I recently had the opportunity to caddy for a previous college teammate during the LPGA Stage 2 Qualifying School. It was a great week watching her play amongst a very high level of competition. Below is a list of things I learned and observed throughout the week. I sometimes tend to state what may seem obvious to many but new to me, so forgive me as I’m often a late bloomer in that regard. Let me know if you agree and what your thoughts are too. Perhaps some items will be useful to you whether you are looking to do this at some point, compete in tournaments of various levels, or simply relish the opportunity to practice or play once in a blue moon. (Note for astronomy nerds: the next blue moon is scheduled to take place in August of 2012)
1. The field is comprised of the best players nationally and worldwide that you have not seen on T.V. yet, and a few of those that you have seen as well. There were a handful of Big Break names. Ciao, Hola, Bonjour, 여보세요, Hej, Konnichiwa, Hello.
2. Everybody has sacrificed to live their dream and has worked extremely hard. There is of course a range of talents within the stage. There are so many levels of “good” but to get to this stage they all already have a very high level of talent. There is no doubt in my mind that every contestant had the talent to birdie any of the 36 holes they faced during the week.
3. Therefore although it is important, the biggest question is not really one of talent. From my observation the major difference between those who make it and those who do not at this level is their trust of talent.
4. Those who endure the best through 4 days of tournament play have an unwavering belief in themselves and their golf game at all times, no matter what the situation. The player I caddied for hit 3 tee shots out-of-bounds on par 5’s during the week and still managed to bogey those holes. Those would have been birdies on the second ball. She did not reach any par 5 in two. That’s an example of unwavering belief.
5. Everybody’s great shots are great. The best players are those whose bad shots are still pretty good. Shot shape control is a must. Small shot dispersion and a repeatable consistent shot shape are ideal. There are good bounces and bad bounces, should haves and could haves, but the good news is the number you shoot is what you shoot and nobody can take that away.
6. What you see during the round does not include finding hotel reservations, flight planning, rental car pickups, packing, unpacking, packing, unloading, loading, packing rain soaked gear, unpacking rain soaked gear, driving 500 miles, living in and out of a car, the challenging phone calls home, the good phone calls home, finding golf course snacks elsewhere because the local supermarket ran out of bananas due to a spike in demand the week of the tournament, and all of the details that go into preparing to play one’s best when it is time to step onto the first tee. Many are used to these procedures through their college team golf days but now must carry them out on their own.
7. I overheard numerous times that the results from the week determine a lot of the upcoming year’s possibilities. The pressure a player puts on herself is real. At the same time, during the actual round it is the player’s choice really as to how significant, acknowledged, daunting or invigorating she allows it to be. In my opinion, the format of the tournament does not add to the pressure; nobody announces your name on the tee, 99% of the few spectators are family members, and rules officials only stop by to check pace of play or when applicable. Also I must add that although it is a very important week, I consistently saw players treating other contestants, officials, and volunteers with kindness and respect.
8. The players who do the best are those who continue to do exactly what they did to get them to this level. The distance may be longer than what they are accustomed to in other tournament settings (6300-6500+ yds) but feeling the need to drastically change or add or force something else during the week just because they have arrived at this setting is not necessary or beneficial.
9. There is no difference in score between hitting 18 greens in regulation and 2-putting vs. missing 18 greens in regulation and getting up and down. The ability to make putts is critical. This past year I attended an AimPoint clinic hosted by Ronnie Martin and instructed by John Graham. I caddied last year without knowing AimPoint and can certainly say it reduced putt-reading headaches and made giving reads ten times easier while caddying this year. This year the player averaged 29 putts during the 4 rounds, down from an average of about 32 putts per round.
10. I give so much credit to every contestant. 99% of the field are professionals. It is their profession. For most, that means warming up under a spotlight before 7am, playing the round, and closing down the putting green at dark. Like anything, if you do not love it, it’s work. But for those who do love it, it’s their pursuit of a dream – no matter how far they make it, that’s a wonderful thing.
Thanks for stopping by today, let me know what your thoughts and experiences regarding this are as well. If you find this information useful, please feel free to share it with your friends using the social media buttons below.