As I walked off the plane and down the stairs onto the tarmac, I looked up straight at The Remarkables, my breath taken away again despite looking at that view many many times before. It is a special place and the incredible scenery creates an awesome atmosphere in this town!
With the adrenaline flowing through my veins I couldn't wait to get out onto the course and work out a little of the stiffness from sitting cramped in a plane for 3 hours. Arriving at my house for the week which is with my wonderful hosts Graham and Gabrielle, I quickly unpacked and walked out the door of their house straight into the first hole. They live inside the Millbrook Estate which makes life incredible easy for the week.
My first impressions from the course was that it felt like the greens were a little firmer this year at Millbrook than past years. This automatically meant a slight change in how you played into the greens. No longer were you needing to allow for as much backspin on your shots in, which meant understanding your carry distances really well. With Monday arvy out of the way and some rust well and truly worked out of the system I was looking forward to getting a look at the Hills and the other 9 holes at Millbrook over the next couple of days.
The Hills was in spectacular shape as always and that is why it is always such a pleasure to play this event. Two great courses, well supported and always an opportunity to both rub shoulders with some celebs and meet some new friends along the way during this Pro Am styled event. Some pros don't like the idea of having to play with amateurs in these big events but to be honest they just don't get it in my opinion. Without the amateurs we wouldn't be playing for the millions dollar prize purse that we are this week. Not to mention the fact that every time you meet someone it is an opportunity to make a new friend for life and create great new relationships. This is where I met Nick Farr-Jones a few years ago and we have become great friends with him and his family welcoming me into their home each year during Aussie Open week.
With the practice done and the game plans critiqued and adjusted I was ready to take on the week. My caddy this week is a long time friend and fellow Brisbane Lions fan, Jack Sullivan! He is from my club back home, Indooroopilly and just happened to be over here with some work stuff and asked if he could caddy for the week. It's such a joy to have someone you really know and get along with on the bag for the week. I need to give him a little plug here too, he is a wedding gown designer by trade with his own label which I think is Jack Sullivan Bridal. If you are getting married or know anyone who is please look him up and take a look at some of his stunning designs! Ok plug over!!
Round one was a ripper. The morning players got a little of everything I think. Darkness, wind, cold, rain, calmness, sunshine and warmth?? I know that sounds crazy but all of that is true. They got every bit of those conditions which no doubt made it a very tough morning for them. I think if you were off in one of the first few groups they probably got the worst of it with the calm, warm part of the morning not coming til late morning. We were met in he afternoon field with wind, serious wind. My first hole was wind free and then it started and slowly built and built into a strong wind with even stronger gusts! The positive was that it was at least from the one direction. To give you an example of the wind, on the 8th hole I hit a pitching wedge to the green where over the weekend I hit two 5 irons in! After a rough start I settled into my work and was very good at applying what I had learnt watching Louis Oosthuizen win in Perth a few weeks back. If not for a bogey on my last hole, I played a really great round in the strong wind to shoot a couple under. My partner, Reiko, a Japanese lady and I had managed 5 under in the teams as we combined quite well on a tough day. For Reiko it was challenging as despite being an amazing player for her size the wind just made it tough for her to get the ball on the greens in regulation all day.
In my group also was another lady, Kim from Texas. I watched her tee it up on the first and could see her nerves. After three holes she would want to forget and another not so great tee shot on the 4th I walked over to chat and offer some help. She responded with a "yes please!!!" and away we went. All I wanted was to try and put her at ease and give her a chance to enjoy herself. As it turns out her husband was in the group behind and he had actually roped her into playing the event, somewhat against her wishes!! Kim managed to hit some better shots but by the end still looked like two things might happen....she may disown her husband and there was a good chance she may not return for day two! I had tried to help despite her not being my partner and after the game when I offered to go to the range for a lesson she jumped at the chance. As a relatively new person to the sport she actually has loads of potential and I just wanted to get her tapping into that. We spent some 45mins on the range and by the end I think her words were, in Texan accent "Oh I could just hug you Matthew!" I told her that her payment was that if I ever found myself in Texas that a place to stay would be great to which she said no problems, done! The payment was in effect already done though as seeing her excitement and smiling face and knowing she was coming back to have another crack tomorrow was payment enough.
