In this week's Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Mike Lorenzo-Vera opens up about his roller coaster career which saw him in €400,000 of debt, and talks candidly about why hiring a sports psychologist has been crucial to not only improving his game, but his overall mental health.
Where do I begin? I will start at the end. I’m in Mexico for the World Golf Championship this week and really looking forward to testing myself against the best players in the world. We all say it but it’s true: these big events where you can test yourself against the best players in the world are the reason we compete. I love it here and the golf course is like a combination of Crans Sur Sierre in Switzerland and Parco di Monza in Italy.
Being at the WGCs and Majors doesn’t intimidate me anymore. There was a time when I would have been nervous to come to events with the best players in the world, but I’m over that now. I know that I belong here and can compete at this level. It’s time for me to show that.
The last couple of years on the golf course have been good for me but I know all about the dark side. I really struggled in 2011, 2012 and 2013. And I mean big time. I finished almost last on the Challenge Tour in 2013 and I had almost €400,000 of debt in France because of bad decisions, partying, and being very generous to everybody around me. I’d had one good year in 2008 when I won around €350,000; but after taxes and expenses there’s not much left, and trust me I spent it really badly. I never looked at my bank balance. Never. And then one day the card stopped working and I called the bank shouting at them. ‘Why isn’t it working?’ and they say, ‘well, because you’ve got no money.” Then I was trying to make cuts to try and bring cash back in, but it was ridiculous. I messed up my taxes as well. Believe me, I made all of the mistakes!
By the end of 2013 I was kind of lost. I’ll never forget the moment when I realised how lost I was. I was sitting on the couch at home and the golf was on TV. I was watching David Horsey in a European Tour event and he was going well. Now this is nothing to do with Dave, but I remember saying out loud ‘How can this guy be doing so well? I was beating him and so many others before.’ Then my girlfriend looked at me and said: “because he’s better than you”. I said no he’s not and she’s like ‘where are you now, you’re on the sofa, nowhere on the Challenge Tour and he’s playing well on the European Tour so he’s better than you, that’s it.’ This was from a girl that doesn’t know anything about golf, and I was like, she’s right. So where do we go from there? That was it. I was on the ground, the bottom of the sea, and that was the moment that I decided to push myself to the surface.
So I called my brother Frank, who is a golf coach, and asked him to help me, to caddie for me at Tour school. He started to give me good advice and I felt that technically I was going somewhere with him. So we are at the Q-School final, and I am playing my last hole of the fourth round at PGA Catalunya. I’m one shot inside the cut. I’ve hit the fairway and the heart of the green, and I have a putt with a big angled break. I told my brother that I was going to chip it over the break with my sand-wedge, and he tells me no, you’re going to putt that four metres right. So we get into this argument and he says “I’m going to snap your sand-wedge so just take the putter.” I hit the putt to one foot from the hole and made par to make the cut. After that moment my brother told me my mentality wasn’t right and I needed to stop trying to show off and just play. He saved me there, and then I started to work with him.
People want me to win more than I do. Every time I lose a tournament I get stronger after it, so you know what, I’ll keep losing
It’s amazing how little things in golf lead to fundamental changes in people’s lives and careers. I got so lucky that year because I was only first reserve for Final Stage. But Miles Tunnicliff, who now works for the Tour, pulled out of the event and I got in. Then I made the cut and I got a category on the Challenge Tour and started to rebuild. I owe Miles a lot. That was crazy but you need a bit of luck.
After 2014 I started to play correct golf, but I was mentally weak. In 2016, I was leading in Valderrama and I finished sixth on the Sunday and I wondered how I have such good golf from Thursday to Saturday and then suddenly not. There were plenty of reasons, I could not be physically fit enough, technically not ready, or mentally weak, because at the time I was really weak.
The only time until that point I had spoken to a psychologist was when I met Jos Vanstiphout one day in Munich when I was looking at a Mercedes SLR. I was looking at it and he passed next to me and said ‘this car is strong yeah? But you are weak’. And he left. At the time I took it really badly, and it was stupid to take it badly because he was so right. I maybe should have taken it badly for one day and then asked him why he said that, and I would have won a lot of times in my career.
When I missed that chance to win in Valderrama, that’s when I went to see Meriem Salmi, and that’s when everything started to improve. She’s the best in France. She can be very tough, but she will always respect you, and that’s great. It’s a big foundation of self-esteem and hard work.
It took a year of sessions before we actually started talking about golf. I lost my dad maybe ten months before that. I felt that everything was starting to be really weak again. My first meeting with her was about why this had happened, that it was not supposed to happen yet. He had diabetes and some heart troubles, but everything was under control, then everything went really wrong. I didn’t realise at the time, but there was a lot of stuff in my head which I needed to understand before we could focus on the psychology of my golf performance. I remember reading Beef’s blog on europeantour.com last year and I would urge everyone to read that. He was so precise, he has a perfect explanation that is spot on about the psychological part of being a sportsman. For everybody, as soon as we do something that we like for a job and you win some cash, in the mind of everybody and even yourself, you are not allowed to be sad. You have to be happy. I hate to say it, but life’s more vicious than that.
The higher up you go, the more anxiety there is. I think you need to fall down a bit to understand the problem and then you need to speak to someone. You need the best, because they’re going to help you really work, not just speak and listen to you but just work, work on your brain, give you key exercises to do to make your brain stronger. I wish the best players in the world could all speak as freely as Beef did the mental side of the game, because everybody would see how tough it can be. I’m sure even Brooks and Rory have hard times mentally.
It’s been four years now since I’ve been working with Meriem, and it took me four years to get comfortable. I’ve been working really hard with that, and now I’m getting really more comfortable in big events. I proved a lot of things to myself at the US PGA Championship last year, when I shot one-under on Sunday in windy Bethpage and went from 55th to 16th. It was not just a round of great par saves and recovery shots from everywhere, I played such good golf.
It looks like every time I’ve made a decision since I’ve been back, they have been good. Meriem told me trust yourself, because you’re clever. I always loved being the guy that can party and be funny, but the thing is I really believed that that was all that I was. But then you realise you’re more than that. You’re clever, you have a good view of what you need to do, and that’s what she taught me. And sometimes it hurt because I had to stop with Frank, I had to stop with the next coach and the next coach, with the caddie, the next caddie, because every time I want to go a step higher, you have to ask for someone that knows better than the other ones. That’s part of the business. I want to have as many people around me who have succeeded at the highest level.
It’s been a rollercoaster, it’s been a LOT of fun, and now it’s getting even better but, it’s getting harder because I want more and I want to be better and I want everything to better around me. I want this life, but more and more trophies, I want everything. I want The Ryder Cup, I want to do all of this, and I’m going to put the work in and it’s going to work because I’m going to work my ass off to do it.
I had a really good winter improving my driving, I think I haven’t won yet because of my driving. Everything is ready to win, chipping, putting, iron game, my driving was not good enough and we work hard on it, it’s good.
The only thing is, people want me to win more than I do. I was chasing the victories before like crazy, I was so sad after Sicily when I lost in the play-off and then I was like come on it looks like every time I lose a tournament I get stronger after it, so you know what, I’ll keep losing, it’s going to make me stronger and I’m sure I’ll have a big surprise one day. It was clearly not my time, but it was good to fight against the big guys and being in that situation.
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