FROM PAUL CORMACK in Florida
My first series of events is over. Around 1300 miles of driving - 2 Egolf events, 2 NGA events, pre PGA tour qualifier and a PGA tour qualifier later. I'm back in the sunshine state of Florida and enjoying a deserved few days' rest. The good news is the work over the winter is showing signs of paying off!
The first event didn't go exactly to plan as a 75, 78 for my first 2 competitive rounds of the year had me scratching my head. I drove the ball "on a frozen rope" as my Banchory buddy Greig Hutcheon would say but unfortunately the rest of the game was very poor.
A change of putter between events, some range time and a phone call to the lovely ladies at vision54, my mental coaches (everyone that plays golf needs to read their books, it's truly tremendous stuff).
I turned around in a week and earned a tied fifth finish as well as the best part of 7,000 dollars. It was a pleasing week after the disappointment of the week prior. I think the cooler and windy conditions helped me. I knew growing up in the North-east of Scotland would help me one day!
I finished six under for four rounds (70, 68, 70, 72), seven shots back of the eventual winner. So from one week to the next, I went from poor to my best finish Stateside as a pro. Not a bad start to the year.
The next two events were on the NGA tour in Tallahassee and Ocala, both Florida. Sandwiched between a pre-qualifier for this week's tournament on the US PGA Tour.
The first round in Tallahassee was very flat, physically and mentally. Teeing off late, knowing we weren't going to get finished I got in the wrong mind set and was fortunate to only be one over after 15 as the darkness rolled in.
Now, with 21 holes remaining the next day, I knew i was battling to make the cut. Things needed to change and quickly.
The next morning, at 8 am, I didn't need to wait long as I rolled in two 30- footers on the 16th and 18th holes of my first round for birdies to finish one- under 71.
I continued the good form in the second round and finished with a four-under 68 to make the cut comfortably. The third round was a different story. The high winds (which the week previous I was solid in) got to me and i struggled to a five-over 77.
Down but not out I managed to pull out a one-under 71 in the final round to salvage a half decent tournament and a cheque just short of $1,500.
Leaving Tallahassee with my confidence still in check, I travelled down to Tampa, Florida for the pre-qualifier for the Transitions tournament in Tampa this week. Windy again (there is a theme here, I think) and I knocked it round in a one-over 72 to finish tied fifth and ease my way to the Monday qualifier that was played this week.
I fared not so well in it with a 75, however, and miles away from competing in my first US PGA Tour event. I had the pleasure of playing with Troy Kelly who has his US PGA Tour card and learned some nice things from watching and speaking to him.
As I suspected from playing golf at a high level and watching the guys on TV, short game is key. I'd go as far to say that Troy has one of the best short games I've witnessed live, if not the best. So I know where my practice time will be going before I hit the road in two weeks!
The last NGA event of the series I was playing in was a mixture of great golf, poor golf, a very tired golfer and 4hr round trip to find a new putter as the shaft in mine had come loose!
I had to travel the night of the second round back to Orlando to find the same make and model of putter I had been using. Unfortunately the new putter didn't help one bit.
A third-round 74 wasn't bad and the first nine holes was as well as I have played in a long time, so to go out on level par was criminal. I was on cruise control until I bogeyed two of the last three holes to finish on 74.
Frustrating was not the word. The poor golf continued in the final round and I signed for an 81 to finish around 60th position and pick up a cheque for $1,000.
Four weeks of golf and travelling had caught up to me. No excuses though - 81 is poor by my standards. You live and you learn as they say. Four weeks of tournaments and a couple of qualifiers thrown in there was just too much too soon.
I now know my limits mentally and physically and I will work the remainder of my schedule to suit me.
So after my first trip of the year I brimming with confidence and actually finding it a little difficult to take the rest days I know i need. I want to get out on the practice range and get to work but I don't want to be burnt out at the start of the year.
I'm sure the Scottish guys playing on the mini tours in Europe, Challenge Tour or European Tour, will agree with me, that your rest time is just as important as the practice you put in on the range. It's all experience and these lessons help you go forward I'm sure.
I hope you all back home are looking forward to the season starting soon and the courses getting back on to full summer greens and tees! I won't mention the 80 Degrees F temperature here recently....
I will be sure to be in touch again soon. I have a former Walker Cup player staying at my apartment in Orlando next week. He is caddieing for two-time US Open champion Lee Janzen at Bay Hill. Steven Chalmers from Banchory Golf Club is coming over for a few weeks of golf.
We have tickets for the Monday practice round at the Masters sorted out. So I should have some good stories for you all in my next E-mail.
Regards from the Florida sunshine,