The fifth event of the PGA Europro schedule was last week near Oxford at Frilford Heath, an incredible set up with three championship golf courses and numerous practice areas.
It was a Friday to Sunday event so I travelled down to Frilford Heath on the Wednesday with the idea of playing a few holes and checking the green complexes, before playing in the Pro Am on Thursday. But as the weather was good and the course was quiet I ended up playing 18 holes and the course was in great shape.
With the recent dry weather in Oxford the course was playing pretty bouncy and putting the ball in play off the tee would be extremely important. This would mean I would plan to only hit 6 drivers per round with 2 iron being the most popular club of choice off the tee.
I came away feeling happy with my game and looking forward to the Pro Am. The weather again on Thursday was fantastic and I made my way to the fourth hole, which was my starting hole with it being a shotgun start.
I was paired with three great guys, Dean, Clive and Paul who were clearly out to enjoy the day, which was very relaxing. As a team we finished up with 81 points which left us only 3 points behind the eventual winners. Personally I shot 73 and I struggled with my game for the last 12 holes, blocking most of my shots.
So having an afternoon tee time for round 1 gave me chance to do some practice and look at what was causing the shots going to the right. It turned out to be something as simple as my alignment, so that was going to be my key swing thought, if it can be called a swing thought, for the week.
Round 1 got underway at 1.17 from the 10th tee and I didn’t make the start I was looking for and I was 3 over after 3 holes. With it appearing that nearly everyone was under par in the morning, this was not good. A few missed chances over the next few holes was followed by another bogey on 16 and I was now 4 over. I then hit my second into the fairway bunker on 17 and so with 65 yards left to the hole, I hit one of the best long bunker shots I have hit in a long time that finished 5 feet from the hole and when I rolled it in for birdie, the momentum shifted.
I then went onto play some great golf, but only managed to pick up birdies on the two remaining par fives and I finished the day with a 73 which left me in a tie for 89th. Despite being so far down the leaderboard I came away feeling very confident, I had saved a potentially disastrous round and felt I could come out the next day and make some birdies and move closer to the lead.
Round 2 started just how I wanted with a birdie at the first when a putt of just over 30 feet dropped in. A few solid pars was then followed with another birdie putt dropping on 5 from around 20 feet and I was now 2 under, I quickly gave both of these gains back on the 7th after a sloppy double bogey which was the result of a 2 iron hanging just outside of the bunker and then three putts from 15 feet when I did find the green.
A slight set back, but I was playing good and more importantly feeling good. So when I rolled in a birdie on 10 from 12 feet I was back moving in the right direction, another putt dropped for birdie on 12 from around 25 feet and when I nearly holed my approach on 14 and knocked in the birdie I was 3 under for the round.
Two good shots into the par five 15th left me a good look at eagle from just over 15 feet and I hit a perfect putt that found the middle of the cup, I was now 5 under for the day.
I couldn’t convert any further birdies over the closing holes despite having some good opportunities but was round in 67 and with it a significant move up the leaderboard into a tie for 27th going into the last round.
The final round started with three pars before I birdied the 4th and 5th. The 4th after getting up and down from just off the back of the green and the 5th a two putt from the back edge after driving the green on the short par four.
I would then go on a run of pars until the 11th were I made bogey after just missing the green and then failing to get up and down. A few holes later I would notch up a costly double bogey after hitting a wayward tee shot and then three putting the green. I very nearly made up for it at the par five next after hitting 9 iron into the green, but I just missed my eagle putt from 18 feet.
Pars on 16 and 17 were followed by a bogey on 18 after getting sucked into attacking the flag and my approach was within a whisker of being perfect but rolled down the steep bank to the left of the hole and after a good chip up the bank, I missed the par putt from 6 feet and I finished the tournament with a 73 and a tie for 34th place.
I came away feeling very happy with my game and can take confidence from the fact that I was 10 under for 40 holes in the middle of the tournament.
Next stop is a 400 mile drive to Moray near Elgin in Scotland and I am very much looking forward to playing a links course for the first on the PGA Europro.