So you want to know how it feels?
That’s why you follow me, I think. That’s why you’ll read this, I think.
You want to know what that pain feels like. When your world shatters around you but you’re not allowed to shatter with it.
To have something you keep working for, day after day, week after week, year after year, taken away from you when you’re so close you have to actually walk past it when you know its not yours anymore. To know that it wasn’t ‘taken away from you’, but in fact you had it in your hands – after a year of sacrifice and improvement and doubt and trust and loneliness and pride – and two weeks of the same – and in a 45 minute window so quick I’m still not sure it happened and so slow I still feel like I’m living it – you give it back.
Anybody that has seen me drink properly will know I seem to have an unconscious self-sabotage button. I’ve looked deep, with difficulty, to understand that my biggest strength is my biggest weakness, and allowing my mind to pull all of my strings on and off the golf course is something I can control. But still, regardless of whether I’d prefer things to be easier, I can’t deny the fact that I often seem to be at my best when my back is up against the ropes – in an entirely self-inflicted minefield.
And so, having ridden the highs-stakes stress of two weeks of sometimes disorienting, sometimes flawless steps on the tightrope, that reminded me why I haven’t got to where I want to yet, while simultaneously reinforcing the trust in being able to achieve everything I want to, I was left with it all in my hands. And I f*cked it up.
In hindsight, when “all” you have to do is shoot level par, there are a myriad of ways to fail. I have my own demons, my own frailties, and I will always have a little anger that I didn’t take care of business before I got to that last round. I know I’m good enough to have done that, and that’s the piece that gnawed at me after the numbness of what actually happened eventually subsided. (If you don’t know, what actually happened was that I started that round with back-to-back double bogies. Not ideal).
The cruelty of golf is that it doesn’t care. It forces you to continue. A professionalism occasionally disguised as hope holds your hand and leads you through the next three and a half hours of your returned standard of golf, while the world crumbles and spins beneath you. Then the hand lets you go. It leaves you in a darkness that mocks and taunts you. Leaves you stranded, blinded, numb and empty and dizzy with the punches you didn’t realise your mind was inflicting. Like a kid who falls off his bike, gets back up and rides home, only to realise his helmet has split in two.
The numbness was the most painful part. The most hollow part. The part that stopped me from writing about it. It doesn’t matter how much honesty and realness I want to share, I had nothing to give. Not because I couldn’t find the words, but because there were none. I was empty. No anger, no frustration, no perspective or analysis or self-pity. Just nothingness.
In the horrific and solitary irony that only golf provides, the emptiness is what helped me to such a good performance at LET Q School. I was too empty to think, too empty to care, too empty to prepare. I walked away from the LPGA card that my hands had shredded into a thousand tiny pieces for others to deservedly put back together again, and I drove for four hours and got on a plane to Amsterdam. And then to Valencia. And then got in a car and drove three more hours to La Manga.
A lot of people asked why I did that. They applauded me for what I did there, commended my character, or my courage, or my heart. The truth is I just put one foot in front of the other. I’d already committed to playing (actually more so with the plan of having some kind of LPGA status and maybe needing to fill my schedule) and so I played. I played on empty, and I somehow scraped together a good performance. It actually helped the pain of the previous week. The numbness subsided while I did what I needed to do, until the second I had done so. And then the emptiness came flooding back, like only emptiness can. Maybe it’s the feeling and the meaning being stripped out of you that is where the pain comes from. Either way, it hurt again. It hurt more.
Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. I’ll insert the usual caveat of acknowledging my privilege. I am painfully aware of how lucky I am, and I sincerely hope that nothing I ever write denies that fact. I play the game I love for a living, and I have people who love me unconditionally. I wouldn’t change a thing.
But here in our corner of golf twitter, you follow me to know how it feels. This is how it feels. Gratitude doesn’t diminish this kind of pain; the most selfish of pain. An existential pain. Because this is my life. It’s more than a career.
It’s doesn’t hurt as much now, obviously. As real as I want to be with you, I’m writing this now because I’ve moved on. I’m excited for 2022, and beyond. Nothing has ended. My pursuit of what I want to achieve can continue. My motivation, my discipline, my appreciation for my career and those that love me is all intact. But hopefully part of the reason you follow me is for the authenticity. It would have been un-authentic of me to deny you this pain, even though I am now fine, because I think the emotion and the realness are part of what connect us in this too-divided world. But I no longer need your sympathy, or your empathy, or your motivation. Every message I got before, during and after that 3 week stretch in December means more to me than you know. But while this blog is my Q School story, my Q School story is not the story. Golf, at its most blunt, is simply about getting better; being better. That’s what I’m doing. It’s not an incessant grind – it’s what I love. What I live for. I’m still living. Don’t worry about me – just know I appreciate you all; living little bits with me.