Covid-19 has turned our worlds upside down. Across the globe our everyday routines, social interactions, travel plans, and upcoming calendar events have been stopped in their tracks. It has become an incredibly unsettling and uncertain time for us all, and I hope you are all keeping safe and healthy.
My heart and well-wishes go out to all those who have fought, continue to fight, or have lost the battle against this violent disease. To those who have lost loved ones, unable to say a final goodbye – I am so sorry for the devastating loss you have endured. My admiration goes to all those within the NHS – and medical care facilities around the world – working tirelessly day and night to bring healing back to us all. You are our heroes.
Currently, in the world of professional golf, we are in limbo. As it stands, no tournaments are set to be played in the coming weeks…most likely months. During a time when we could all do with a hint of normality, enjoyment, or a taste of competitiveness, this will be a shame for many sports fans. The PGA Tour however, have announced their intentions to continue play in May – as much as I want to bring positivity to you as readers, this feels incredibly optimistic, and to be honest, unrealistic. Obviously, I understand that hope this will happen is giving the players something to work towards, and a date for fans to look forward to with anticipation that sports greatest comeback will begin very soon.
For now though, we remain in the unknown as much as the rest of you, awaiting news of change each day.
Matt’s Start to the Season
As many of you who have followed Matt’s results over the last few months will know, his performance has been anything but consistent. Leading up to the end of 2019, he was struggling with his scoring, unable to identify what the cause might be. Following the end of some of his contracts in December, Matt made the decision to undertake a club change. He moved to Callaway.
Changing clubs, as we have learnt, is often quite a difficult and a timely process. It takes a lot of testing, adjustments, and time invested into it. Matt and the team at Callaway have been working hard to find his perfect set of tools.
The beginning of our season did not have optimum results. It hasn’t been a pretty journey, and it’s the times of performance struggles that can be the hardest to feel as though I am being an effective support system. But, the lows always lead to the highs, and with the practice and time invested into his club change, Matt is confident his game is on the up.
This long pause on golf that we currently find ourselves in is not necessarily a negative for some players; Matt being one of them. Although he may be out of work for a while, he has the time to work on his game, and his swing, with complete freedom. He does not have to worry about losing ground within tournaments, gaining Ryder Cup points, or falling down the world ranking list following poor results, because nobody else is playing. Players currently have the freedom (albeit using some initiative without access to golf courses) to grind on their own areas for improvement, giving that work as much or as little time as they feel willing. The pressure is off.
Realising this, Matt currently adopted a nice balance between thinking about golf, working on his golf game, and also successfully switching off. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed changes in Matt’s behaviours in his day to day habits, and his responses when having spent time practicing. Typically, the sound of a golf club making contact with a ball rings in my ears when trying to sleep at night, because Matt will watch swing video, after swing video, after swing video. I knew who Rocky was before being introduced to him as Matt’s coach, solely because I recognised him from the endless videos Matt would watch on Youtube!
Recently, the swing videos have gone down – Matt is not meticulously analysing them, and his own, as much as he has done previously when things haven’t been going well. To me, that is a sign that he is seeing positives in his practice. His positivity in response to myself and team members asking how things are going, further signifies to me that the Matt we know from 2018 is slowly making his anticipated return. In addition to this, over the last year, behind closed doors, Matt and the team have spent a lot of time working on his personal growth too. Combining this with the positives he is sharing from his practice, instills belief in me that there are great things ahead for Team Wallace.
We are excited to get going again – whenever that may be – for Matt to compete feeling more confident in his game, to reunite with our tour friends, and to finally reveal some exciting team news.
Our Intended Year
Pre-coronavirus, our plans for 2020 had involved an exciting adventure – a golfer’s American Dream.
With Matt’s qualification for his PGA Tour card, following a successful 2019, we were going to be spending our year based in two different countries. Our year was set out to spend the first half of it in the USA playing on the PGA Tour, and returning home to the UK, and to our friends and family for the second half. We were looking forward to a new experience together, living in a new country, within a different culture, meeting new people, and playing brand new tournaments to us. We were going to miss our European Tour community, but adventure awaited us.
We began preparation for this year in autumn of 2019, spending hours trying to find a rental we could call home. Admittedly, we weren’t helping ourselves find somewhere because we were being particularly fussy! The problem was, we were so desperate to find a place that felt like a holiday space for family and friends who had flights booked to visit us, whilst also having that homely feel for ourselves. Eventually, while Matt was playing in The Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa (one of European Tour’s Rolex series events), the rental we had been hunting for became available – needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity and our excitement for our American adventure began!
We moved over at the beginning of February, and the tournament year was business as usual with Matt competing in Mexico, The Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and The Players, before leading up to the best week of the year: The Masters. Or at least, that was the plan!
