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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Very Proud Father but a Very Sad Friend....

One of the best things about my job as a professional golfer is the fact that no matter how good or bad you play, there is always next week. It is amazing how fine the line is between success and failure. For example, a few weeks ago Phil Mickelson did not play well in the Shell Houston Open but WON the very next week at the Masters! The next week, Jason Bohn tied my glorious first round score of 77 at Hilton Head and eventually missed the cut. He WON the very next week (last week) in New Orleans! It is hard to explain but certainly a bounce here or a putt made there can make all the difference in the world. Success and failure in the world of golf is only one shot away. I know that I am hard on myself but I expect only the best. I breakdown and analyze each round and shot to the fullest extent so I can hopefully learn and improve. However, at the end of the day, no matter the score, I know I am close to seeing the results that I am working so hard to achieve.

As the tournament in Hilton Head came to a close, I began to worry about whether I could make it back in time to see the birth of our daughter if Beth happened to go into labor while I was in New Orleans. With her doctor in Savannah, Hilton Head would have certainly been an easy trip, no matter what time of day or which hole I was playing. However, the week ended with a few contractions but no trip to Savannah and the hospital. Birth is impossible to predict and I was uncertain as to whether I even needed to travel to New Orleans and compete in the Zurich Classic. However, Beth assured me that they would be okay and that I needed to go and play. To make my life even easier, Boo invited me to fly with him on a private jet so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the possibility of canceling a commercial flight if Beth went into labor. I am very lucky to have such good friends in my life and I appreciate the kindness that he showed. We left Harbor Town and went to the tiny Hilton Head airport where the runway was full of private jets. We pulled up next to the plane in our courtesy car and boarded. This was certainly a lot better than the hassles that come with flying commercial. We flew to New Orleans and walked off the plane to find a courtesy car parked right next to us. Not a bad way to travel! On Tuesday, I took my first half day off of the year. Boo and I were guests of the Zurich Classic on a chartered boat where we went red fishing. We had a blast and I ended up catching a ton of fish, including one that was over 29.5 inches long. Beth called on Wednesday morning and said that her doctor wanted to induce labor on the following Tuesday. This was a relief because it guaranteed that I would be at our daughter's birth, unless of course, she decided to arrive early! On Thursday, my cousin Collin Doss, came over from the University of Alabama and spent the week at the tournament. That evening, I carried him to a private party for all the PGA Tour players at the famous Acme Oyster House. They closed the doors to the open public and let us order anything from the menu free of charge. We had a great time and the food was incredible. Unfortunately, the golf didn't turn out as well as the fishing or the restaurants during my stay in New Orleans. I hit the ball decent enough but another cold putter left me high and dry. I missed the cut but there was a bright side, Beth didn't go into labor. I flew home Sunday morning and got to spend some time with the family before heading off to Charlotte early Monday morning.

Monday morning began a very long week full of mixed emotions. I woke up bright and early and headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a Pro-Am at Quail Hollow. With Beth delivering on Tuesday, my plan was to play the course on Monday and as soon as I finished, leave immediately for Savannah. If everything went okay at the hospital, I would return to Charlotte late Wednesday night in order to play on Thursday. Obviously, the health of my family is, and will always be, my main concern and priority. Golf is a job and I will never let a tournament take precedence over them. I arrived at Quail Hollow and was welcomed by an incredible clubhouse, golf course, gifts, and a fancy courtesy car. The practice facilities are top shelf and the course is no exception. It is long and difficult and the greens are extremely fast. Obviously Beth couldn't make the trip, but regardless of her presence, the tournament gave every player a bracelet from Tiffany's for their wives. In addition to the red carpet treatment, I received a brand new Mercedes Benz with only 35 miles on the odometer. This is without a doubt the nicest car I have ever driven. As soon as the Pro-Am ended, I loaded up the Mercedes with all my bags and set out for the Savannah hospital. I got about 2 miles down the road before I had to turn around. I couldn't figure out how to turn on the radio and barely could drive the car due to all the buttons and other fancy things. I returned to the parking lot and unloaded everything back in my truck. I left a little embarrassed but definitely more comfortable. I got to Savannah at 11:30pm and I was excited to see Beth and my little buddy Jake. At 3:30am, Beth woke me up because she was having contractions. We made the short drive to the hospital and sure enough, Beth was on her way to delivering our little girl. We stayed up all night and Beth was never in much pain. In fact, she was very calm and relaxed and never even hinted of experiencing any sort of pain. She received an epidural early Tuesday morning and around 12:00pm, her doctor said it was time. Now I am sure that everyone has heard the horror stories of someone experiencing a long and painful delivery. However, I must say that as an outsider, this one appeared to be neither long nor painful. During her first push, Beth's doctor had to stop her because she was pushing too hard. She instructed her to push very gently on the next one. To my surprise, I heard the sound of a little girl crying. She was here! Basically, Beth pushed one and a half times and our new addition arrived. Incredible! I certainly am not saying that the delivery was easy but it definitely didn't take much effort. We welcomed a very healthy and beautiful Elizabeth Blakely Adams into the world a little after noon on April 27th. She weighed 7 lbs 8 ounces and was 19 inches long. We will call her Libby and we couldn't be more proud. She looks like Jake did as a newborn and I only pray that she continues to rather than take a turn for the worse and look like her father! Beth is doing great and I am amazed at how easy she made it look. In fact, her and Libby were able to leave the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and head home. With everything under control and my family safe and healthy, I drove back to Charlotte to compete in this week's event. I will be off next week and I cannot wait to spend time with my family at home.

