eric!) always said of winter: “it’s not off-season, it’s opp-season” – the perfect opportunity to grow, as long as we use the time wisely! The beginning of opp-season is always quite exciting. It’s a time of rest and reflection, reviewing stats and setting new goals. For me this year, it was particularly exciting. I spent a lot of the later part of the season really struggling with my game, and I had reached a point where I was getting increasingly frustrated and starting to question a lot of things. I took some time off at the end of October, reviewed my stats and reflected on my performances – the good and the bad – and came up with a plan for the coming months. I changed coaches at this time, which was a very hard decision to make. I had worked with my previous swing coach, Antony, for nearly 6 years, and he had helped me progress so much. Looking at swing videos from then to now, my old swing is completely unrecognisable. I mean, I managed, but anyone who knows what a decent, functional golf swing should look like would have laughed out loud. He broke my game down and pretty much rebuilt it, so to make the decision to stop working with him was difficult. But I felt I needed a fresh set of eyes, maybe a slightly different perspective on things, and someone to help build up some of the confidence I had lost. So I began working with my new coach, Richard, who is not only continuing to expand my knowledge of the swing and my understanding of my own swing, but is also able to offer so many lessons he has learned from his experience of playing professional golf. We have targeted the areas of my game that need improvement and are working on a more consistent and functional swing technique that will hopefully lead to steadier performances this year!

The opp-season is also the perfect time to get back into the gym with my strength coach, Brian. We have worked together for about 4 years now, and it has been really interesting to see how our program has developed over the years. He has helped me to maintain a great level of general fitness and has expanded my knowledge of functional training and how I can best use the gym to benefit my game. We now have a really solid routine which consists of strength and dynamic power training. We spend two days working on core strength exercises, and another two days on quicker, more functional movements. I could go on and on about it, but I will save that for another post. The point is that it is sometimes difficult to always maintain my fitness levels during the season, especially the strength portion, because we don’t always have access to gym facilities and our daily schedules at events can be pretty hectic! So during the winter months, we work really hard to build a solid foundation of strength and conditioning so I am physically and mentally prepared for the season ahead!

While winter is a time for opportunity and improvement and growth, it can be easy to lose sight of that sometimes. At times I have found myself really lacking motivation and desire to go out and practice, especially in the cold and wet conditions. I have struggled with this at times recently, feeling guilty for losing motivation, and a close friend of mine reminded me that playing golf is my job, just like working in an office is her job, and there are bound to be times that I don’t want to go to work, just like there are times that she doesn’t and everyone doesn’t. Everything comes with its own peaks and troughs. The great thing about professional golf is that every day is so different, every event is different, and your work is really never done! So while winter days may be cold and wet and miserable – can you tell that I’m looking forward to Spring?! – there is so much opportunity in all of them.

Change is good…

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.

Full Circle

“Golf is hard. Golf is bloody frustrating. Golf brings you to the depth of despair. Wake up tomorrow, still love it, push to get better every day.” – Richie Ramsay

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Well…..

It’s been a while. When I started this blog, I was in a pretty good place, and I was like “Yeah! I’m gonna be really great at this and I’m gonna keep on top of things and I’m gonna write blog posts all the time!”. That obviously didn’t happen, and I don’t mean or like to sound cliché, but I honestly don’t know where the last 8 months have gone, or however long it has been since my last post. It’s scary how fast time is flying. For a lot of those months, I felt really lost. I felt like there were so many things that I wanted to write about, but my mind was just all over the place. I couldn’t organise my thoughts enough to put them in writing – probably because 95% of them were completely irrational, but that’s a topic for another time. But now here we are, the beginning of a new year, and – here I go again with a cliché – I do feel like I’m starting fresh!

I wanna give you a little bit of insight into a couple of the experiences I had last year. I had a really average start to my season. Still tackling some swing changes, I produced a decent result at the South American Amateur, and a not so decent result at the Portuguese Amateur. Overall? Okay. I went to the Spanish Amateur in February and I actually felt pretty good! I was travelling on my own, which I don’t mind at all, but it’s always a little bit of a worry that you’ve forgotten something important or something’s gonna go wrong, and all of a sudden you’re on your own in a foreign country in a panic – yes I’ve been there. But, nope! All was good. Now, I’m not gonna beat around the bush…my first round of the tournament was horrendous. I mean, really horrendous. For the first time in years, I was quite worried that I wasn’t going to break 90. The weather was not the kind of weather you’d expect in Spain. We had strong winds and rain delays and some players couldn’t even finish their rounds, but regardless of all that, my golf was just awful. That evening, I sat in the restaurant at the golf club having an early dinner on my own. My England coach texted me to say that if I needed someone to talk to, I could call him, but I didn’t. I couldn’t, because I knew I would break down and I still had more golf to play so I wanted to keep myself pulled together. In the end, the weather forced the tournaments directors to make the cut after just one round to ensure that the event finished according to schedule so I had no more golf to play, something I wasn’t sure if I was happy about or not.

