LOOKING back on how many flights I’ve taken since turning professional back in 2006 is a pretty scary thought, and just thinking back to last year alone it must have been somewhere in the region of 70.
An attempted landing into Samsun, Turkey, from a Heathrow-Istanbul connection was the first time I’d had that strange sinking feeling after the plane nearly touched down, but then pulled full throttle and hit the sky once more. I immediately feared the worst and my thoughts went straight to my family. Planes amaze me and to this day seeing how even the small planes get airborne and stay airborne is simply incredible. And the fact a plane can now fly direct from London to Australia blows my mind.
So, we experienced an extra quick fly over Samsun at midnight before finally landing ten minutes late. To say I was relieved to arrive at the hotel was an understatement and I was soon in bed ahead of an early start for my first look at Samsun Golf Club, the venue for the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
I really didn’t know what to expect; it’s Turkey so most people think about sun, good golf courses, all-inclusive great hotels, and holidaymakers like you find in Belek. After seeing a few photos from the players who made the trip out earlier than me it looked pretty grey, the town didn’t look like it had ever seen a tourist, which meant I had plenty of time to work on my putting on the hotel room carpet at night The course resembled more of a rugged heathland track than a lush holiday resort course, and because we were on the Black Sea temperatures were very cool during the mornings and nights yet around midday it warmed up to nice golf t-shirt weather.
But I knew I would have to get the warm gear out for any early starts. I’m now on the road for three weeks, which will be a shock to my system and Laura’s, but even more so for the kids. Bar a few weeks, we’ve spent the last four months together, had loads of fun, had some extremely interesting and challenging weeks, but had some real quality time.
I will pretty much spend the next four months away and the Challenge Tour schedule is certainly not family friendly, but as it says on the tin ‘it’s a challenge’. I felt my prep had gone well for the week at Samsun. I’ve made some positive changes and some bold changes so you’re always a little apprehensive.
But in round one I played nicely, stayed patient and got to three under with two holes to play. A bogey, bogey finish wasn’t great and certainly dropped me well back down the leader board, as the scoring was crazy low and meant I now needed to go out and shoot a low one on Friday.
After looking at my scores over the two days, I certainly didn’t make any easy birdies. Some holes out there were nearly ‘gimme’ birdies, but I couldn’t capitalise as I seemed to be slightly out of position on all of them. For example, on the driveable par-4s I was just in the rough, not the fairway, or had a few awkward bunker shots around the green. I just never had that easy chip or two-putt birdie.
But that was my fault and those first shots just needed to be that little bit better. A missed cut in the first event of the year is never nice, but if you use it as motivation for the next week and not get negative, then it’s not a bad thing. The learning curve continues with another weekend of practice while half the field continued to shoot some crazy low scores. There can’t be many weeks where four guys shoot -10 and one shoots -11 – and that’s just in one round! Next up Jacob Campbell commences his stint on the bag with Team Hanson in Bilbao so I will let you know how he got on next month.