The Journey to...
We arrived in Arizona with high expectations for the 2014 Golf Channel AM Tour Nationals Tournament, however mother nature had other ideas. The worst storm the Phoenix area has seen in 100 years hit hours after we arrived. The storm was so violent it woke the entire family from deep sleep and the constant flash flood warnings pinging our phones made it hard to sleep through the night.
We did not get flooded out of our rental house, however courses across the valley did not have the same fortune, including Talking Stick. My Dad (also my caddy) and I still had high hopes for playing our practice round before the tournament's official start on Tuesday even though Talking Stick had closed their course for the entire day. We were able to book a practice round at GrayHawk Talon, the most difficult course scheduled for the week. Since it was located on a slightly higher elevation, it was the only course allowing tour participants to play practice rounds before the official start. The day was wet (lack of roll) with high humidity which made the course difficult and the difficulty was compounded by the minimal course maintenance due to the severe weather. The day was mentally draining because I was not striking the ball well with my 8.5 degree RBZ driver. The practice round helped Team Bareño determine to use the 10.5 Degree D2 Titleist driver in lieu of the TaylorMade; sacrificing extra yardage for more consistency and feel off the tee was a paramount decision.
Four Days - PGA Tour Style
Four consecutive rounds helped me to established a deeper appreciation for The PGA Tour, LPGA, Web.com, European Tour, and all players that compete at any level. There is a strong debate wether golfers are athletes or just "game" participants - I now have a strong opinion that golfers are indeed athletes. There was a time when the image of the pro golfer was an over-indulging, beer guzzling, cigarette smoking player (John Daly comes to mind). Those days seem to be far behind with Tiger Woods leading the way with regimented fitness. Now players like Rory Mcilroy and Lexi Thompson are leading the charge for a strong body and healthy mind which leads to a better end product. There are still a select few that are not the healthiest participants who don't seem to have a glowing bill of health. When I see the less health-conscious players on tour I often wonder how they can compete week after week without having some sort of fitness routine in their bag. Look at the top players who compete at a high level every week, they are players that have a consistent fitness routine for the competitive edge.
The Score Cards
Fitness and Health - Four Days
Qualifying for Nationals spring-boarded me to a strict diet with increased fitness in anticipation for the 4-day event. The true test was completing the final day, with my fitness being the anchor to my strong finish on GrayHawk Talon, the most challenging of the 4 courses. Not only did I finish the first tournament relatively unscathed, I felt that I could have played a 5th day without hesitation. The real appreciation for the pro's came days later when my body began to ache and joints in my fingers were hurting from the extended strain on my hands. The more I hone my skills as a golfer, the more my upper body, arms, and hands are stressed like never before. Thinking about playing another 4 day tournament the following week was unfathomable, and we used golf carts!
This was my first full year on The Golf Channel Amateur Tour and it yielded fantastic results in my golf game and my personal life. I qualified for nationals, meeting the myriad of requirements set by the tour, yet the best qualification criteria for me was my promotion to the Hogan flight with a new tournament index of 11.9. Many tour mates (including the voice in my head initially) thought it was unfair that I played the entire year in the Sarazen Flight, qualified for nationals in said flight, however weeks prior to nationals was bumped up to the better flight. Looking back at my written goals: I set out to qualify for nationals, win a tournament, and move up to the next flight, which all were achieved.
I attained a tremendous amount of experience being in the Hogan flight, playing alongside quality players and competing at a higher lever. This first Nationals will forever be ingrained in my mind and I can't wait to improve and compete for a long time to come.
Thanks for reading!