Importance of a good mental grind

Today, my father and I played in an event called the “Ol’Buddy”, which is basically a team match play tournament that takes place 1 match per month at our local club.

It requires handicaps, and because they are taking 90% of your handicap, and mine is a 2, I ended up not getting ANY shots in today’s round. What this meant was that I literally had to try and make as many birdies as possible in order to slash someones par (net birdie) since our competition’s handicaps were in the low to mid teens.

The reason I titled this “The Importance of a good mental grind” is because thats exactly what today was, a mental grind. I have felt my game was coming around and I felt my driver was starting to do some great things, and I wasn’t too far off.

I actually started off poorly, bogey, bogey. Then I got to the 340 yard par 4 3rd and crushed a drive setting me up with a 30 yard flop shot. Unfortuntely, I missed my 7 foot birdie.

I made a couple birdies on the front nine but my father and I could not pull out in front of our 2 competitors. They were playing pretty good and we basically exchanged blows throughout most of the round.

Remember in my last posting I discussed the importance of EVERY SHOT. Well, a time comes in a players round where 1 shot will determine your victory or your fate.

In match play, if you lose a hole and there are not enough holes for your team to make up the lag, then you lose.

My father and I were 1 down going into 15. I had just made some poor shots that cost me a couple doubles. I had to get something going, FAST!

On the 15th hole, I pushed my 3 wood over the fairway bunker, except I was in the rough. I was 110 yards to the flag, slightly downwind. The pin was stuck over a bunker and its a very tough pin to get close to, even out of the fairway. I swung hard at my sandwedge and the ball never left the flag. It landed on the green and rolled 8 feet passed. I thought “phew!, I got a chance to get us square”. Our competition rolled in a 15 foot bogey, net par. I missed my birdie…we are still down 1.

I take my 3 wood again, and proceed to block it slightly, over a bunker again. I am left with 95 yards to the flag, except I am behind a big tree. I only have 20 yards to the base of the tree and to clear the top would require the ball to travel 35 yards in the air. I had a fluffy lie, but one I could get under.

I placed my weight on my right foot, opened the blade enough to get the height and the distance. I then proceeded to swing very hard. The ball shot straight up, over the tree, never leaving the flag again. It hit short of the green and 1 hopped on to about 7 feet. Amazing!

Again, our competitors get a par and I missed my birdie.

17 is a par 5, one where I planned on going after in 2. I absolutely ripped a drive, except it didn’t fade like I planned and went through the fairway. Its about a 540 yard hole, and I was left with 220 yards. I had a ‘flyer’ lie, so I figured the ball which scorch out of the rough. I pulled a 6 iron thinking it would carry. Poor club selection, as it came up short of the green. I chipped up and across the deep green to 8 feet. Again, our competitors made par, and I missed my birdie.

It was getting old, let me tell you.

So here we are, down 1 hole going into 18. This is what people dream about, right? Going down to the last hole wire to wire.

Our competitors got to hit first. One went slighty left of the green and another hit the green. My father chunked it in the water which left me 1 shot to hit close in hopes that we could either make a par or birdie to move into overtime holes.

I chose a 9 iron and setup, swung smooth, and again, the ball never left the flag except it started drawing to the left about 10 yards. It also came up short of the hole leaving me about 25 feet for birdie.

The competitor off the green rolled his shot up to 2 feet in which I gave him the par.

This left me, a 25 foot putt for birdie, just to go into extra holes.

Our competitors were great. They were a great team and awesome guys. I don’t think, though, they were thinking I was going to make the putt. I think mentally they thought they already won. I hit my putt, it moved left, then straightened out, then curled toward the hole, and with 2 rotations left, fell into the cup. I let out a loud “YES” with a fist pump and knew we were still alive.

So far, I had grinded the last 4 holes thinking nothing then PIN and BIRDIES. I was grinding, BIG TIME.

I had a rush going through me as I walked up to the first tee. I probably should have calmed down, because I proceeded to pull my tee shot and it went into the fairway bunker.

One of the competitors were struggling. Then I get to my ball, where it was nestled in the sand and I had to stand my left leg outside of the bunker. Never a good situation. I left my 8 iron at home, which happened to be the club I needed :)

I took my 9 iron and proceeded to swing hard at it. I chunked it. Well, you can only imagine the 4 letter words that flew out of my mouth at that moment knowing what was on the line.

The ball traveled a whole 20 yards. FOCUS BRYAN! The rounds not over!

I get to my ball. I had 115 yards to the pin, into the wind. I took my gap wedge, setup at the pin, took a 3/4 swing, and nailed it. The ball flew just right of the pin but I knew it looked good.

It landed in the middle and rolled up to 5 feet. YES!

BUT, one of the competitors still had a chance to make a 4 net 3. He was in the bunker and got his ball on the green, but left it about 25 feet short. He proceeded to knock it 10 feet by, which was actually unusual for him. He missed it coming back which gave him a 6 net 5. I was now left with 5 feet to win our first Match Play match.

The ball started at the hole and never waivered. I made par and my father and I won our match.

The point of my detailed round was to show you that you can’t give up, and even when it looks like your round is screwed or over, it might not be. My father struggled today, and I had my share of mistakes, but I knew that if I kept grinding, I might get a break. The fact that my last 5 approach shots never left the flag told me I was dialing in. Yea, I missed all those birdies, but I made the birdie that ultimately kept us alive, and eventually allowed us to win.

Every stroke counts and even if you are playing bad, you have to grind it out and get the ball in the hole. After Tiger has won a tournament, you can often see the exhaustion in his face. He looks tired, not just physically, but mentally.

My brain was fried after the round. I was tired mentally because all day my father and I had to fight off 2 good players where all we did was exchange shots back and forth. It wears you down.

You have to GRIND GRIND GRIND. Focus on your targets and focus on each shot separately.