Austin Connelly writes this week's blog from Australia, focusing on the ups and downs of making his way on tour.
Playing in different countries, with different golf courses and climates, has been a great experience. Dealing with jet lag and trying to manage my schedule has also helped me grow as a player and as a person. It’ll serve me well throughout my career, learning from these experiences week in week out. It is a grind, especially bouncing around from continent to continent and it’s a regular struggle dealing with different grass types and different altitudes. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to compete in these great events, though, and I really feel it’ll help me in the long run. For me to come to Europe and gain all this experience over here is worth a lot.
My coach, my dad and everybody around me is 100 per cent on board with me fully committing to playing over here. It’s been made easier by the tour taking such good care of me and being so well received by the players over here. It’s not hard to want to stay when everybody treats you so well. Obviously, there are a lot of players from countries who are close to each other, but it doesn’t stop them being nice to everyone else. I’m really close to some of the Aussie guys and some of the guys from the UK and France. There are no bad vibes out here. It’s been great to get to know everybody.
You get used to different cultures and asking for English menus! It’s a process everybody goes through, whether you’re from the United States or Spain or South Africa. We go everywhere, so everybody experiences the same thing. Australia is a country I really enjoy. I’d never been until this time last year, but the people and the food are great. I really enjoyed Denmark and Sweden last year as well. I wouldn’t say there’s anywhere that I haven’t enjoyed, but there are certainly places, like Prague and Vienna, which have incredible architecture and are amazing to visit.
I was thoroughly impressed playing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Seeing those guys shoot such good scores on the courses was amazing. Those courses didn’t suit my style of play as well as others do, but, with golf courses that long and rough that thick, I was really impressed. In Dubai, the greens were quite firm, but the guys just tore it up. The level of talent out here is very impressive and it’s so deep. I would say maybe 50 years ago you might have teed it up and there were 30 or 40 guys that could win, but I feel now almost the whole field has the ability to win.
It takes a couple of things to have good finishes here. It takes a course that suits my game versus the field, but the biggest thing is holing putts and getting comfortable on the greens. We change surface so often this time of year that acclimating to the greens we’re putting on isn’t easy, because we don’t have that long to do it.
I had played something like 11 out of 14 weeks last year and I was worn out. I’d secured my card at the KLM Open after coming second. I had played pretty much every week, but took one week off after that. I played through Turkey and had been playing every week I possibly could up until KLM. At the time of playing Turkey I was only an alternate in South Africa. It would have been a ten hour flight down there and a 25 hour trip home if I had not gotten in. I decided to just fly home, but then Matt Southgate got hurt and it turned out I would have gotten in, but it was too late, I was already home.
Golf is very good for learning how to deal with adversity. I had a stretch last year where I missed three cuts in a row and I’d never done that before. You have to dust yourself off and just get it rolling again, because the guys out here are good. You have to play well to get a result. We have so many big events in a row and you just keep playing, so it can wear you out mentally at times. Having the support of everyone has been so helpful, though, with people out here guiding me to manage myself and making the transition easier.
The Open at Royal Birkdale was incredible. Getting through that play-off to qualify was great. I’ve played in quite a few sectional qualifiers where I’ve been close. I’ve lost in play-off for a US Open spot and I’ve also missed by one to get in the US Open, so to get through a play-off for The Open Championship and for it to be my first Major was a big confidence boost. I showed myself I could do it. When I showed up at Birkdale, I felt comfortable; it just suited my eye off the tee. Having my coach, Cameron McCormick, there was great and I always play well when he’s there. He gives me a level of confidence that is hard to achieve by myself. He can diagnose a problem and find a solution that is easily implemented. I don’t need to make big swing changes or anything like that. Sometimes you find yourself searching for swing feelings or just trying to find a Band-Aid to get you through the week, but whatever solution he has seems to just work.
When I say that the European Tour makes you a more well-rounded player, it really helps you with days like Friday at The Open. It helps you deal with the elements that we don’t often get in the States. You learn how to grind it out. You throw your rain gear on, grab your umbrella and try not to complain. You make the best score you can and sometimes it’ll work out and sometimes it won’t.