I possibly shouldn’t be writing this now. There’s still a week of Q School to go – as of right now, I haven’t actually achieved anything. But in a year where I feel like I haven’t written a huge amount – mainly because playing week in, week out means you really have to take your thoughts and run with them, rather than process them – the last week has been too mentally vivid to not try and capture some of it while it’s here.
When I say I haven’t achieved anything yet, I’m not exaggerating. If I finish anywhere other than in the top 45 after this coming week, I won’t have gained any more than I already had after finishing this year’s Symetra season. That’s what makes Q School such an awful, and brilliant, place. It is quite literally all or nothing.
It’s a weird place to be even without so much on the line, because of the different routes that can bring you there. Like me, a solid year on the Symetra Tour gets you there. A very very good year on the LET gets you there. A “poor” year on the LPGA forces you there – but what is a poor year on the best female tour in the world? A run of form at the right time can catapult you through the second, even first stages of Q School and get you there. Every player competing has their own story as to how, and why, they’ve found themselves in Alabama in December, but all those stories – however long or short in the making – only mean exactly and only what you decide to tell yourself over a two week period. Professional golf is about playing well at the right time. However much or little goes into that is the unique part.
Most people are probably better at separating their stories from the process than I am. Most people probably have a better equilibrium off the golf course than I do – that’s the unseen bit. But I’ve worked incredibly hard – harder than on any other part of my game this year – to balance that pendulum of beliefs that can affect what happens in a round of golf before you’ve even seen the golf course. And I’m not sure anything crystallises that better than the knife edge of Q School.
When you’re in the thick of it – and I mean truly in the thick of it; when your game isn’t quite there, or you’ve made unforced errors on a Thursday before half the field has finished their first morning coffee – when a year’s worth of solid play and more years of stepping into the potential your brain has been fighting with itself to realise – when all of that can be undone with one plugged lie, or one miscalculated yardage, or one too many held off drivers that leaks into a hazard because the left miss was there too, or one five iron where you forgot to relax your right elbow at address – what you say to yourself matters. What you believe about yourself matters.
And when what you believe about yourself can change in the time it takes to hit one three foot putt – or again in the slightly longer time it takes to hit the return four foot putt – it’s exhausting. You spend inordinate amounts of energy thrashing like mad under the surface just to stay afloat. Thrashing like mad to keep the surface of your mind as clear as possible. The furious, relentless whirring of certain cogs in your brain just to keep the relevant ones ticking along serenely. Like nothing bad has ever happened.
It’s brutal. It’s exhausting. But it’s endlessly satisfying. If it didn’t dictate so much of my mental, emotional and financial stability, I’d be infinitely fascinated by it. As it is, it’s just really f***ing annoying. But I’m still here, and I still love it. See you all next monday. Maybe.