Unfortunately, April 27th was also a very sad day. Our family lost a very close friend in an automobile accident. Hal Sharpe was as close to the Yeomans family as one can be without being blood related. He worked for Beth's dad and we spent a tremendous amount of time together. During my winters, I often rode around with Hal as he looked at various tracts of timber. We went hunting together and he was always present when we had big cookouts at the Barn. We always roomed together on hunting trips and he cried with joy the day I asked Beth to marry me. He always had a smile on his face and even though he knew very little about golf, he was one of my biggest fans. He will truly be missed. I cannot believe that he is gone and that I never had a chance to say goodbye. His accident was definitely a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn't far from his home as he traveled down the road pulling a tractor on a trailer. A woman ran through a stop sign and crashed into his big diesel truck. Unfortunately, Hal was not wearing his seat belt and was thrown from his vehicle. He spent several days in a coma at the hospital but never recovered. He leaves behind a wife, four children, and a tremendous amount of friends who are heartbroken that he is gone.

Hopefully, I will play well this week in Charlotte and use it as a way to honor my little girl Libby and my good friend Hal Sharpe. Even though I haven't had any sleep, I am looking forward to Thursday's round. This is my first tournament with Tiger in the field and I cannot wait to compete against him. As I write this blog, I am reminded of countless conversations I have had with Hal and Beth's dad, Mr. H.G, over the years. They have always said that golf was an easy sport and all I needed to do was beat one man, Tiger! If I did this consistently, everything else would take care of itself and I would have more time to hunt and fish! Very true. Hopefully, I will make them proud.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Special Day on the Island....

As I stood on the putting green late Thursday evening, I couldn't help but watch as a nearby scoreboard scrolled through the first round scores. Next to my name, there was a nice, big, ugly 77. I continued to work well into the night on the area of my game that has plagued my season thus far. My putting hasn't been terrible by all means but it certainly hasn't reached the level of consistency that I need to compete with the big boys week in and week out. I returned to our condo on the 10th hole at Harbor Town and spent the rest of the evening with Beth and Jake. We had a great dinner and I tried to forget about the dreadful day of golf. However, when I turned on my laptop and looked at the PGA Tour website, insult was added to injury. Not only did my stellar 77 put me in a tie for last place after Thursday's round, but I was the last name listed on the entire leader board! This was definitely a first in my entire career and something I hope never happens again. The most frustrating part about my glorious 77 was that I really didn't play that bad. I made several bad bogeys that should have been routine pars. I only missed two fairways on a very tough driving course but it was the little mistakes that hurt me throughout the day. I woke up Friday morning with nothing to lose. I knew that if I cleaned up the round and avoided the careless mistakes, I would be fine. I told Beth that if I could shoot at least two under par on my opening nine holes, then I would have a chance to make the cut. Obviously, when you start the day in last place, making the cut is a tall feat. However, I knew I could do it and I set out determined to achieve my new goal. I started the round on the 10th hole and navigated through the tough back nine in two under par. As I rode the shuttle toward the first tee, I thought about the conversation I had with Beth the night before. I was in good shape after nine holes but certainly needed to catch fire in order to achieve my goal. I figured the cut would be somewhere around one under par by the end of the day and through 27 holes, I was four over par. That meant I needed to play the front nine in a minimum of five under par to have a chance. After a tap in for par on the first hole, I moved to Harbor Town's second hole, a heavily tree lined par 5. Making birdies on the par 5's were going to be a big key in my quest to make the cut. After a decent pitch shot from well short of the green, I left myself with a 15 foot putt just off the green. When my putt found the bottom of the cup, I moved one step closer to my goal. The third hole is designed with a tight fairway and a very small green surrounded by bunkers. My tee shot found the fairway but due to the wind in my face, my second shot was farther back than anticipated. I was in between clubs and decided to hit my six iron rather than the seven. This decision proved to be correct as my shot from the fairway went in the hole for an eagle. I was now 5 under for the day and 1 over for the tournament. I made par on the next hole, a tough par 3, and then moved to my last par 5 of the day. The cut was still around 1 over par and I needed two more birdies in the last five holes to reach that number. After my tee shot landed in the fairway, I hit a 3 wood to the front fringe of the green and only 15 feet from the hole. My eagle attempt violently lipped out, thus leaving me a short tap in for birdie. I made par on the sixth hole and moved to the par 3 seventh, still needing another birdie. My six iron from 201 yards ended up only 12 feet from the hole and I made the putt! I was now 7 under for the day and 1 under for the tournament. I couldn't let up and continued to press on, making a solid par on the difficult 8th hole. Enormous pine trees and overhanging limbs make the short but tricky 9th hole very difficult. The green is extremely small and bogeys or worse are inevitable in you are not accurate with your tee shot or approach to the green. Eventhough I found the middle of the fairway, I was blocked out from the pin by three giant pine trees. My only option was to launch the ball high in the air and hopefully avoid the top of the trees. I was certainly taking a chance with this route. However, if I chose to play to the right of the trees, I would miss the green to the right and face a difficult save for par. My ball rose above the trees, cleared the front bunker, and rolled to a stop only 14 feet from the cup. I definitely let out a huge sigh of relief as I approached the green. I lined up the putt and really wanted to make it as a cushion in case the cut moved. I heard a huge roar and lots of cheers as my ball found its way in the hole. I finished the round at 8 under par (63) and 2 under for the tournament.