I kind of muddled through my next couple of events. I went to Scotland and scraped through the second round cut. I had a decent result in Wales. Then I ventured over to Ireland for the Irish Women’s Stroke Play, an event I was super excited for. It was at the same course as the previous year where I’d had a good result, and I had stayed with the nicest couple in their AirBnB, so my dad and I booked to stay with them again. I was really looking forward to the whole week. Well…..I thought I had hit a low point in Spain. This was worse. I will say, the weather during the first round was so bad that I could probably write an entire blog post about that alone. There aren’t any adjectives strong enough to describe how miserable and awful it was. I then compounded the struggle by playing terribly. It was very strange, because throughout the whole round, I felt like I was existing outside of myself, almost like I was watching myself play, because I didn’t actually feel stressed. I am quite an emotional person on the golf course, but that day I almost didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t until I signed for my score that reality hit me, and it hit me hard. I carded a 97, my highest round since I don’t even know when, and this probably sounds ridiculous, but I was in pain – actual physical pain. I felt embarrassed and more disappointed in myself than I ever had before, and aside from it obviously affecting my golf the following day, inevitably resulting in a massive missed cut, it affected me for months after. I continued to work on my game and I managed to have a couple of good results, but overall it was shabby. I had lost confidence, I had lost motivation to practice, and all of a sudden I was questioning whether or not I really wanted to play at all. Honestly, looking back now, I think I had probably let it all get the better of me and I had been a tad dramatic. That was just how I felt, though. This game that has shaped most of my life and has given me so much confidence as a person and has given me a dream and goals…how could it now be making me feel so low?

The quote I started this post with, it was a tweet from Richie Ramsay from back in September of last year, and it has stuck in my mind ever since, because I felt all of that last year. I was beyond frustrated, and I felt at times that I had been brought to the depths of despair – that sounds so dramatic, I know – but when your life revolves around a sport, that is genuinely the way it can make you feel. Having said that, when your life revolves around a sport, you don’t allow that to stop you either. You still love the game, you pick yourself up, and you push on. At the end of the season last year, I found myself questioning pretty much everything. Did I still want to play golf professionally? Was I ever going to be good enough? Did I want to play golf at all anymore? But I think in the back of my mind I knew that those feelings and thoughts had only been produced by the rough, rough season that I’d had. So I took some time off, and now I feel like I’ve come back full circle – more passionate, more organised, and ready to take on new challenges. In December, I went to LET tour school in Morocco, played reasonably well, and will be playing LET Access Tour this year. Had you told me that back in August, I probably would’ve laughed. But here we are! A new year, a new career, and a fresh start. And you know what, I know there will be times that I feel Richie Ramsay’s words once again. It’s inevitable. But I’ll wake up the following day, I’ll still love golf, and I’ll push to get better.

Stay tuned.

What If…

What if…

Are there two words more haunting than those? It is incredibly scary to think that had one tiny thing in our lives gone differently, we may not be where we are right now. What if my family hadn’t moved home from America? What if I hadn’t gone out with my friends on NYE 2014 and bumped into my (now) boyfriend? What if I had been on the road a few minutes earlier and been involved in the accident that I approached just after it happened? There are so many what ifs, so many situations to ponder and imagine what our circumstances would be had they been ever so slightly different.

Lately, there have been a lot of what’s if running through my mind, specifically relating to golf. I think its easy to ask ourselves the question when things maybe aren’t going so well, because we start to assess what we could do better and what decisions may have lead to certain failures. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s really healthy. As an athlete, I have to reflect and definitely ask myself “what if I had done this differently” so that my future decisions and processes can ultimately produce better outcomes. But my what ifs go a lot deeper than just “what if I had taken my time and chosen the right club?”

I wonder:

“What if I had worked harder on my golf game while at uni?”

“What if I had played national amateur events when I came home from uni for summer rather than just club and county golf?”

“What if I didn’t have to work and could dedicate 100% of my time to working on my game?”

