To earn a 2019 European Tour card I had to play 10 rounds in the space of 14 days against some of the best players in the world. I hit 410 shots in total but there was one shot in particular that changed everything.
I went into the final round having shot 63 the day before to move inside the top-25 but once you get to the golf course on that last day you can feel a very different energy amongst all the players who have so much at stake.
Because the week is so mentally and physically draining you see some players really unravel while others are able to fight through it and grind out a score.
In some ways you just want to get it over with, get that card and be finished with Q-School but at the same time you’re trying to stay in the moment and play those last 18 holes shot by shot.
Around the course they had leaderboards that showed the leading five or six players and also what the score was for the top-25 cut-off, the lucky few who would earn that coveted card at the end of the day.
The 12th hole on the Lakes Course at Lumine Golf Club in Spain is a really long, strong par-4 that we were hitting woods into for our second shots; Alejandro Canizares hit 3-wood for his second and didn’t get there. I made bogey but didn’t play the hole badly by any means.
The next hole I hit my tee shot down the left side of the fairway; it got a wicked bounce and went into a shrub. I had to take a penalty for an unplayable lie and at that point – having made two bogeys in a row – I was starting to wonder whether everything was about to unravel.
The bogey at 13 brought me back to 16-under – the score it looked like you would need to finish in the top-25.
I made a par at 14 and at the par-4 15th I hit a 7-iron to 50 feet right of the pin and turned to my caddie ‘Johno’ and said, “Let’s just roll this in.”
Under the circumstances it was the best putt I’ve ever hit in my life.
When you are level with the cut-off all you’re really thinking is to get down in two putts and get out of there.
But by even thinking about holing it I hit a better putt than maybe I would have if I was just trying to two-putt. Seeing it drop into the hole to go 17-under was massive.
I made a really good up-and-down at the par-3 17th and then went to the par-5 18th one shot inside the number and hit the longest drive I’d hit all week. I’m sure it was just adrenaline but I hit it 25 or 30 metres past where I’d hit it to the previous three times I’d played the hole that week.
At the airport later that night Johno said that under the circumstances, to step-up and smash one on the last hole of the sixth round with water all down the left was a really good sign of my mindset in that moment.
I don’t remember what I was thinking, I just saw where I wanted to hit it and the rest is all the practice and muscle memory kicking in when you need it the most.
At the end of the round there was a massive weight off my shoulders; it was such a relief. So much goes into it both emotionally and financially and at the end of it all I was as mentally and physically drained as I’ve ever been in my life.
I had one drink after the round – a Jack Daniels and Coke with Nick Cullen who also got his card – packed my stuff, had a shower and went straight to the airport to fly home.
I was messaging as many people as I could but I had to put my phone down at one point for 30 minutes because my brain was fried. I didn’t really know what I was writing.
We left Barcelona at 10pm on the Thursday night and by the time we landed in Brisbane at 7am Saturday morning I’d gone from sixth reserve to being in the field for this week’s Honma Hong Kong Open.
My girlfriend Ali picked me up from the airport and was jumping around trying to get me excited but all I was thinking about was flying out to Hong Kong in two days’ time and all the things I had to get done before then.
I did three loads of washing, sorted out my flights and all my clothes for Hong Kong and then on Sunday morning being a member of the European Tour started to sink in.
On Monday morning I was up at 3.45am to get a flight to Hong Kong.
To tee it up as a member of the European Tour on Thursday is exciting but also surreal. I don’t feel like a European Tour player. Not yet anyway.
When I was home for those couple of days I was watching the Race to Dubai Tour Championship and Ali turned to me and said, “You’re a European Tour player now.”
It still doesn’t seem real in many ways. I’ve dreamt about it and watch it all the time on TV but to now actually be doing it is something I’m still getting used to.
On Tuesday I was in getting some treatment with the physio and Miguel Angel Jimenez came in and starts getting treatment next to me.
I hit balls next to Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood is walking past…
I’ve played enough events now with guys like that in the field but there’s still an element of star-spotting that goes on. You forget for a moment that you’re there as a fellow member of the European Tour, not just a spectator hitting balls next to them on the range.
Funnily enough, for my first two rounds as a European Tour member I’ll be playing alongside my good mate Daniel Nisbet, so I’m sure that will help to calm any nerves that may be there when I wake up on Thursday morning.
This is the start. Making it onto the Tour doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to do well so I have to keep working hard and playing the style of golf I play.
Life has now got the potential to change quite a bit but I have to focus on doing what I’ve been doing and trust what I’ve done in the past. I can’t lose sight of the things that have got me to this point.
As for Q-School, I hope I never have to go through that again but at least if I do I’ll know what to expect and how to handle it.
And not to rely on sinking a 50-footer with three holes to go.
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