In this week’s player blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Wil Besseling discusses his BMW Indoor Invitational success, how he’s stayed positive in lockdown, and why he feels ready to compete at the highest level
It’s been a very difficult time for many people but I’ve tried to look at this time in a positive way, and enjoy things I would not normally be able to do – especially at this time of year when I’d normally be travelling.
I am lucky that the indoor practice facility I use is only ten minutes from my house, and a friend of mine owns the studio – which he built at the start of this year - so we worked out a schedule during the day for a couple of hours. I’d usually be there in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be home doing school work with the kids, and I also did some work on the house. I kind of like my new schedule. I’ve spent more time with the kids than I usually can, putting them to bed and having breakfast every day together. I’m not complaining. It’s important to take the time we have now and enjoy that as well, because we’ll be busy again soon and I don’t want to regret stuff I didn’t do that I had time to do.
I think to be able to be practicing every day on the simulator helped give me options to maintain and get better at the game in a different way, too. I was there pretty much every day for a couple of hours already when the European Tour announced the BMW Invitational powered by TrackMan, so it was a no-brainer for me to join.
Obviously you don’t see the ball fly in real life, but you still see it react to what you do. I was able to practice on numbers and I’ve gained some speed. There’s some really cool range options where you can pretty much go to any target you like, and you can play 18 holes in 30 minutes, so it was pretty much the best place I could be in other than outside. Also mentally, to keep going, it’s helped me a lot, and to finish it off the way I did with two wins out of five in the virtual tournaments was good fun.
Playing virtual tournaments was new to all of us, so no one knew what to expect, but it was great fun and a great initiative from the Tour, Trackman and BMW in a strange period in life for everyone. It’s a very different environment. There are no crowds, you’re indoors, there’s no one around, and you’ve no idea what others are doing or how good they are playing so you are just trying and birdie every hole. In the end you just had to wait and see how the other guys played, so it was nice to come out on top for two weeks and play something that was closer to competitive golf.
The first three weeks the courses were already in the Trackman system, so I had been able to play them a few times, but I’d never played Valderrama – which was the most difficult - or Wentworth in real life or on the simulator. I actually played Wentworth twice the day I won the final tournament. The first time, in practice, I shot 12-under in the morning and then after lunch I recorded it and I shot seven-under, so I was annoyed because I thought it wasn’t enough. Even though it’s virtual it’s a fun game and is so realistic, and you obviously still want to win against the other guys.
I was really lucky to be able to practice indoors the way I did with the virtual tournaments, but the golf courses are open again now and we’ve had lots of sunshine, so it’s really cool to be able to go outside again and go on from where I left off indoors.
I’m now looking forward to the six weeks we can play some tournament golf. It will be different to other tournament weeks because there’s no crowds, but just to be in that situation again and playing tournament golf with other players and being outside will be a great start from where we’ve been.
It’s been a long road for me. The years before this haven’t always been sunshine. I’ve been a pro for a long time, and I’ve struggled for a long time, but I’ve always had the belief that I was good enough to make it. It gets very hard when it’s not happening. If you’re not playing well or don’t have the confidence you’re also scared to try new things that could make you better or worse, and I was scared to try to get better.
I changed my routine in the winter of 2017/18, where I worked for a couple months and set myself up in a totally different environment. I really needed to change my way of thinking, way of acting, everything, and I started to work on new things to really help me going forward again. I wouldn’t say I was close to quitting but I really thought about it, and I felt the work that winter helped me realise I was made to be a golfer, and I wasn’t done yet. I’ve really enjoyed golf a lot more since then.
My tied third finish at Leopard Creek in December was huge. The last couple of months we’ve all had extra time to think about things that have happened in the past, and this is one of the things I’ve thought about a lot. I felt really calm that week of the Alfred Dunhill Championship and I felt ready to win. It unfortunately didn’t work out, but the way I played and the way I felt has really given me so much confidence about being ready to play on the highest level, which is something I missed for a long time.
Finishing seventh at the KLM Open a few months before really kick started that momentum. It got me in to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and then I almost won in China on the Challenge Tour. It was a weird couple of weeks there: I played Q School and didn’t my card, then Hong Kong got cancelled and in my mind I thought that was it for 2019, but then I was the last or second last man in to South Africa.
I played the best week of golf mentally. I felt so ready for it, and it was so strange because I’ve never been in that position before. I played really well on that Sunday, but I was just unlucky on the last and it wasn’t meant to be. I’d never been as close to winning on the European Tour so it was a huge step for me.
I knew I had 15 starts from finishing 18th on the Challenge Tour so I really wanted to focus on the European Tour this season, and getting started with a tournament like that was a great step forward. Unfortunately, now being in June things look different but I’m still very positive. It would be great to get back to weeks like that, to start off where I left off, and hopefully get it done one day. That’s the main goal, and if I keep working on the things I need to work on, I’m confident I’m going to get there.
I’m probably in the best shape mentally, physically, golfing wise that I’ve ever been in. I’ve really enjoyed the last month and I’m really look forward to the coming season. I’ve tried not to change the way I look at things and feel about things, and it really helped me to maintain that positive vibe while doing the simulator and being at home. I feel good, I feel healthy, and the game is in a good position.
It’s easy to look at guys who make it to the top and make it look easy, but it’s not. I’m not saying I’m already there, but I’m a lot closer than ever before and I’m really proud of the road I’ve been riding and the people around me who have supported me. It’s good to be in this position now, it’s nice to share some good times together and hopefully there will be a lot more.