A cruel week is right behind me. I learned the hard way of how one small mistake can be one to many to getting your LPGA tour card. By finishing T46 while the Top 45 receive (partial) Status for the LPGA 2015.
What a huge disappointment for the end of the season !
I learnt how cruel golf can be the hardest way imaginable at Q School finals. While I entered Q School with the intention and goal to qualify for the LPGA 2015. Let me tell you that I was well on track basically all the way into the back 9 – until hole number 13 to be precise. It was this one hole – in fact just one shot which changed it all. But let me start from the beginning.
The weeks before the tournament were one high intensity preparation consisting of a rigorous physical preparation (incl. “two-a-days” and night shifts) as well as fun match plays and intense rounds of golf. Many thanks at this point again to Udo and Christoph as well as Antoine and Patricia for your help during this tough time.
Eike flew in a week before the tournament to be my caddy for the tournament and it took quite a few rounds to get him up to speed. With this being said, everything felt to be ready at the first tee box. I started on the more difficult Hills Course (formerly Legends course) and started out solidly with 5 straight pars in a row. I had to note the first two bogey on the upcoming par 5s so that I made the turn at 2 over. With another two bogey on the back nine and only one birdie for the day. I had to record a 75 for day 1 which put me T105. I was quite disappointed after the round since I played very good golf overall. I hit 15 of 18 greens but couldn’t save much when I missed the greens. Especially dissatisfying was my result on par 5 with with 3 bogeys made with only short wedges in my hand – usually one of my strength. But I knew that there was plenty of time left and I was happy with the quality of my game – just the saves were missing and putts didn’t want to fall.
On day 2, I played on the Johns course (formerly Champions course) which is certainly more to my liking as scoring comes more easily to me. The course itself is rather open (almost like a links course) and greens are a bit bigger than on the Hills course and I continued to play the way that I did the way before. If my putter would have been hotter that day, I could have gone quite low. But since the putts still didn’t want to fall, my three birdies were countered by a couple bogeys for a good round of 71. Even though I didn’t play much better than the day before, I was able to remain patient. The score under par was a relieve since I certainly felt the pressure after the first day’s score.
The next morning, I headed back to the Hills course for my third round as T65. Equipped with the confidence of the one under from the previous day, I started out strong. With a 3-feet-birdie-putt on the longest par 3 on the course (184 yards), I was able to put myself in a good position for a great result and and finally reward myself from playing really well. What I didn’t know, my luck was about to change. On the following par 5, I had great drive and lay up to leave me with a good 60 yards into the green. Due to the fact that my stance were a bit downhill, I ended up about 7 yards behind the pin on the green. While my first putt was way out of proportion, I three-putted the hole to record the bogey. Unfortunately, I slightly missed my drive to the right on the next hole which putt me in a tough position with my ball being way below my feet and approximately 170 yards to the pin. I discussed with Eike on what to do and we agreed that we still could go for it. It turned out, it was the wrong choice. The ball went straight to the right deep into the hazard and I found myself really upset about this stupid decision. I had to make a drop about 100 yards from the pin with the pin being hidden behind massive trees. With all this anger and trouble with the trees, I only focused on getting the ball on the green. As it turned out – very successfully. I had a 2 feet putt for bogey – certainly the “bogey of the day”. The back nine were less spectacular. Despite having to record another unnecessary bogey on the par 5 hole 11, I played the rest of the round in pars and finished the day 2 over par and headed as T89 in the last day before the cut.
While the pressure was on even a bit more than the days before, I was looking forward to my next round on the Jones course. I knew that I could go low on that course on every day, but easier said than done… I had the first possible tee time at 8am. Due to fog, the tee times were delayed by 1 hour. When we finally were allowed to go, I was pumped and nervous but ready. Our friend Carol made the way from Charleston, SC, to come watch me play and I am glad she did. On the first 4 holes, I hit all the greens but the putts didn’t fall. With one approach shot being better than the previous, I made my first birdie putt on the 5th hole – a par 4 which is well guarded by bunkers. I heavily discussed the club choice with Eike as we had a short pin right behind the bunker. He encouraged me to “simply hit a full pitching wedge” and told me that it was the distance with this wind. ..and it turned out it was. We stayed right below the hole and made the 3 yards putt for birdie.
