2017 in full swing for Georgia…
Now that the excitement - and slight chaos - of Christmas and New Year has passed and 2017 is in full swing (…pun intended!), it seems like a good time to reflect on 2016 and look ahead to all the new things that this next year has to offer!
2016 was a year full of firsts for me. My first full season on the amateur circuit. My first county golf championship. My first experience playing in a professional tournament. It was the first year I have ever focused solely on golf. And to be completely honest….it was absolutely terrifying. I love competition and I love new challenges and having goals to work towards, but for some reason, this new challenge scared me. Women’s golf has become extremely competitive and there is such a high standard that only a small handful of amateur players like me actually make a good career out of playing professionally. So I had nearly convinced myself that if the chances of doing so were low anyway, then there was really no point, right? No, that wasn’t really me. Like I said, I love a good challenge! So, with the support of Bott and Bude and North Cornwall Golf Club, and endless encouragement from my family and friends, I spent 2016 travelling around the country competing, taking small steps every day in the direction of my dreams.
2016 was a huge learning curve for me. Not only did I learn a lot about the English amateur golf system itself – how it’s organized, what events are best to play in – but I also had a lot to learn about myself. As I said before, last year was the first time I have ever focused on golf and nothing else and with that came a lot of emotions and mental approaches to the game that I had never experienced before. While I was playing at university, having bad rounds or poor finishes in events was awful – obviously! – but, at the same time, I had so much more going on that it was quite easy to let it go. I had my education to focus on and that was certainly my top priority. Now, golf is my thing – it’s where I concentrate pretty much all of my energy and it consumes what feels like all of my thoughts. There is a lot more riding on it now, and that has been something I’ve had to learn how to handle. In golf, as in anything in life, it is so easy to dwell on negatives. Recognizing and reflecting the positives is just as important as fixing the negatives. Finding that balance has been difficult but something I have gotten much better at.
2016 was all about experience. I played in a variety of events, including quite a few of the smaller ones on the schedule, to get comfortable with the level of competition and gain a bit of confidence along the way. This year, coming off the back of a really strong season, I am looking to go after some of the bigger events on the schedule. And having been selected to be a part of the 2017 England Women’s Squad, I now have the opportunity to play in events and matches that wouldn’t otherwise have been on the cards for me. So there is a lot to look forward to this year! Everything I achieved last year and everything I have to look forward to this year would not be possible without the amazing amount of support and encouragement I have received, and there are a few people I would like to thank. Firstly, my swing coach Antony Nash for dedicating so much time and energy to helping me improve and understand the crazy game called golf and believing in my ability to compete at a high level. Secondly, my strength coach Brian Evans, based at Penstowe Manor, for pushing me to my limits and testing my mental and physical abilities in every way. My friends and particularly my family, for encouraging me constantly, sacrificing so much for me, and putting up with me coming and going all the time. And lastly, to Bott, Bude Golf Club, and Jo Cowling for seeing potential in me and supporting me in this journey. I have an awfully long way to go, but I have come so far already and I couldn’t have done it without all of your help. Here’s to 2017!
First Pro Experience
Throughout the season, England Golf runs an Order of Merit, just like on the professional circuits. It is comprised of 27 events, each worth different levels of points which are then distributed to the players. They range from smaller 36-hole events, such as the Whittington Heath Trophy, to national 72-hole events like the English Women’s Amateur and even the Spanish Open Amateur. As this was my first year playing on the amateur circuit, and the first year I really knew anything about the Order of Merit, my goal was to play in as many of the events as I could in order to get my handicap down and gain as much experience as I could.
So my season started off fairly well. I had a couple of top-10 finishes in a few of the smaller events, and my handicap started to slowly come down. Great! My first big event was the Welsh Ladies’ Open, held this year up on the North coast in at Conwy Golf Club. After 3 days of probably the worst weather conditions I had ever played in, I finished tied-16th. Top 20 in a national event? I was happy with that! From then on, my results gradually started to get better. Top-5 finishes in smaller events, then a top-10 in the English Amateur –all of a sudden, I found myself quite close to the top of the Order of Merit, something that I didn’t really set a specific goal towards at the beginning of the season but was still an awesome achievement. It was then that my coach told me about the WPGA International Challenge. Each year, the LET Access Series, a tour run by the LET for those who are trying to earn their LET tour cards, host an event in England in October. Because it is sponsored by England Golf, the top-15 on the English Order of Merit receive invites to play in the event – kind of a reward for playing well throughout the amateur season and a perfect chance to play with professionals and see how you compare to that level. So, I finished the season strong and ended up 2nd in the OoM and received my invite to play at Stoke-by-Nayland this past week!
