Somebody asked me recently how I would rate this year (golfwise, obviously) out of ten. It caught me off guard, because even if your profession wasn’t completely upended by the world seemingly spinning backwards, what are you supposed to judge this year on? A year when it wouldn’t surprise me if Boris’ next tweet read “jks I’ve just been pardoned” before fleeing to a country that somehow hasn’t closed its borders to us. In ordinary years, the standard-bearer of performance is, quite simply, results. You can do all the end-of-year reflections that you want, but if you haven’t finished in the top 50/60/80/100 of the relevant money list, or won a tournament (depending on your floor and your ceiling), it has the black and white quality of being the only thing that isn’t a success – a failure.
But this is 2020. When it became apparent we would get to play tournaments again this year – and there will be immense gratitude from every professional golfer for the rest of time to those who enabled that to happen – those indicators of success got taken away. The only way to offset the unknowns was to eliminate Q Schools and guarantee existing status for 2021; meaning tournaments lost their usual standing. Being in contention is still the drug that we all will claw and scratch and bleed to get into our veins, but now with the added knowledge that it actually won’t influence our future, as such. So the plans and the practice and the preparation – for immediate gratification or for long-term growth?
And then convention dictates the next step, the December step that we currently find ourselves in. The evaluation; analysis; planning. What stopped me from achieving those non-arbitrary determinants of success this year? What do I do now, in this specified time in between cycles of success and failure to ensure a following cycle of success? We’re supposed to draw a line and then start a new drawing altogether. But 2020 was a series of new drawings in itself – every month, every tournament, every email confirmation PCR test and every yellow-ticker press conference resetting the rules and the consequences.
There is no convention anymore. There is only the realisation of why you do what you do. Why you enjoy doing what you do and who the people that matter to you are. The subconscious doubt during quiet meditations on finding a calming confidence and the swings out of your shoes to find extra speed on courses you’re scared are out of your depth, before the tantalising juxtaposition of missed cuts… and belonging. In a year of everything and nothing, of complete chaos and complete isolation, of devastating sadness and renewed opportunity, belonging is everything. Whether that’s with people or a profession, finding your why is the thing that matters above all. The rest is noise.
Because through all of the wandering around dead-ends and lost directions, you find those moments. Those fleeting, but shining, glimmers of possibility. Those “I just got my launch angle down two degrees. I can conquer the world. Let’s f***ing go”.