PGA Rookie Lesson #1: When You Show Up Matters More Than You Think

Last Updated Jan 21, 2011 1:45 PM EST

Scott Stallings's business is golf. He's blogging for BNET as he travels about 300 days a year playing on the PGA Tour. Click here to find all of Scott's posts.
OK, I'm pretty anxious to get this thing rocking. I missed the cut last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This week I'm hoping for a better finish at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be saying this all year but... knowing what I know now, I definitely would have done the last week and a half differently.

The first two events of the PGA Tour can be a bit of a logistical nightmare and I didn't make things any easier.

Believe it or not, one of the trickiest parts is deciding when to arrive for a tournament. Obviously you don't want to arrive too late, giving yourself too little time to practice, but arriving too early can, surprisingly, be just as big a problem.

I arrived way too early. Some of it was bad luck. I spent the week before the Sony Open trying to practice in Florida and Dallas (where the weather was better than in my hometown of Knoxville), and then attending a friend's wedding. So I left as soon as I could for Honolulu, arriving on Sunday well in advance of my first tournament round scheduled for Thursday and banking on the idea that I'd have three full days to practice. That didn't quite happen.

I soon learned that the practice facility actually wasn't all that great for practice. The driving range was small and the short game areas left a lot to be desired. Then Wednesday and Thursday were shot because of rain. So unfortunately, I spent the two days before my first round on the PGA pretty much idle. Not a good beginning for a course that makes even Tour veterans feel very uncomfortable.

The delay in Hawaii meant I had to take a red-eye flight last Saturday to get to the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs. This is one of the more difficult events in terms of logistics. I had three days to learn four courses, none of which I had ever played before.

I did make one good decision though: I sent my caddy ahead of me to Palm Springs so that he could ride each course and get to know every hole. But it still made for three very intense days of cramming.

When it comes to next year, I already know that I'd put a bit more thought into the logistics. I can't count on Tennessee to have great weather in December, which means I can't count on consistent practice before the Tour starts. The first nine or so events are always on the West coast, so next year, I'll base myself out of Palm Springs. It will make traveling a bit easier, I'll have more consistent weather to practice, and I can spend more time on getting to know the four courses that I know the least about.

Side note: Unlike the other tournaments, which are single-course events, this week I'm playing four different courses -- none of which I've ever played before -- over five days. To make things just a bit trickier, the whole thing is a Pro-Am, meaning that on every round I'm paired with three different amateurs.

Pro-Ams can be very unnerving for the guys who don't want to have to do any talking when they're out on the course. It doesn't bother me much. You'd be surprised by how many of these golfers are too engrossed in their own games and what they are doing to worry about me. Though, I must admit, every once in a while I'd like to pass around these guidelines on how to survive a round with a player who's better than you...

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Flickr photo courtesy of Earls37a, CC 2.0