You hear it every week. Had to stay patient out there. Needed to put the bad behind me and focus on the next shot. Just had to keep my head down and stay positive. They are fallback lines, throat clearers, the kinds of utterances players use to say something without saying anything, golf’s equivalent of, “it is what it is.”
But there is also a lot of self-talk in the verbal tics players pull out of their cliché bags. You can bet that when a player says, “I tried to stay patient,” you don’t want to be fumbling through your change purse in front of them in the checkout line. Those are the folks who grow so antsy at a red light that they squeal their tires when it finally turns green. The line about “patience” is as much for their own ears as for others nearby.
That’s why one of Perrine Delacour’s throwaway lines from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open deserves more attention. “My emotions were up-and-down all day long,” Delacour said after closing with an even-par 73 in the final round at Royal Adelaide Golf Club. “I went from happy to mad when I made triple-bogey, then back to happy again. But I'm proud of what I did today and what I learned from the experience. Yes, I'm a little upset about the 14th (a par-4 where she made 7). But I still finished (alone in) third (four shots behind Inbee Park). So, I will take the positives from that. All of which is good for the future.”
There was an edge to her voice, a recognition that her bounce-back on Sunday in South Australia, which included back-to-back birdies after the triple, was more than just a one-round feel-good story. It was a metaphor, a symbol of where her life has been, and the fight she has shown in getting back.
Now 25, Delacour grew up in Saint-Cloud, France playing golf and tennis. She was good enough at both that she had to choose. Golf won and as a teenager she earned her LPGA Tour card for the 2014 season through the 2013 Volvik Race for the Card on the Epson Tour. Then came the odyssey. Tendinitis in her shoulder sidelined her, followed by surgery on her wrist, which knocked her out even longer. Then, in a third attempt to return, she fractured several ribs while hitting balls.
Any one of those would have been career ending for some. But Delacour never gave up, even when she spent months away from her family and friends, struggling to travel, work and get back to old form. She carried her own clubs on the Epson Tour, a pencil bag just barely large enough to hold a full set. And she drove where she could, stayed with families whenever possible and ate cheap while trying to stay healthy.
“It was hard to go back to the Epson Tour when I missed Q-School two years ago,” she said. “But then I was just focused on being in the top 10 (in the Volvik Race for the Card). When I finished in the top 10 (at an event), even if I had an opportunity to play in a LPGA Tour event, I told myself, be in the top 10 at the end of the year, no matter what. I kept (the goal) in my mind, always. Play full-time on Epson (Tour) and finish in the top 10, which I did.”
If the choice was between a full Epson schedule and a start or two on the LPGA Tour, as tempting as the latter might have been, Delacour picked the former. She would bounce back the hard way, the right way, the lasting way.
“I'm trying to do the right things,” she said after her top-3 finish in Australia. “I've been working a lot with my coach, Chris Mason. He has helped me mentally over the last 18 months. I have a lot more confidence now. And I feel like I am definitely headed in the right direction.”