She’s back and she is very sorry!
Firstly, I must apologise for my lack of content over the last few months. In honesty, life got in the way for a while there! It’s been a busy but exciting first half of the year – Matt and I moved into our first house together and I have been totally consumed by all the logistics and exciting stress that comes with buying a house and making it a home.
We are now very settled and proud home owners with new found relationship dynamics – predominantly surrounding the inability for men to put things inside a dishwasher…seriously guys, what is it with that?!
Living and travelling together is definitely an adjustment, but we are finding our flow and enjoying the journey.
Whilst the home excitements have been going on, golf has continued! We have been through Major season and spent plenty of time in the states over the summer months. The first half of the year was a busy one with a more intense travel schedule, but it’s also been incredibly enjoyable experiencing brand-new tournaments to us. So, as we have lots to catch up on, I thought I would share with you 3 of my favourite US based tournaments from the past few months.
The Players Championship
The Players Championship was held in March at Sawgrass Golf Club, and it was one tournament I truly had zero expectations going into. Not being a golfer myself, I hadn’t understood the scale of this tournament, nor it’s popularity.
It didn’t get off to the best first impression when having arrived at the golf club, I went to find the car reserved for Matt for the week. Walking past all the players names and pristine shiny cars in front of them, I strolled past a car covered – and I mean
C O V E R E D – in bird poo. I remember thinking to myself “that’s hilarious. Imagine getting that one, the poor sucker”…5 minutes later, said car was discovered to be ours! Serves me right.
However, from that moment on everything about this tournament had me seriously impressed. The clubhouse was absolutely beautiful, the grass picture perfect green.
The layout of the course is designed for spectator viewing – visibility adds to all events. Nothing is more frustrating than an event that isn’t well equipped for the number of people attending. It’s not fun when it’s a battle to see even a glimpse of a player because there isn’t enough space for the crowd to stand around a green. But here, viewing was a proper experience. Majority of the course, spectators are slightly elevated above the players, creating perfect viewing conditions. Where it’s flat the areas are wide enough, and clear enough, for large crowds to all see what’s being played out in-front of them.
The crowds themselves were amazing. They had real respect and pure enthusiasm for the sport. Especially around the famous 17th hole! I had seen the 17th on TV before, but actually walking up to it with Matt on the practice day, taking in the sheer scale of the empty grandstands in a full circle surrounding it was incredible. I had never seen that much infrastructure around a singular hole before – I knew then I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing this event was going to be. By Thursday, it did not disappoint.
You could hear the buzz of the crowd get louder as you approached hole by hole. The atmosphere made reaching the 17th really exciting. This was probably also helped by being two groups being Tiger – there really is nothing quite like a Tiger roar!
The boom of the cheers, jokes, jibes or random outbursts from the crowds are not something we are used to in Europe – and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. But here, there was something different about the cheers and gags coming from the crowd that didn’t seem so invasive compared to other events we’d experienced. Of course, there was still the odd idiot that would be too drunk and shout at the wrong time, but there’s always one! In general, this event just felt fun.
We decided to have a team house this week. We don’t normally do this, but Matt wanted to try something new! Although it was admittedly a little intense being in a house full of ‘golf pervs’ (definition: those completely obsessed with golf they’re unable to stop talking about it for even a second), it was also a lot of fun! We socialised by having other players and their partners over for dinner and ate great food all week – it’s little things like that that can add to our experience, when we’re able to have fun away from the golf course too. Especially following a day that may not quite have gone our way!
The Players is an event I came home from, knowing I would recommend to people 100 times over. We finished the week not as well as we would have liked to, but we really enjoyed it regardless of the result and are looking forward to next year!
You don’t have to be a golfer to know how iconic an event it is.
Before I met Matt and golf became the epicentre of my world, even I – the girl that used to read a kids ‘how to’ golf book to understand what on earth Matt was talking about going on about birdies and bogeys on our dates – had seen snippets of The Masters on TV and knew all about the significance of the green jacket.
Previously in our relationship (prior to Matt’s European Tour accredidation) it would be the only tournament I would agree to watch with Matt from start to finish, staying up till the early hours with him. We would chat and daydream together about us being there one day, getting lost in our favourite discussion: what menu Matt would host for his Champions Dinner (this remains his favourite dinner table discussion). It became a little annual routine I would look forward to.
This year however, we didn’t watch it together – we experienced it together. Matt competed in his first Masters tournament, and it was everything we could have imagined and more!
Getting on our flight from London, I can only describe us as two kids on their way to Disneyland. Ultimately, that’s what the Masters is: a golfers Disney! The excitement of knowing we were on our way to compete in a tournament that Matt had always dreamed about, amongst the best players in the game, was overwhelming.
We were driven to the course by the Sky Sports team, and the reality of driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time raised real emotion for Matt. He took a moment of peaceful reflection for himself, recognising just how much he had achieved in the last two years. Even in the rain, there’s a real beauty about it that hushes you all into silence. Perhaps it’s the history; the significance of it.
For me, my highlight of the week was undoubtedly the Par 3 Contest!
However, if you’d told me that the night before I wouldn’t have believed you. I was so nervous! Matt wasn’t playing until 3pm so he could utilise the day to practice – for me however, I spent the whole day feeling incredibly anxious. It sounds ridiculous – I’m not even the one playing! But, my fear stemmed from knowing I would be inside the ropes when I am so used to being outside them, hidden within the crowds. I have never been a personality that likes to be the centre of attention; I hated anything and everything that involved performing or standing in-front of a crowd. I prefer to blend in than stand out…(although I did have to learn the hard way that this is almost impossible when you’re taller than the crowd)!
