I left the house at 7am, there was some morning traffic and I got to Moortown for 9.20 which gave me an hour and a half to get my bearings. I had a little preparation the night before on Google Maps to see what holes I could hit driver on – so I would measure the centre line off the tee and the parameters of the course and I made a guide from the widths of the fairways at 250, 275 and 300 yards. If a hole had 65 yards between penalty hazards, then I was hitting driver no matter what. Thankfully it worked, there was only one hole where I didn’t hit driver and, there, I hit 4-iron off the tee and made birdie with one of my best swings of the day.
You are always a bit anxious on the 1st and I hit a poor shot into the green, found the bunker and made par but I then committed to everything for the next couple of hours. I made eagle at the par-5 7th from 20 feet and it then started hammering it down for 30 minutes and I managed to save a few pars in the worst of the weather and I then plodded it round. My homework paid off as I missed it in the right spots and, coming off the 18th at two under, I thought I’d played well and that I should make some money from a top-15 finish.
Whenever you come off a round of golf you always think someone else is going to do better than you and you lose perspective of how hard it actually is on the day. I was watching the scores and willing my mate Sean Towndrow to do well and nobody got more than one shot ahead of me. I kept expecting someone to come in at -3 and I could then go home but nobody finished ahead of me and there were three of us in a play-off.
My caddy on the day, Charlotte Austwick, was amazing. This was a particularly long day and to have a good mate on the bag and have come company on and off the course was great. There was more than four hours between finishing and the play-off and we hit some balls in the afternoon as I was thinking about a couple of swings and the facilities are Moortown are worth taking advantage of. We have the same coach in Liam James and I know what she’s working on so it was nice to watch her hit some balls in person.
Before the play-off I hit three balls. I just trusted myself, I was so full of adrenaline and so I didn’t see much point in a long warm-up. I generally overwork and hit a lot of balls, play 36 holes a day and go to the gym but, going into Moortown, I rested a bit so I had plenty in the tank. As soon as I stepped on the tee it hit me that I was playing for over a thousand pounds (the first prize was £2500 with the play-off losers getting £1452) so I really focused on trying to just go and win it. For the two holes I had a really good attitude, it was all inward and not external so I wasn’t annoying anyone but I really wanted it and, rather than just being nice about it, I just told myself why not me? I’m 30 now and I’ve been doing this for a long time and I just thought let’s go and win.
On the 1st I nearly made eagle and a par at the next was enough to win. I’ve added a few yards over the winter and that really paid off – I hit the 1st with a 9-iron from 172 yards after a big driver which I might not have been able to do a year ago. I’ve actively sought distance and on the course my swing speed has gone from 116mph to around 122 on course. I’ve listened to some clever people and it’s been a big advantage at certain times.
If someone makes an eagle then you can’t help great play and you say well done. You still have a lot of confidence but it’s not the win and there’s no feeling like winning. When I had the three-footer to do it, I thought this is it and, as soon as I holed it I remembered the feeling from Guadalupe when I had previously won on the Alps Tour. It’s not celebration, it’s pure relief. It’s like a weight off your mind to say you can do it and that all the practice is worthwhile. Happiness is working hard but without that feedback to say you’re improving it can be exhausting. I had a Challenge Tour card for a year and played crap and I’ve put in a load of work to get better.
The 2020 Tour is fantastic. It’s got a good calibre of players, the set-up is great and, at Moortown, we had a championship course. It’s run by Chris Hanson, who has played on the European Tour, and his friend Adam Walker and, in the space of a year, it has become a proper established tour and that is a real testament to both of them. I roomed with Chris on the Challenge Tour in 2019 and this was a pipe dream at the time but now you’re going to get a great day. They know where to put the pins, it’s a mixed tour and there are a lot of lots of impressive parts to it like live coverage, drinks on the 1st tee, an announcer and, through Orka, you can get your lofts and lies done.
I discovered that my 7-iron was 3.5 degrees out as I just just pound balls a lot and all my swing weights are out. My driver is also broken, the weight is out in the head, but I haven’t got a back up so I had to use it. So I’ll now be heading to Egypt on the Alps Tour with a broken driver and try and hit a push fade, I can’t draw it which I normally do so it’s just a bit weird. I also only had three balls in the bag so you’re standing over the ball and thinking don’t lose it. Likewise if a club breaks you’ve had it. You might get a load of freebies on the main tour but the reality elsewhere is very different. Everything’s breaking as I’ve just used them for so long, I’d happily pay (ideally with a discount!) for a new driver as long as it’s built correctly.
And then it was back home for 10.30pm and then a game with Sean at Southport & Ainsdale in the morning. What a day.