A week in my shoes

Have you ever wondered as a golf fan, what goes on ahead of the tournament? What a week in their lives is really like? Or maybe, since reading my previous blog you’re wondering what ‘life on tour’ truly means?

Well, in this post I’m taking you through a week in my shoes.

MONDAY

Travel & Practice Days. 

AfterlightImage 9The beginning of any week for us is used for travel. Depending on where in the world we are, we will make our way to the next destination on the Sunday evening or Monday morning. Once arrived, Monday is where the work begins – we fight the jet lag, and focus on the tournament ahead.

One of Matts greatest traits is his work ethic. He is without a doubt one of the hardest workers I have ever encountered, addicted to improving himself and bettering his game every day. There are a few reasons behind this: on one hand, it’s the competitor within him – his sportsman genes, believing there is always room for improvement and not stopping until he sees it.

On the other hand, it’s related to self worth. As mentioned in my previous post, Matt is still catching up with the success he has had. To be competing against his idols, on this platform, week in week out remains a dream come true – let alone being 38th in the world! Matt works incredibly hard to prove – to himself, and his competitors – that he deserves to be here.

We tend to spread the course of the day across three areas: the range – the putting green – the course. Having selected a time with a group of 3 or 4 players, we head onto the course to play 9 holes. After that, we’ll go back and forth from the range and the putting green throughout the day until Matt is satisfied he’s put as much work in as possible. That the work done, was effective and worthwhile – practice smart as he would say!

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Crans Montana, 2018

For me, I like to be present and involved. Practice days can often be seen as days to spend apart, for exploring the area, or getting your own things achieved. Personally, I believe that to truly feel a part of the team, you’ve got to be a part of the grind. The hard graft that most don’t see – the less exciting, less ‘glamorous’ moments of life on tour.

When I was working in London and used my annual leave to support Matt, I made sure to be present for our relationship – making the most of my time with Matt for those few days together. Now, I do it for team commitment; enhancing my understanding towards golf and the ways in which Matt works. I get to ask questions, learn new terminology, and witness conversations between player and caddy.

However, my favourite part of practice days – where you have the ability to walk inside the ropes – is getting to witness the sportsmanship between players. They share tips, tricks, and techniques. You will often see one player ask another to look at part of their game, give them a bit of advice – from something as simple as recommending clubs, balls, or favourite shoes, to watching & commenting on their putts – anything and everything that they believe helps them play their best. I truly admire this about many of the players – regardless of the fact that come Thursday they are competing against one another as individuals, they consistently share and learn from each other. They aren’t a team, but they behave like team mates.

They say golf is a gentleman’s sport. Now, I understand why.

TUESDAY

Practice Days.

Tuesdays are similar to Mondays. The only difference being that we play the opposite 9 holes to the day before.

Usually, we get to the course by 10am at the latest – Matt likes to get up and go, seize the day! However, by no means does starting early, mean we leave early. You can bet that Matt will be one of the last to leave the golf club…every. single. week.

Some days I will sit and watch him hit every ball, see every strike and every putt for hours and hours on end. For a golf fan, that might sound like a perfect day…when you’re not physically involved, nor an expert golf enthusiast, there are moments when it’s painfully dull. No offence Matt…

But, we try to make practice as enjoyable as possible for the both of us. We spend the day chatting about anything and everything in-between golf talk, or laughing continuously at one of the numerous stories Dave McNeilly (Matt’s caddy) tells. Dave has been on tour for 37 years, and caddied for some of golfs greatest! His experience alongside his Irish charm, makes for an entertaining team mate – the man is a walking library, bursting with stories to share…albeit mainly those of fiction!

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Matt & Dave, China

Other days, I might disappear for a few hours and take some ‘me’ time. Whether that be picking up necessities from the shops, finding somewhere to sit and plan these blogs, or exploring the local area for the week; I believe it to be important to do things for ourselves individually too. Plus, there really is only so much golf talk, or sports talk in general, one girl can take! (Why is it that no matter where you go in the world, or how many minutes they’ve known each other, men always manage to find a way to debate football?!)

In Dubai, I started bringing a book onto the range with me. One of my 2019 New Years resolutions is to read more -to take the time to do something that brings me calmness and that I enjoy. I love finding a great book – the novelty of being taken to a completely different place, worlds away from your reality, page by page – not a trait Matt and I share!

In this era of technology, I often catch myself glued to my phone, scrolling mindlessly – especially on tour during moments where I’m unable to contribute. Some weeks make being a part of the process particularly difficult, and my phone becomes the only source of entertainment available to me.