And you know what…they haunt me. They really do. When I’m going through a bit of a rocky patch, I have a bad habit of questioning all of these things, and attributing my bad performances and the faults in my game to them. Long story short, its exhausting. But after a conversation I had today with someone about negative thoughts and how to turn them into positives, I started to think that maybe the same idea can be applied to these “what ifs.”

“What if I had worked harder at my golf game while at uni?” Okay…I maybe would’ve performed better and had a bit of a head start for when I moved home and started playing full time. But. That would’ve meant sacrificing more of the free time I had which I spent with the close-knit, amazing group of friends I made. And I wouldn’t have traded the time we spent or the memories we made together for the world. For me, as well, my main goal for my 4 years at university was to perform well academically and graduate with a degree, the golf was always a bonus.

“What if I had played more elite events during the summers I was home from uni?” Well, I definitely would’ve gained a lot more experience and wouldn’t have had to start from scratch when it came to navigating the amateur event schedule. But at the time, I wasn’t dedicated enough to be thinking about playing in those events and my parents didn’t push me to do so, which I don’t resent them for at all. I think that being in the position that I’m in now, where I don’t really have anyone telling me when I have to practice and go to the gym, has really tested me as a person and an athlete. I have found the self motivation to commit to gym training and practicing and scheduling all of my own events, all because I want so badly to compete and be successful, not because someone is telling me to do so.

“What if I didn’t have to work and could dedicate all of my time to working on my game?” This is the kicker. This is the question that I dwell on, and it’s definitely worthy of a post on its own (keep an eye out!). It would be amazing to not have to juggle a job and all of the responsibility and work that comes with trying to make a career as an athlete. And I am not asking for sympathy, because I know there are loads of successful athletes that had to support themselves before they made it big. But you know what, I have learned so much through having to create a balance between the two worlds. I have learned how to prioritise my time and how to make my practice high-quality, simply because I don’t get the quantity that others might. As silly as it sounds in this context, I have learned how to save my money, simply because I am not earning a full time wage. And although I don’t have the most glamorous job, I feel very lucky that I have something else in my life to focus on and work hard at, almost like a bit of a break from golf every now and then.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that there are so many instances, in golf and in life, where we can get bogged down in the thought of how things could be so much better, or at least so much more different. The “what ifs” are inevitable, just like any negative thought, but we have to turn them on their heads and appreciate where we are and who we are because of how things have planned out thus far. Let’s not dwell on what could have been, but thrive on what is.

This is my first official post, and I tend to go back and read over what I’ve written and think “my god…I sound like a wannabe fortune cookie!” Cringe! But I just have to say that something I find really difficult is opening up about things that are bothering me or just on my mind. And I think I’ve started to realise that there are a lot of other people out there that are experiencing the same struggles as I am, whether they’re on the same kind of journey as me or not. So I suppose if I can reach out to even just one person and help them out a little bit, then this new venture can be deemed a success. That one person might be myself…but hey! You’ve gotta start somewhere right!

Here we go…

I’m finally doing exactly what my dad said I should do about 3 years ago. Starting a blog. I bet he’s reading this now smiling to himself that I’ve finally taken his advice…and now probably rolling his eyes because I’ve just said that. But anyway, here we go!

I guess I’ll start this first post with a little bit about myself. I’m Georgia. I’m 24 years old, a part-time waitress, and an otherwise full time amateur golfer. I currently play for the England Women’s squad, with a full schedule of national and international events, in the hopes of becoming a full time professional golfer. This blog is going to be full of my experiences, my stories, and my thoughts as I continue to chase my dream.

I can’t quite remember the first time I hit a golf ball – mostly because I have a really awful memory – but I do know that since that day I have loved the game of golf and all of the challenges, heartbreaks, and triumphs it has brought me. Athletes of any level know the ups and downs that every sport can bring. The days where you feel on top of the world and full of confidence, and the days where you seriously question why on earth you thought playing that “stupid game” was a good idea – yes, we’ve all been there. And so this blog is dedicated to those days and all the days in between.

I’ve been really reluctant to do this because 1) I’m afraid I’m going to run out of ideas for what to write about, and 2) I wonder if anyone would really be that interested in anything I’ve got to say. But in a way, I think this blog will serve me just as well as it could serve anyone else. One of the things I am trying to do this year is reflect more on my experiences and my performances and I’m hoping this will help me to do so, but also provide you all with some insight into the life of an amateur athlete trying to reach the top. There is never a dull moment, trust me!

ENJOY!!