Last Updated Dec 8, 2010 1:10 PM EST
Six days, 108 holes of golf, and just like that, my golf career has taken a big turn. Yesterday I qualified for the 2011 PGA Tour.
The funny thing was, I didn't really know where I stood in the qualifying tournment until the very end. I just put my head down and played for six days straight. My caddie, of course, knew by the 3rd and 4th rounds that I had moved up enough on the leaderboard to make it into the top 25. He kept telling me, "Just finish. You just need to finish."
Well, I finished -- in a 5-way tie for 11th place in the final round. I birded my final two holes, assuring my spot in the first full field event on the PGA Tour, The Sony Open. One year after missing the tour by one stroke, I'm now a rookie on the PGA Tour.
The last two days have been moving at lightning speed. Only hours after walking off the 18th hole, I was already at an orientation dinner for new PGA players. Two more days of orientation followed that. This week I get fitted for all of the clothes I'll wear next year on tour. I have to find more investors, work out a new budget (my caddy needs a raise), finalize sponsorship contracts, and start making travel plans.
My first PGA tournament in Hawaii starts in a little over a month and I know from playing on the Nationwide tour that the sooner I get all of these business details into place, the smoother the transition will be once I'm back out on the course.
So many things will be different next year: The average purse for a Nationwide tournament was $100,000; on the PGA, it's $1 million. The average crowd of spectators at a Nationwide tournament is probably 20,000-30,000 people for the week; a PGA tournament can attract more than that on any given day. I knew pretty much every curve, every hole, every bunker of most of the courses on the Nationwide tour; but next year it will be my first time playing almost every course I'll encounter.
Am I nervous?
Nah. I'm too excited. (Though I am nervous about being too excited and wearing myself out.)
My challenge now is to remember this: The thing that stays the same through all of this is the game of golf. My job is still to put the ball in the hole as quickly as I can.
If I can do that, I'll be just fine.
(Photo courtesy of Tracy Wilcox for GolfWeek)