These are the weeks ‘local security’ take their role a little too intensely, displaying a worrying lack of common sense, glued to the instruction to only follow the passes printed on the board for each area. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for security and protecting the players, but I can’t say I understand how a player with credentials saying “this is my girlfriend/wife and I’d like her in here with me” is presenting a threat to themselves or those around them.

The days when it’s easier to walk away than fight our corner, I have to watch Matt from behind a rope or fence. These, are the bad days – being forced out the team preparation by a cardboard sign. If it’s a location with not a lot around, the day becomes a time killing game. If there’s plenty to do, somewhere to explore, or social spaces in the hotel, then I will disappear and do my own thing – albeit a little reluctantly.

Generally though, the practice days are my favourite moments in the week. They’re the only days you really get time together, both as a team, and a couple. From Thursday, I’m behind the ropes like everyone else, so I treasure the first few days. I love the day times for contributing to the team and being involved, and the evenings more so for the time together we get to make the most of. Knowing we don’t have an early tee time, or a game face to prepare. Matt is relaxed, and settling into the weeks location. These moments are ours; to simply enjoy.

WEDNESDAY

Ladies Day.

Ladies day is without a doubt, the biggest contributor to making life on tour a community. Women of all ages, cultures, nationalities, circumstances, and stories come together with one thing in common: life with a professional golfer.

Our ladies days vary in activity; it might be a lunch event, a day out, educational and cultural visits, or simply exploring the area together. A few examples being a visit to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, pottery making in Turkey, visiting a historic island in Lake Garda, a lunch cruise in Dubai, game drives in South Africa, and gin making in St Andrews.

They’re an opportunity for the girls to dress up a little, put some makeup on, and enjoy a day for ourselves, chatting to our hearts content. But more than anything; it’s a day for us to build friendships, share advice, and receive support from a group of girls – the only girls in the world – that can relate to you, your lifestyle, and the various troubles that might come your way.

The concept of Ladies Day receives a variety of opinions, and not all partners want to be a part of them. But in honesty, for us as a European Tour community, they are so important. They aren’t about ‘glamour’ or ‘luxury lifestyle’.  The truth is, life on tour can be incredibly lonely – for both players and partners – especially, when things aren’t going well on the course.  As girls, there comes a point when you’re gagging for an escape from golf, and want nothing more than gossip and girl talk! Having the opportunity to come together, and have the time to get to know one another is a genuine pleasure, and in many ways; a saving grace.

I have met some of the most incredible women. Many, friends for life. They are not the stereotypical ‘wag’ – in fact, we hate that term! The women I have met on this tour are women with independence, careers, education, and aspirations. They are women with kind hearts, the patience of saints, and all of whom have made compromises, sacrifices, or changes to their lifestyles, to support the dreams their partners are achieving.

Together, we share new relationships, tournament wins, engagements, weddings, and pregnancies. We witness each other – and our partners – grow both as teams, and professionals.

The days themselves can vary from a few hours, to an entire day. If they’re just a few hours I personally use the rest of this day as time for myself. To enjoy some time apart from Matt, and do or see anything that I want to while in that country or area. Sometimes, it might be something as simple as sitting in the sun, with a drink or a book, watching the world go by. Other days, a couple of the girls might decide to do something together – head to the beach, explore the area a bit more, or grab lunch. We like to make the most of girl time!

Our ladies days could be described as well needed therapy sessions! But one thing is for certain – I will always return with a stronger friendship. A friendship that travels the world with me.

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St Andrews, 2018

THURSDAY & FRIDAY

Tournament Days – Pre Cut. 

Tournament days very much vary week to week – both time wise, and emotionally! Wednesday night is always very chilled, and we will usually have a relatively early night regardless of whether Thursday’s tee time is morning or afternoon.

The routine is similar every day: breakfast, car to club, prep begins. For myself, I balance time between being a part of the prep, and leaving Matt to himself to focus. When I leave him be, I disappear off to the players lounge, grab myself some food whilst chatting to the other girls or players who might be in there, and make Matt (and Dave) a sandwich to have when out on the course.

I try to get to the tee 5 or so minutes before Matt tees off, to give him his grub, but more importantly to have a little moment to wish him a good day before I become a blur in the crowds.