Round two was dark and cold for us in the morning and as I stood on the first tee I was approached by a man I didn't know. He came up to me and said "Thank you, thank you Matt for saving my tail! Yesterday when I was watching my wife play in the group ahead and seeing how she was playing I thought I was going to be in the doghouse when I got back to the room. Instead my wife was bouncing off the walls with excitement and telling me all about her lesson and how keen she was to get better at golf. You turned what could have been a horrible week into a great one and for that my friend, I owe you! Thank you so much!" It's amazing in life when something so simple for me, a few minutes coaching on the range can have such an impact on someone. Pretty cool. It was also great to watch Kim apply what she learnt so well and hit so many far better shots in round two! She is no pro yet but is on the way to seriously improving and enjoying playing the game, something she wants to do with her husband Robert! If ever you are in Texas and nearby to Wood Forest Golf Club, pop in and say hi and tell them I sent you!!
For me my round was an interesting one. For the most part I actually didn't play that well. I was not quite on song today but due to my plan an hitting to different targets I managed to shoot 3 under and safely negotiate my way to the weekend. Reiko had a better day too and we progress through the team cut also which was great for her!!
The weekend was upon us, something all professional golfers want and need to be a part of if you are going to be able to support yourself in this gig. It still amazes me how brutal this profession is as guys who miss the cut have worked just as hard if not harder than those making the cut but simply go home or on to the next event with a debt to pay from this week. There aren't that many professions out there where your performance decides if you get paid or not. Imagine being a teacher where you went to school and taught all week but based on performance only the top 40% would be paid at the end of the week. Then imagine you travelled to another country to teach for a week only for the top 40% of teachers to be paid that week too. To then top it off, on the off weeks you still have to go a teach for the week to try and improve your skills but hey, no pay this week for that!! It sounds insane and I don't know a teacher out there who would put their hand up for that gig but that's what the tour is like.......brutal. Making things feel even worse is the guys out here on tour that may rank in the 41st percentile for a few weeks in a row, so close to getting paid but not! Why do we do it!!
My week of quality ball striking continued over the weekend. I couldn't be happier with my ball striking and simply know that I can seriously play this game now. I was also very happy with my management for the most part since my learning experience in Perth a few weeks back. In Perth I think I made 14 birdies for the week up against 15 bogies and this week I think the numbers were 15 birdies up against 8 bogies. Still too many bogies but certainly heading in a better direction. Because of those numbers I didn't really get to contend over the weekend and a tied 19th finish was the result. From the amount of greens I hit and the proximity to hole, I needed to hole more putts as my ball striking served up a smorgasbord of chances. In saying that I didn't feel as though I putted poorly this week, in fact I hit my target lines a lot which is a really encouraging sign. I need to get away from beating myself up as a putter and be able to understand that a lot needs to go right when you are going to make putts. I know I am working harder than ever at that part of my game and believe the fruits will come. I made great steps forward with my overall game this week and it's about not walking away and thinking I have to recreate the wheel to get better, no, all I have to do is continue to develop Matt Guyatt golf and understand what gives me the best chance to play that way more often. My best is good enough, how do I repeat my best more frequently!?
So another NZ Open is done and won, by a great guy Matty Griffin, a guy who works incredibly her at his game and a guy who deserves every success!! It was a week that will change me for the better once again. Jack did a brilliant job on the bag and is welcome back anytime, thanks Jack. Kim and Robert became lifelong friends and I have a place to stay in the states whenever I'm there and Reiko was awesome, she played out of her skin and pound for pound I reckon was the golfer of the week!! Great job Reiko! I met the legendary Aussie Cricket captain Allan Border who is now a member at Indro and we will catch up for a hit in a couple of weeks time. I caught up with Sir Ian Botham again as well as my usual catch up with Ricky Ponting and his brother Drew who I played golf against for Tassie a lot of years ago. Trying to convince Punter to cross over to Taylormade is the next challenge!! A big thanks to Taylormade again for there fresh new support and of course a massive thanks to Titleist/Footjoy for your support too. Callaway also deserve my thanks this week as your irons are still in the bag at the moment and your 7 iron my never leave after having its second hole in one of the year during Wednesday's practice round! Thanks again to Graham and Gabrielle for your amazing hospitality too, you guys rock!
Lastly I have to say thanks to my amazing wife. It has been a solid stretch of golf this past 6 weeks, I have been sick for most of it and she has been nothing short of amazing. Her encouragement drives me on and her incredible skills as a mum and wife inspire me daily. Thanks so much for being my rock and the love of my life Rachy, I am extremely blessed!
It's Qld PGA week now, up in Toowoomba so I look forward to having a great week of work ahead!! See you there Qlders!!