For me, this opportunity was really exciting! Not only did I feel proud that I had played well enough all year to be invited, but I was eager to see how my game compared to the pros and to really just enjoy the experience. Funnily enough, it didn’t feel much different than any of the national amateur events I played in. I received emails leading up to the event regarding practice rounds, yardage books, rules, and all sorts of players information, just like in any other event. I got there on Tuesday, picked up some more information, signed in for the practice round, and off I went! In my head I’d imagined it to be quite an intimidating atmosphere, but I actually felt really at ease and relaxed when I got there. It was just another event! Although the two girls I played with in the first two rounds were teaching pros and don’t play full time, I was able to see a lot of pros during their warm ups and practice rounds and get some insight into how they go about these events. Compared to a lot of girls at the amateur level, they take their preparation very seriously, which I suppose is only natural when you’re trying to make a living. One girl, who I believed went on to win the event, spent her first 15 minutes on the range doing agility drills with her caddy. Others had intense stretching routines. Golf is unique in the sense that it is so individual and every player has different preferences and routines that they go through. So it’s certain that not everyone should be doing these things, but for me, it was definitely beneficial to see their particular regimes.
Unfortunately, I didn’t play particularly well last week. Every event is different, and golf is such an up-and-down game with no two days ever being the same, and you simply cannot play well every single time you step foot on the course. With that being said, my results at Stoke-by-Nayland make it a bit difficult to judge how my game compares to those girls at the top of the leaderboard. My scores suggest that I am miles away from playing at that level, but on another day I could’ve been much closer to contention. So I think it is important to focus strongly on the positives from the week – the fact that I was even playing there to begin with, I gave myself lots of good opportunities to score, and that I can see a pretty clear direction in which my game is going and where I can make significant improvements.
I am extremely grateful not only that I was invited to play alongside the professionals, but also that I have had the chance to travel around all year and play some fantastic courses, meet wonderful people, and every day work to improve my game. Maybe this past week wasn’t my best result, but it has certainly given me confidence to believe that if I continue to work on my game I can compete at that level. And hopefully I will get the chance to give it another go next year!!
Anyone that plays any level of competitive golf (or any sport for that matter) will agree that it is much like riding a roller coaster. It has highs, lows, twists and turns, and sometimes even makes you feel a bit giddy. No two days are ever, ever the same and that, in my opinion, is where the fun lies. What I think is most important though, is that no matter how high you go, how many times you get thrown upside down or spun round, there is always a lesson to be learned.
So that brings me to this past week, when I travelled up to Bristol with my dad to play in the English Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play, one of the bigger events of the year on the Order of Merit. Last year I missed the cut in the event, so I was determined to make the cut comfortably this time and put myself in a good position going into the final two rounds. My first round was a struggle. For some reason I wasn’t hitting the ball the way I had been for the few weeks leading up to the event, and I had to scramble to shoot 1-over par, 5 shots off the lead. So it was a bit of a low – not a terrible day but it wasn’t the way I wanted the rest of the tournament to pan out.
Well remember that I said golf is like a roller coaster? The next day I shot up the leaderboard with a round of 8-under par, my personal best score ever, and all of a sudden I was leading, a position I had never been in before. I felt a little bit of pressure in the 3rd round to produce another good score. I came in with a round of 2-under which I was really happy with. I was on a bit of a high! But the twists and turns hadn’t come yet. The fourth and final round turned into a battle between myself and my playing partner, as the lead switched between the two of us all morning. Unfortunately, I finished runner up, losing by 2 shots.
Devastated would probably be an understatement. I was consoled by my Dad and by some of my Cornwall teammates and their families but in the moment, I couldn’t believe I had lost the lead. Even the few days after the event while talking to various people about it, I couldn’t help but talk more about the holes that I essentially lost the tournament on.
However, now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit more on the week, I’ve realized firstly that second place in a national tournament is quite an impressive achievement, especially as it included a new personal best and this time last year making the cut in events like this one was a success. Most importantly, though, I had so many lessons to take away from the week. I had proved to myself that I am capable of competing at a high level, and that despite having one not-so-great round, I could still be in contention. I learned how to keep my foot on the accelerator when my round was going well rather than deciding to accept a certain score, and I experienced being a tournament leader. Although I think I handled it fairly well, I would say that losing the lead was partly due to the fact that I was a bit overwhelmed by the situation because it was so foreign to me. The next time I am in that position (because I feel quite confident I can do it again!) I will have that experience in my back pocket and I will know how to handle myself and the pressure. So even when I’ve been on a bit of a crazy ride and I feel a bit down about how things have turned out, it is so important to focus on the positives and learn from every twist and turn and use those lessons to move onwards and upwards!