I walk all 18 holes every day, and I absolutely love it. I find the walk calming on the first day – and when Matt’s playing well! However, over the course of the week emotions can fluctuate greatly and the walk can be anything but calm! Depending on where Matt is in relation to the cut mark on the back 9, Friday’s can either be a chilled or an incredibly nervous few hours. There are many times you might spot me trying to hide behind a tree, as if in any way hiding myself from Matt’s potential view will help a putt drop! Really, it’s just an illogical way for me to handle my nerves….

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Omega Dubai Desert Classic, 2019

Following Matt round – and having been a part of the process prior to it – I tend to feel every high and every low that he does. I can tell from his body language before the bad word comes out his mouth! The hardest part, is that when it’s not necessarily going great, or he’s having a little run of bad luck or bad putts; I’m unable to say or do anything, or even engage with him at all.

You’re held back from them by a rope. But that simple barrier, emotionally, can seem a lot bigger. On the bad days, all you want to do is give them a hug and comfort them – as you would if you were at home. But you can’t. So the fluctuating emotions stay within you for the entire round, just as they do with him. I feel nerves, I get anxious, I get frustrated, I get sad for him, I get excited. As a partner – and I’m sure as a player – you can go through every single emotion possible within one round.

If Friday hasn’t gone the way we all want, and you’re heading home early with a missed cut – its an unhappy weekend! Missed cuts are the worst days. They come home with you both. It’s sometimes hard to best handle player disappointment or frustration – as a loved one, it’s easy to be the scape goat – and it’s these days that can be the loneliest as a girl on tour. You’re sharing a hotel room, and you can’t give them the space they probably want or would have at home. So you end up adding to the frustration by just being in the way. Or saying the wrong thing –  predominately from a failure of truly understanding what’s going  round and round in their mind: golf.

In honesty, experience has helped better handle bad days for the both of us. For Matt, he’s learnt to see the positives (…eventually), and to allow himself a period to be frustrated before using it as drive for bettering the next round, or the next week. For me, I’ve learnt to give him some time and space to be alone, and find my own escape for an hour or so.

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Dubai, 2019

Regardless of making or missing the cut, practice continues. We’ll be on the range, and the putting green until: its dark, we feel ready for the next day, or we have a flight to catch! Thankfully, the latter hasn’t been the case for us for a little while – minus Saudi. Although, I wasn’t there to deal with it, and following a tough grind to result in a very successful week in Dubai, Matt was exhausted and ready for some home comforts.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY

Tournament Days – Looking for the Win.

The transition from Friday to the weekend is a fun one. It’s when the competition really starts! The crowds increase, along with the buzz, and the roar of cheers round the course for birdies and better.

For the players the grind continues preparing for their final round. Matt will work just as hard, if not harder, as the days progress. The fire within him really gets going on a Sunday. No matter where on the leaderboard he is, he will fight to climb to the top.

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DP World Tour Championship, 2018

I love the weekends for the atmosphere – especially when Matt is in contention! The enthusiastic spectators bring out everyones excitement – even if I’m trying to stay calm, my tummy will flutter with every cheer. When he’s not necessarily in contention but has a chance with a low round, I’ve learnt to stay patient. And surprisingly even more so if he is the current leader at the start of the day.

One of the best pieces of advice shared with me by another girl on tour, is to remain neutral with no expectations on a final day; because it all comes down to the back 9. Everything can change. That very same week at the Italian Open 2017, Matt and I were faced with exactly that. After holding the lead for 3 days, the leaders completely shifted on Sunday’s back 9; resulting in a 4th place for us.

It may not have been the result he had wanted, but Matt’s chip on 17 that day will forever remain one of my favourite memories, and most exciting moments on tour!

Did you hear that roar? It’s the first real moment of golf excitement I had ever been a part of. I will never be able to describe just how immense it was, or how engulfing the atmosphere became. THAT, is what Sunday’s are about. It’s the sound players live for!

More often than not, our flight home or to the next tournament is on a Sunday evening. When it’s been a good week – but not the win – post round, it’s a process of interviews, gathering our things from the locker room, and heading to the airport. Tour life continues, flowing into the next week; re-focusing without a second thought.

For the wins, flights are happily missed. The atmosphere is still going, spectator celebrations are getting started, and you get to enjoy being wrapped up in it too. With the whole team there, the drinks and the cheers flow, enjoying a moment all together to celebrate the achievement. I say this…my only experience of celebration was in Dubai when fighting for second place felt like one to celebrate. I am yet to be present at any of Matt’s wins…so far its been tears of joy shared down a dodgy wifi call – but there’s still time!

If there’s one thing I know with certainty; there are plenty more wins ahead for Team Wallace.

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