In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Wil Besseling talks about taking a break from professional golf to work in a bakery earlier in his career and how it improved his mindset for the better, the bond he has created with his coach and caddie, increased belief he is closer to landing his maiden DP World Tour title and his thoughts ahead of playing on home soil at the Dutch Open.
At the end of the Challenge Tour season in 2017, and after missing out on regaining my DP World Tour card, I decided I needed a change of approach. The next season was only going to start around April, so I effectively had five months off. In previous years, I would spend most of the time practising on my game, but it was a long time between tournaments, and I decided I wanted to change my preparations during the off season.
I wanted to change what I had become accustomed to over several years as I felt if I carried on doing what I had done before then I would carry on having the same results. So, I decided to work in a bakery for three months on a part-time basis. I quickly realised that golf was a great livelihood to have and that playing the sport around the world and the practice hours were not something you could complain about. But the experience of working in a bakery was hugely beneficial. It offered me a different perspective, a change in mentality and helped to fuel my passion to return to golf after experiencing a different lifestyle off the course.
When I returned to the golf course in 2018, I felt reinvigorated, and my mindset was much improved. Consequently, I started playing much better and enjoyed the sport a lot more than I ever did before. I started 2018 by finishing in a share for second at the Challenge de España and had top tens in the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland on the Challenge Tour. I had a solid season on the Challenge Tour in 2019 but missed out on regaining my Tour card at the Final Qualifying Stage at Lumine, finishing 40th.
In 2020, following the return of the DP World Tour that summer after its enforced hiatus, I got my card back through playing opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic. I finished third at the Austrian Open, before I was in a share for third a couple months later at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters on my way to reaching the DP World Tour Championship for the first time in my career. Despite those good results, the relationship I had with my old coach and the one I have now (Jerome Theunis) is not the same. I needed a change.
Jerome used to be play on Tour as well. Towards the end of his career on the Challenge Tour I was at the start of mine, having turned professional in 2007. We met at the start of the 2008 season in South America and began to play practice rounds. We both got on well and had fun together. I graduated from the Challenge Tour to the DP World Tour that year. We lost contact and didn’t see each other for ten years. Then two years ago I qualified for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and Jerome was there working with Thomas Pieters, Thomas Detry and Nicolas Colsaerts.
It was a long pause, but it was great seeing each other again and during some practice rounds we started chatting about my game, his experiences as a player and then as a coach. I wanted to improve on some areas and we started from there and had a great chemistry. Now, one and a half years later, we have done some great work. It has been fantastic working with him, I respect the way he communicates, teaches and how he interacts as a person. It is enjoyable to work with him and I am looking forward to what is to come.
My caddie Marty is another important person for me. I started working with him at the same time as I started with my coach Jerome. The triangle between Marty, Jerome and myself is really strong. We are making good progress and it is really enjoyable to work with those two people.
If you can have a really strong bond with your caddie, then that counts for a lot when you are travelling around the world. I spend a lot of time with my caddie both on and off the course, talking a lot and having a laugh. But because of that we work even harder to make sure that we can work together to our best in tournament situations. Your caddie is always on your side, and they make their schedule around yours. Of course, you do have dinners with other players during the season but at events for the most part I spend most of my time with my team.
Of course, we set goals together but the main thing for us is focusing on the work required to reach those objectives. If you prioritise each step on the journey, rather than just the end goal, you will get closer to the goals quicker, and the process will be more rewarding when you do eventually achieve the targets you set.
Playing with Jon Rahm, who was ranked first in the Official World Golf Ranking, in the final group of the third round at the Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid last year was a special experience. I was very happy to be in that position on the Saturday as the halfway leader, one shot clear of Rahm. It was a pity not to be able to go on and win but I learned a great deal that week and gained a lot of confidence, having gone the first two rounds without dropping a shot. I am hoping to experience those moments among the world’s best in tournaments more and more.
The last few weeks I have played well, I finished in a share for 23rd at the Soudal Open in Belgium even if it didn’t finish the way I wanted. Before that I registered my first top ten of the season at the Catalunya Championship. My game is getting better and better in all areas which is great for me, and I am feeling great physically. I do genuinely feel as if I am getting closer to my first DP World Tour win. It will be great if I can become the next home winner of the Dutch Open.
When I have an off week, like last week when the US PGA Championship was taking place, I like to spend as much time at home with my wife and three children. But at the same time, I make sure I am doing the work in the gym and spending some time on the golf course working on some changes. Fortunately, I am not changing too much now in my game but ensuring that I am improving and gaining confidence in each aspect.
I am looking forward to what is to come with a busy and a great stretch of events to come. I am eager to keep playing! After this week at the Dutch Open, I am also playing at the Porsche European Open and hope to do well enough across those two events to try and secure a spot at the U.S. Open, which would be my Major Championship debut, through the mini-series of qualifying events.
When you play week in week out around the world it is always great moment in the year to be able to play in front of home crowds. I started playing in the tournament as an amateur when I was 15. Last year was the first time the Dutch Open was held at Bernardus Golf, and despite missing the cut it was great fun. Hopefully with Covid-19 now pretty much over, we are looking forward to a great week and hopefully big crowds.
I practise at Bernardus once a week when I am home with my coach Jerome. He drives north and I will drive down to the south and we meet halfway pretty much at Bernardus. We have been practicing there for quite a bit. It is a lovely golf course, great facilities for practicing as well so a fantastic place for us to prepare for not only this event but every other event.
I want to really take this opportunity to thank my wife and three kids. My family have always believed in me and to be able to share good times with them is great. The same goes for my sponsors. They stuck with me in the hard times which has made it possible for me to get me where I am now.