It’s that time of year. You can feel the rush. Businesses are sprinting toward those end-of-year quotas. College students are cramming for finals. And stores are swamped with visitors searching for gifts, getting a jump on the pre-Christmas madness. In one week, all of that hurry will grind to a halt as TSA lines clog with Thanksgiving travelers and I-95 becomes a parking lot with moms and dads honking horns in hopes of escaping the screams of their kids in the back seat.
“Are we there yet?”
Impatient tykes aren’t the only ones asking that question. In Venice, Florida, 100 miles north of Naples where the top 60 players of the LPGA Tour battle for the largest prize in women’s golf at the CME Group Tour Championship, over 170 hopefuls will hear those words in their heads this week. Are we there yet? Are we close? How much longer? How much further must we go?
Those questions will come more than once this week as those players, a month after the conclusion of the Epson Tour season, make their final charge for the finish line and their ultimate prize: an LPGA Tour card.
Unfortunately for me, I am sidelined due to a shoulder injury. However, I’ll be there in spirit and offering anecdotes on players’ stories as I’ve sat in that same hot seat twice before, asking myself, silently and out loud: Am I there yet?
This week at Stage II, everyone feels the heat. Players pound balls on the driving range as the scorching sun sends sweat sliding down their cheeks. While it’s evident that the temperature affects them physical, I’m here to tell you, it’s burning brighter in their guts.
For some, this week will decide whether they continue to chase their dreams or go home and prop their clubs in a closet only to come out for recreational use. That’s more pressure than most people can imagine; a dream on the line, one that many have been holding onto since they first wrapped their hands around a club.
So, it goes without saying that everyone is cramming, trying to sharpen every aspect of their games for test time. In my first year at Q-School, I did that. I wore myself out on the range in the days prior so I could rest easy at night knowing I gave my all. With experience, I’ve learned that approach doesn’t work. Just like in academic school, the most successful students aren’t the ones that stuff their brains at the last minute with the hopes of retaining that knowledge for a final exam. No, the most successful are the ones who took their time learning the fundamentals and were diligent in each task throughout the year. Those were always the ones that didn’t panic when the final exam arrived. They had the quiet confidence that their skills had already been developed.
The same is true at this school in Venice. Right now, we don’t know who the crammers are and who has done the right amount of prep throughout the year. We could take a few guesses as our eyes scan the driving range. But, just like when the time ends and the final exams must be turned in, the players who are ready will be revealed by week's end.
By week’s end, thirty or so will walk away happy, ready to celebrate something extra at the Thanksgiving table next Thursday. Until then, we’ll anticipate, watch, listen and read.
I wish every player the best of luck. And I look forward to bringing some of their stories to you.