In most sports, when your play is subpar it is likely you will be pulled out of the game. On a pitcher's mound, after a few too many walks, you’ll watch as your coach walks out from the dugout with a wave to the bullpen. In basketball, you’ll hear the buzzer and watch a teammate jump from their knees to replace you. On the ice, it’s a sneaky little hop-in and hop-out. However, in golf, there is no substitution. It’s just you, alone on an island to figure it out and find your way through.
That means, for the duration of 18 holes and over the course of three to four days, regardless of the current outcome, you are to find a way to play your best. Having played other sports for most of my life, that was always something that I loved and hated at times. There is no one there to end your streak of good play. But there is also no one there to pull you up from the drowning water when it feels like your game is slipping away.
When I was younger, having to figure it out on my own would get to me. Sometimes when my game flew away like a bird that had slipped from my grasp, all I wanted was a coach to jump in with some advice or a good friend to come in and pinch hit while I collected myself. Now that I’m older and in different circumstances, fighting through those moments when the game slips away is one of my favorite parts of the challenge.
On tour, it’s not just about battling, and balancing feels for 18 holes. At times, it could be playing, practicing, and putting on your best for four to five weeks. It’s up to you to maintain the momentum or find a way to turn things around.
Last year, in my rookie season, this was something I really struggled with. When the times were good, it felt like a lot of pressure to keep them rolling. When the times were bad, I wanted to go home, hit the reset, and come back recharged and ready to go. Except, that’s not always an option. So, how do you bounce back in between?
Three weeks ago, I started a two-week stretch out west. The first event was in Worley, Idaho. From the practice round to the first round, I could feel that I didn’t have my best stuff. I practiced and practiced, but nothing seemed to click. I was fighting myself before the week even began.
The tournament didn’t go well. I missed the cut. With another week ahead of me in Oregon, I was forced to figure it out.
Instead of pounding the stone and putting more pressure on myself, I sat back and reflected. I tried to come up with small, strategic changes to maximize my practice time and energy. A lot of it came down to changing my attitude - letting go of the outcome, embracing the challenge, and finding ways to enjoy the journey. Then I added some much-needed rest followed by hours on the putting green.
Before I knew it, round one was in front of me and I had forgotten about the previous week. I’d go on to shoot 4-under par in the first round followed by 2-under in the second. I made the cut.
Sunday wasn’t my best. I shot 1-over par 73. But I consider the week a win given how it started and how I felt when I arrived.
I didn’t hide from the difficulty. I tried to embrace it. Maybe that’s the reason I’ve learned to love this part of the profession.
In life, there is no substitutions, no timeouts or pause buttons. The days go on. The hours pass regardless of your circumstances. It’s up to you to choose how you see them. How do you make your good days even better and turn the bad ones around? It’s about perspective, attitude, and our willingness to put in the work to make the most of the days we have in this world.
That’s what I love about life. And this is what I love about golf: it teaches me lessons that transcend way beyond the game.