Unfortunately, the upcoming hole – a long par 5 into the wind – was a disaster right from the beginning. I missed my drive far to the right into the bunker and topped my second shot to leave me with a little more than 210 yards into the wind with water all the way on the right and a tough bunker to the left. I hit my 3 wood very well, but the ball found its way pin high into the bunker. Since I left the tough bunker shot approximately 8 yards short, I left myself with a long straight putt for par. The ball rolled perfectly on line and with its last speed fell for par. This gave me even more confidence and I knew I was coming back into the tournament. I made some more good putts and birdied holes 7, 9 and 10 to go 4 under for the day. But the shot of the day was yet to come. With all pars of the following holes, I entered the par 5, 14th hole. A perfect tee shot of a little more than 270 yards left me with 200 yards to the green. Eike and I discussed my options. There was water quite close on the right and a large bunker with no sand to the left of the green. My suggestion to lay up was answered with a sarcastic counter question: Lay up to what? Eike knew he was right, but I felt the wind pushing towards the water and I simply couldn’t feel the shot. Nonetheless, we took the decision to go for it. All I saw was that the wind took the ball towards the water and it was not to be seen. I was very unsure with our shot and the decision we made and communicated this clearly to Eike. But he answered softly, “Don’t worry about it. The ball is fine – you’ll see”. I wasn’t so sure and when I found the ball playable in the hazard right next to the water, I was so relieved. But the upcoming shot was a huge challenge out of the hazard and additionally a few soft branch was blocking my stance and my swing. I called the referee to get a ruling on what I was allowed to do with the disturbing branches. Since one branch was loose on the ground but mainly in the hazard, I was not allowed to replace anything, but at least I was allowed to step on it. While my first few attempts to get comfortable with my stance were not successful, I finally found a good position in which I had the chance to even swing the club to my liking. So everything was prepared and I was ready for my 10 yards lob shot over a big hill out of the hazard. I only worried about how to swing the club and as soon as I saw the ball leaving the club face, I knew it came out exactly the way I wanted it. The ball bounced softly beginning of the green and started to roll beautifully downhill towards the hole, I just heard a few ‘go go go…go in’, and <<baammm>> – the ball fell for eagle. Everyone was thrilled and cheering – simply a great moment.
From there, things continued smoothly. I had a couple more good opportunities for birdie, which didn’t fall. But I ended up signing my scorecard smiling. I was happy about my bogey free round and relieved that I had made the cut easily with this 6 under par. I also realized that I can make special things happen on good days and that is a characteristic of a winner.
I headed into the final round as T38 and just 3 shots behind the Top 20. This year, the final round was scheduled for the Hills course, which was not necessary to my liking – but I still had some unfinished business with this course. I started out well with an easy tap in par to begin with but already on the following par 4, I stayed a bit short of the green and missed my par putt by less than an inch. But I remained calm and was finally able to make a beautiful 12 footer just from the fringe of the green on my first par 5. With a couple more pars, I made the turn at even par.
I continued to play rock solid overall, but little mistakes started to influence my game. Just one example was my approach shot on hole 11 another long par 5 which ended up in an unlucky position on the side of the bunker – about one yard short of the green. While I couldn’t safe par there, I made par on the following par 3 and I thought I was back on track…but as I would soon find out, my luck was about to change: With the wind helping from the back, I chose to hit my three wood instead of my driver on this hidden dogleg right with green surrounding hazards. While I pushed my tee shot to the right, my ball ended right in front of the hazard with no clear shot at the pin and green. I had about 120 yards to the green, but the ground was much wetter than it appeared. When I executed the shot, I hit it fat and it ended up in the hazard. All the adrenalin and inner monologues – which I had handled so well in the past few hours – rushed back to my head: “I can’t believe I made such a mistake at this point. I should have play it safe to the left… I should have check the lay better. I could have made it with my pitching wedge over the hazard…” etc.
Since the ball didn’t make it, I had to replay the shot which meant that I still had no clear shot at the green. We now decided to play a cut and place the ball somehow on the green – knowing that the upcoming putt would be a 20+ yards downhill. This time, I got it on the green and had this 20 yard putt in front of me. While still somehow caught in my thoughts, I left my first putt about 3 yards short and since I missed the second putt as well, I had to record a triple bogey with only 5 holes left to play. I was upset beyond imagination. I knew 4 over wasn’t enough for the top 45, but at this moment I was simply full of range. Fortunately, my caddy found the right words to get me back: “ You know have the choice”, he said. “You can decide that this was it and being upset about this one stupid hole that cost you the card. In other words – give up. Or you embrace the situation…this challenge.” …and I surely was not ready to give up yet. I was ready to fight. But when my birdie putt leaped out on the following par 4, I was back on my knees again. It was a refreshing feeling when Eike came to me after the putt and said: “Don’t worry. We have 4 more holes and we need 1 birdie. You choose at which hole.” It put things back in perspective. I am sure that at that time he had no clue how true his words were. Because in fact, I did put my approach shot on the following hole right next to the pin for birdie. But I also had one more bogey to digest on the long par 3 16th for which I had no answer available. Let me ensure you that I did try it all. I did go for the green in 2 on the par 5 17th hole but unluckily ended up just outside the bunker with my ball being about 2 foot above my feet and a solid approach shot into the green on 18. In both cases, I missed the birdie and had to record pars.
When we reached the club house, live scoring indicated that I was T54. Since we had the first tee time, most players were just half way through their back 9, but I already had little hope. That I ended up T46 might have been the toughest part of my day as the top 45 would have received access to various LPGA events as well as automatic exemption for next year’s final stage.
As you can imagine, all this took a while to digest. That is also the main reason, why this post came a bit later than usual. After the past 3 weeks off, I am now starting to prepare my next season. We are currently finalizing next year’s schedule which I will present to you hopefully by the end of next week.
Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your support!