In this week's Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the newly retired Sebastian Heisele discusses the ups and downs of a career on Tour, his acceptance of life as a 'journeyman', how Covid changed his view of life and his desire to be both a coach and mentor for the next generation.
Retirement was a massive sigh of relief to have left that chapter behind in a way. I'm just focusing on what is to come and I'm glad that it is done with. The decision has been in the making for quite some time.
When I look at my professional career, I'm obviously not a star of the Tour. I see myself as a journeyman. It was never anything out of the ordinary, it was never anything really steady, it was bouncing around from tour to tour and just trying to stay afloat.
I didn't have the best college career so when I won as an amateur on the Pro Golf Tour I thought 'If I can win here, who are they?'. I thought I might be better than I thought I was and that it would be easy to qualify for the Challenge Tour and I had a rough awakening that year.
I was close to walking away in 2014 as I didn't see the results and wasn't enjoying it but I had a great season and finished second in the Pro Golf Tour Rankings to get onto the Challenge Tour. It was just day-to-day and that's how I see my career. If I was as consistent as a Max Kieffer, who knows, I might still be playing but it's never been the case. It's been more downs than ups and that's just tiring.
You have these episodes where the game doesn't quite feel right and you start doubting yourself and the results don't show and nothing is going for you and that's when you want to bury your head in the sand and walk away. I've always had these spells in my career where something just fuels me and I go through the roof.
In 2019, I shot a 61 in the opening round of the KPMG Trophy in Belgium and the following week I won the Open de Bretagne. It became a Cinderella story from there: three weeks earlier I was outside the top 100 in the Challenge Tour Rankings and over the last 11 events I moved up to fourth - that was a lot of good golf. The big names can do that every week because the confidence is there and that's maybe something that has gone up and down for me and never been consistent. At the end of 2019 I was oozing confidence. Nothing could go wrong and I wasn't worried about anything.
Then the pandemic came along and shut the world down and that really showed me that there was more to life than travelling the world on my own like a bouncy ball. That was the first time in my career as a pro that I was confined to one spot for more than a couple of weeks.
Covid grounded me in the sense of being home, having family and my wife around me, being in my own bed and my own four walls. I could spend time with friends and have a casual dinner and I discovered there was something to it. I had never experienced that throughout my career because I was so focused on golf. It was an eye-opener and I wanted more of it in my life rather than just in the winter months.
On Tour you can spend months working on something and you don’t really reap the rewards for that work. If we gain 0.2 shots per round by doing something specific, that’s the high of what we can do at DP World Tour standard. That fuelled my fire to calm down and be less active in my life in the sense of travelling around and living out of a suitcase and being a lonely golfer.
I thought I was never really able to have a close best friend because I was gone for half of the year and they’d always have other people that they could spend time with. It was always a good friend but never a best friend and that time at home allowed me to work on relationships. We gather and have lovely evenings where we chew the fat and enjoy ourselves. It’s that relationship with other people that I hope to work on again.
At 34, the focus for my circle of friends has changed. You get married, there are conversations about having kids, your family grows and you are responsible for more than just yourself. When I got out on Tour I had nobody else to worry about and I could do whatever I liked. In 2017, I was playing at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and I had the opportunity to go and see the year out in China on the Challenge Tour and I spontaneously did that. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that anymore.
I decided early this year I did not intend to play a full schedule, I knew I was not going to chase my card and I was going to lose it and I was content and happy with that. Finishing fifth in Portugal was a nice nod from the golfing world to say ‘here’s a nice walk off for you, enjoy your retirement’. I’m over the moon with walking away finishing fifth at my best Tour score of 19 under.
I am a fully qualified PGA professional with a coaching certificate here in Germany and I got my feet wet with that and decided it was something I could see myself in. There is interest from the federation side here locally in Germany to work together. In my golfing upbringing, I never had someone to lean on who would prepare me for what was to come. You just progressed and were thrown into situations wherever you were.
I had a difficult time at first on the Challenge Tour and had no idea what to expect when I got to the DP World Tour. I want to take that forward into youth coaching and support those players in their career choices and help them as someone who has made the journey throughout the Tours. That is something that I didn't have and I think I can offer.
My best result on the DP World Tour was a third-place finish at the 2017 KLM Open and it was another one of those things that fuelled my fire and made me believe that there was potentially more in me. It hurt me in a way because I was ready to go to the Challenge Tour but I stuck around and finished 141st on the Rankings. To this day, I'm still surprised that I could finish third in that environment and I'm very proud with the way that went.
The future looks great for German golf. When I first came out on Tour there were five German guys and the next year there were seven. On Tour, you always see the nationalities gravitate to towards each other but we never had that group. We could never get a German foursome in a practice group. Now, Yannik Paul and Max Kieffer have won and Hurly Long and Marcel Schneider are doing well and they can feed off each other and that is what we missed. There's now an environment for Germans to thrive and there's more on the way with Alexander Knappe and Freddy Schott graduating from the Challenge Tour.
I don't think I'll ever stop playing golf. I've been way too locked up and potentially in love with it to ever give up on it. It will bother me for the rest of my life to figure out a way to beat it. But I just didn't enjoy the grind, the work that it needed to be competitive and I think that was a driving factor for me to accept for myself that if I didn't enjoy work and practising then I sure as hell don't stand a chance to compete at the highest level. I don't enjoy the work that it takes to be successful on a golf course.
I'm sure that soon enough my fingers will start having that itch and urge that arises in me to go and play more again. I played a few Pro-Ams this year and there were no expectations or pressure for cuts and the Rankings and prize money, it was just about playing the game and that's what I want to return to, just enjoying casual rounds and the challenge of me versus a golf course. That got lost the last couple of years, it was all about the stress and pressure I created for myself. It was all about being successful and where could you stand for next year and that's not the case anymore. I've returned to just playing golf. I could have a good today and a lousy day tomorrow but it will still be enjoyable.