I’ve never really like the word ‘school’. It reminds me of a time in my life when authoritative figures reigned over me. To be honest, I’ve hated authority all my life and have done all I can to avoid being dictated to. It’s not that I want to be a dictator to others of course, I just prefer the joys of individual freedom. Two weeks ago at PGA Catalunya, I was back at school. A different kind of school admittedly, but a school nonetheless.
I acted my usual way in some respects. For instance I disposed of two clubs during the week, borne out of anger because the teacher (the golf course and golf itself in this instance) didn’t give me what I wanted. I opted out of attending the mandatory players meeting on the Friday afterwards. It is true I did have commitments at home on that Friday, but still, the rebellious chimp inside quite enjoyed displaying the figurative middle finger to the powers above. After all, what can I be taught that I don’t already know? That approach got me seven GCSE’s. Comfortable enough to qualify for a job stacking shelves at Asda. Although with my looks, I’m sure it would’ve only been a matter of time before Tesco’s came looking.
I did however manage to achieve one thing I never could at school: success. In spite of all my unappealing tendencies I outlined above, I came through a very difficult task this time due to my attitude. It’s far better than what it used to be. Still not perfect on the golf course sometimes, but off it considerably improved. And after Portugal, the only thing that could’ve derailed me further, was a bad attitude.
When I saw the draw for the first two rounds, I was so excited to be playing with Laurie and Ross Kellett. I’m good friends with Laurie. We talked about the stock market, wine, life, downforce, even what it would be like to be a golfer without a galloping mind. Me and Ross just talked about rabbits. I saw Gary King again. A cool chap who has grown up since the days of being involved in prank phone calls and throwing sweets at passengers trying to sleep on aeroplanes. Matt Nixon, Scott Henry…it was even nice to see Tom Lewis at Q School. I never thought I’d see the day Tom Lewis smiled while being at Q School.
The irony for me was that Q School corresponded with The Race to Dubai finale. I’ve been part of that event the last two years. Last year in fact I upgraded to a suite at The Atlantis for 250 pounds a night. What a bargain! A year on and I’m hobbling around PGA Catalunya on a windy day trying to avoid disaster so my mum can keep as many cigarettes in her packet as possible. Of course I wasn’t thinking about disasters, but watching my mum and dad wander around, I’m not sure the same can be said for them. PGA Catalunya is a tree lined course and beneath the trees laid hundreds of giant pinecones. I only know this because every time I hit a slightly off shot, I would watch my dad scurry into the woods, hunt about, and exit with two or three more giant pinecones. It was his way of stripping away the nerves I think. Little did it do for my confidence.
But they were there. And all credit to them because as parents not only have they had to watch me suffer with the blocks and hooks this year, the pain of losing my Tour card live on TV, they’ve now also had to go through the exhausting, unrelenting event that is Q School. At least my dad has got his front tooth back though (that story can wait).
I suppose I should mention what it was actually like to play Q School. Exhilarating is the word. In a totally different way to what it’s like the be in contention at Wentworth, but still, totally encapsulating. I’ve never played an event where so much can rest on one shot. Witnessing Richard McEvoy scrape through on 5 under par was one of the bravest performances I’ve ever seen. He has two kids at home and a wife who works as a teacher. I hope they realise how hard he had to work to get his Tour card back. Personally, I was playing so well tee to green that I never really felt too much pressure. I did get a little edgy coming in on the final day. When I realised winning the tournament wasn’t possible, I was just relieved to walk off the last green at 10 under par and 5th place considering the shots I was beginning to hit.
All in all it was such an amazing and interesting experience. The kind I haven’t had for quite a while. Probably since the Grand Final on the Challenge Tour in 2012. Although I can’t say that even came close to the psychologically tormenting nature of Q School. Regaining my Tour card will come with many benefits, but for now, the best one is where I’m heading: Leopard Creek. My girlfriend will do her annual duty of carrying the bag, and her daily duty of keeping me happy. I came 8th last year, playing at times like a bit of a buffoon. The way I’m feeling now, I hope for much better…
But we all know how this game is…