My Journey So Far
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” - Henry David Thoreau
If you told me this time two years ago, or even 18 months ago, what I would achieve this season, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. No, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. I have never been a pessimistic person by any means. But those that know me best know that I have never had a lot of confidence in myself. I have always been a goal setter, but never believed fully that I could reach my goals.
So at the beginning of this season, once I had my full schedule sorted out, my coach and I set some specific goals for the upcoming months. First, get my handicap cut down to scratch. Second, win Cornwall County Championships. Third, finish at least one event under par. Those were my top three goals, along with making every cut in the major events and generally just continuing to improve my game and perform well. So I thought, okay, those aren’t out of reach but they’re not going to be easy. Well, I am pleased to say that not only did I reach my goal of playing off of scratch quite quickly, but I have been cut further to +1, something that I thought would probably become a goal for next year. I won County Championships back in April. I recently finished an event under par for the first time in my entire career (and on one of the most famous golf courses in the world and home of the 2017 Open Championship, Royal Birkdale!). And so far, I have had 7 top-10 finishes and 2 top-20 finishes.
The success that I’ve had so far this season has been amazing, but the real achievements go beyond and far outweigh the statistics and the prizes. Each goal that I’ve reached throughout the last few months has assured me that I am capable of competing at a high level. It has given me a level of confidence that I have never experienced before. But most importantly, it has motivated me to push myself harder than ever in practice, in the gym, and at every event I go to. I used to enter events just hoping that I would play well, and now I enter them feeling confident that I will play well. And there is no feeling quite like it. As well as gaining recognition from achieving my goals, I have gained a new attitude toward my training routine, a new outlook on the game, and a new confidence that I’m sure will carry me through the rest of the season and into off-season training. Who knows what I will have achieved by this time next year. But more importantly, who knows what I will have become!
I’d like to start by introducing myself. My name is Georgia. I’m a 22 year old who recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in Southwest Florida where I studied Communication and Interdisciplinary Studies. At this point, I feel like I should tell you that since graduation, I have taken a professional job in that field, but I haven’t. Rather, I have taken a huge leap of faith and decided to follow my dream of trying to become a professional golfer. That is my story in a nutshell, but let me give you a better idea of how I got here.
I grew up in Winchester in Hampshire, but always used to come to Bude during school holidays to visit my grandparents. When I was 9, my parents decided to make a big move out to Fort Myers, Florida, a place we had visited a few times and a place that my mum and dad fell completely in love with, as did my sisters and I. Florida was nothing short of amazing. Warm weather, beaches, great schools – maybe the occasional hurricane but we can overlook that – and the opportunity for my sisters and I to be active and be outside pretty much all the time. We played loads of sports at school – soccer, basketball, softball – but I really got hooked on golf when I started going to an afterschool golf club. That was it for me. I got my first set of clubs, I joined a local public course, and I even started taking lessons with a local pro. It just really clicked!
And since then, everything in my life has revolved around golf. It sounds awfully cliché but it is literally impossible for me to imagine my life without it. I played on my middle school and high schools teams, started to play in junior tournaments, and eventually went on the sign a full scholarship with Florida Gulf Coat University, shortly after which my family moved back to England and settled in Bude. There, I played in every tournament and served as captain in my final season. I loved everything about college golf. The competition, the training, the friendships I made with my teammates. But the main thing was that it provided me with four years of outstanding education and a degree at the end of it. My parents always said that if that’s as far as I wanted to take golf, then it would have served me well. But that wasn’t enough for me. As much as I wanted to come home and start a full time job, I couldn’t come to terms with not being able to play golf every day. And so, after months of umming and aahing about whether I wanted to commit myself fully to golf, I made the decision!
And so here I am, following my dreams. I work part time at Bude and North Cornwall Golf Club, where I also play. So it’s practically my second home, which is definitely not a bad thing! I am training hard on the course and in the gym and constantly seeing improvements, which only fuels the fire inside me to work even harder. With the help of Bott and my golf club, I am starting to make a name for myself and I’d love for you to follow my amateur journey so I can give you a little bit of insight as to what the road to professional golf really looks like. Buckle up!! It should be a good ride!