Coronavirus & Golf
The reality of coronavirus’ impact on businesses did not truly hit us until the week of The Players.
Following an enjoyable week in Orlando for The Arnold Palmer Invitational, we had arrived at Sawgrass with an unsettling feeling that we probably shouldn’t be there. The updates on the news from Europe were increasing in severity, and honestly, more than fear, there was a part of me that felt guilt. Why were we continuing as usual, when other businesses, families, nations, were suffering? Precautions were in place during the week with hand sanitiser available throughout the clubhouse and golf course. But, walking around a course I usually thoroughly enjoy, I was all too conscious of the general public; the number of people crowded together around a green, and the risks we were all naively taking.
Mumblings of an announcement being made in the afternoon on Thursday started to spread and we were all making predictions about what it might be. It was confirmed at lunchtime, whilst Matt was mid-round, that the tournament would be closed to the public on Friday, through the weekend. Only essential volunteers, family members/player support staff, and players themselves were to be allowed access. It felt a shame to have such an iconic part of the event removed: the crowds around the infamous 17th green – but we were all in agreement that it was a sensible call.
However, some concerns were raised for international players whose countries were giving notice of impending travel bans, and Trumps implementation of a 48 hour deadline for many internationals currently in the USA to catch flights back out.
We continued our usual tournament evening routine, and went to sleep. Late that night we were awoken by a knocking on our bedroom door from Matt’s manager; The Players had announced the full cancellation of the tournament. We would not be playing in the morning. It was a decision by the PGA Tour that every one of us respected, and for international players the next 24 hours became incredibly chaotic with many scrambling to book, pack, and rush to the airport to make the final flights leaving the US to their home countries.
It has been a weird few weeks with no golf – not just because Matt’s work (our every day norm) has halted, but because of the unknown. We have no idea when we will be returning to tournaments, or which event the first one back might be. Every week we have news of upcoming tournaments being postponed or cancelled, new dates presented to replace them…but you can’t really plan for them, because the unknown only seems to get greater each day. Not just within professional sport, but for all of us around the world, within every industry and every family.
I am writing this post during what should have been Masters week. It’s a week every golf fan has highlighted in their calendars. It feels very surreal to be sat here writing this, with the news updating us of the catastrophic impact of this brutal virus, when my calendar pings up reminders of where we should have been, and what we should have been doing.
This week we should have been reuniting with our families, sharing The Masters experience with them all. Matt’s dad should have been caddying at The Par 3 Contest, and we should have been together celebrating Matt’s 30th birthday on Sunday. But, how can you be sad that those things aren’t happening when you see the impacts of this pandemic. It’s a period where the positives feel harder to find, but one positive it has given us is gratitude. Gratitude for our opportunities – the time we could spend with our families, and the fact we could even travel, and play, in an event so iconic in the first place.
When we return to Augusta in November, we will all be taking the time to appreciate and make the most out of every minute we spend, and every memory we create with our families and friends. We will breathe the air in a little deeper, we will stand and admire the view of Magnolia Lane and Amen Corner a little longer, and we will celebrate the week a little harder….simply because we’ve been reminded of just how lucky we are that we can.
Life in Quarantine
Although our adventure has come to an abrupt end, we are doing our best to remain positive. Adventure awaits us again.
Personally, I am keeping positive by taking this opportunity to enjoy the luxury of time. In life, we very rarely get the time to be completely selfish with it. To put ourselves first, to do the things we enjoy. Things as simple as reading a book from beginning to end, or having an evening to pamper ourselves, or going on a long walk in the fresh air. We are always stressed, running around busying ourselves, ensuring we feel productive, or that our day has been important; that if we don’t try to make the most of this time to be selfish with it, to enjoy being a little lazy, watch movies, have a lie in, play with our children, and laugh with our families…then one day – when normality returns – we will be stressed, busy, and going about life at such a rush again, we will regret not taking this moment to embrace the luxury of time while we were given it. To enjoy this time to do the things that bring us a little happiness.
For Matt, he is embracing this time where his mind is completely free. He is not stressing about perfecting his performance, the details of swing improvements, the impact of results etc. For the first time in a while, he is learning to be relaxed in his head space, and is enjoying having time to connect with golf fans by taking part in podcasts and instagram lives and participating in golf challenges; finding the fun in the game again.
For now, the ‘American Dream’ will have to wait. Our adventure will have a chance again.
As for 2020 – we have not ruled you out yet! Life in general will excite us all once more. We will heal. We will be united with a new appreciation for our loved ones, our freedom to travel, and our possibilities in life – from the simplest luxuries, to the most extravagant. We will make the most of every minute, and every opportunity. And finally; golf will return. Players will compete, fans will cheer, and trophies will be won.
Until then, please be kind to yourselves, and share your kindness with others.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay positive.