I could feel the number of people watching at this point, the part I had been so nervous about, and it stayed that way for the first hole. But once we’d got through the first, the crowd just became silhouettes and a blur of noise cheering us on. We played with two of Matt’s good friends on the tour – Eddie Pepperell and Danny Willett – whose little boys made it so entertaining. It was all just a bit of fun…but classic Matt took it pretty seriously, partook in a play-off, and consequently won!
Everybody says winning the Par 3 is a curse – nobody has ever won the Par 3 and gone on to win The Masters in the same week. As of 2019, the curse continues.
Although, it wasn’t only Matt that had a win that day. I’ll just leave this here…
Is there room for two golf stars in one relationship?
For the tournament, spectators are able to watch from Monday. Usually, the practice days are pretty quiet with the main flow of tickets starting on Thursday. This is not the case at The Masters – there is a higher number of spectators able to attend on the practice days than the tournament days. This means there is a real buzz in atmosphere from the get-go, which well and truly caught Matt up. We could not get him off the course!
This buzz made the tournament feel like it had already begun. With that, a lot of energy was used predominantly from excitement, and ultimately made the week feel very long in the end. This is definitely something Matt and the team have learnt from our first Master’s debut, and will be taking on board for 2020.
The experience behind the ropes for the week was the best I have experienced to date.
Firstly, due to the control of tickets released there was never a problem with visibility – I could see every shot, putt and facial expression Matt made all week. Secondly, I was a big fan of the concession stands. Maybe I am easily pleased, but the organisation of the concession stands amazed me. Not only was the service incredibly fast and efficient, meaning there weren’t long queues making noise that might travel across to where the golfers are focusing, but it was also sooo cheap! It cost me $5 for a sandwich and a large soft drink. And best yet, there were healthy options. Normally at the golf, it’s burgers, hot dogs, chips and all things fast food on offer. It was nice to be able to grab a light bite or some fruit, and to miss barely any golf when doing so. It’s only a little thing, but it genuinely added to my experience.
Finally, the restriction on phones within the grounds made the experience so much better – there were no phones held in the air taking videos of every player blocking the view, or noise distractions from somebody who forgot to put their phone on silent. The course was filled with people intently watching and appreciating the talent of the sportsmen in-front of them. I really loved the way it united everyone there and brought them back to what matters; enjoyment. Being in the moment.
Although Matt missed the cut, we thoroughly enjoyed the week and can’t wait to return in 2020! We didn’t break the curse, but forever in The 2019 Masters history will be written:”Par 3 Winner: Matt Wallace. Masters Champion: Tiger Woods” and I think that’s pretty special.
The PGA Championship
This years PGA Championship was held in Bethpage, New York. This was great for two reasons: 1- getting to explore the city during the week, and 2- the wild New Yorker’s in the crowd!
The course itself was a public course – the clubhouse and its hospitality were great. I really liked walking this course as every hole was visually different. There are some weeks on tour that after the first day, I know it’s going to feel like a long week just because the course is very flat, or a bit repetitive to walk. Bethpage was definitely a tough walk – there was a lot of hills to climb – but, my favourite courses to spectate are those that have something about them!
Being located just outside New York was so much fun. On the practice days – since living together – I try to make sure they are spent apart where possible so each of us get some space. This week, a group of ladies from the European Tour got together to go and see a Broadway show! It was a first experience for me, and it was such a great way to spend some time with friends. We went to see Aladdin and it was brilliant, I highly recommend it. Arranging a girls day out is the highlight to every week!
There was no holding back from the crowds at Bethpage! In honesty, there were definitely times walking around on my own that it got a little intimidating in compact areas – but when the crowds are that upbeat, it’s impossible for me to feel nervous watching Matt because you get completely caught up in their energy too.
The best example of this, was on the final day. Brooks as usual in Majors was leading the way and it didn’t seem anybody was going to catch up to him with the windy conditions that afternoon. But, as the afternoon progressed, Dustin Johnson started making some birdies and it begun to look pretty promising for him to have a chance. This was fully embraced by the crowds – at the start of the day, Brooks was their king – in the last 9 holes that all changed. I was stood on the 17th green squeezed in a crowd of very drunk men, with a leaderboard directly in-front of us. Every time DJ birdied the crowd went CRAZY – I’m talking beers thrown in the air, jumping up and down, ear drum busting loud cheers – and suddenly when Brooks birdied, they booed! I have never witnessed anything like it.
It seems fickle, but it all stemmed from the crowds just wanting a bit of extra excitement for the title. Matt was playing really well, but at this point we knew he wasn’t going to win. Knowing our round was finishing, his manager and I could start to relax, and took the atmosphere all in. We were laughing at just how mental this event had suddenly become! As soon as it became clear DJ wasn’t going to do it, the love went straight back to Brooks. It really did make the afternoon highly entertaining!
Matt proudly finished 3rd; his greatest Major achievement to date.
For anybody wishing they had been there, The Ryder Cup is being hosted here in 2024 and I’m already excited for it. It will be one hell of an event – the course is great fun, the crowds are insane, and you’ve got the city on the doorstep. What more could you need!
Overall, this summer has had plenty of highlights for us, as well as memorable events. Some of these include going on an amazing holiday just the two of us (with zero golf I will add), Matt being paired with Tiger in The Open Championship, and generally just continuing to enjoy this lifestyle not taking a second for granted, and having fun with our friends on tour. Of course – as with anything – where there are highs, there are also lows, which this year has definitely tested. But, they’re a whole other discussion I will save for another day!
All three of the events I have mentioned stood out for me for their spectator visibility, and their atmosphere. This is definitely something we experienced more of in the US, but you can’t beat the variation in cultures and places we get to visit every week on The European Tour. And with that, we are looking forward to being back in Europe for a great end of year!
One thought on “My Top 3 US Tournaments – Summer 2019”
Thanks for this lovely blog it puts into perspective a pro,s travels