The cut ended up at Even par and I made it by two shots. I tied a PGA Tour record on Friday for having the lowest amount of putts in one round (18). Obviously this number was aided by a chip in and a hole out from the fairway. However, things certainly evened out because I had several putts and chips that lipped out during the round. I was also informed that I broke a PGA Tour record during my second round at Harbor Town. I set the record for the lowest round in a PGA Tour event after being in last place following the first round. This record is a bit embarrassing because I had to be in LAST place after the first round in order to break it. However, it is a record and as a rookie, I am glad to be in the books!

Eventhough the weekend didn't end as I wanted, I had a great time inside the ropes at the Verizon Heritage. I had a ton of friends and family attend throughout the week and I apprecitate all the support. Beth, Jake, and I are very grateful for the hospitality that Mr. Don Schroeder and Michelle showed us during the week. Hilton Head is a very special event and eventhough the course doesn't suit my game perfectly, it was a great experience. I look forward to many more trips to the island.

Sorry this blog was boring but when you tie for 64th, it is hard write something exciting!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Putting It All Into Perspective...

As I walked off the 17th hole on Sunday in Houston, I could hear the grumblings and moans from those of you at home. The Internet showed a double bogey six on my scorecard and a fall from the top 10. Welcome to the PGA Tour. A place where good shots often wind up in spots where par is almost impossible. The 17th hole at the Redstone Golf Club, home of the Shell Houston Open, is a very difficult par 4 measuring 489 yards. The wind on Sunday was blowing hard and into my face. In each of the first three rounds, I drove my tee shot over the bunker on the left hand side of the fairway. By taking this angle, I was able cut off a portion of the dogleg and shape of the hole, thus making my second shot much shorter and easier. However, with the wind more in my face, I decided to aim to the right of the bunker because I wasn't certain I could carry it. I hit my tee shot very solid and it bore through the wind. It landed perfectly to the right of the bunker and ran down the fairway. Unfortunately, it continued through the fairway and up against the lip of a bunker on the right. My ball was lying half buried in a rake mark and I wasn't sure if I could get the ball over the steep lip of the bunker. After several minutes of weighing my options, I decided to advance the ball toward the green rather than layup. My main concern was getting the ball over the lip of the bunker. I was only 162 yards from the front of the green and I felt very confident that I could get the ball somewhere near the green. I succeeded in clearing the lip but the half buried lie made correct contact very difficult. My ball ended up 2 feet inside the hazard line. This would have been fine except for the fact that my ball was one foot above the ground in a bush! With no chance to advance it, I took my penalty shot and dropped the ball outside the hazard. A good wedge shot and two putts later, I recorded a crowd pleasing double bogey six.

A 14th place finish in any PGA Tour event is never a bad thing. However, I walked away with obvious disappointment after my debacle on number 17. Two shots in a PGA Tour event are extremely costly and even though they have the same effect as those lost earlier in the week, the ones at the end seem to hurt the most. As I sat on the plane Sunday evening, I went through each round and analyzed every shot. I do this every week to gain an understanding of where I made mistakes and what areas need improvement. This breakdown also points out the positives that occur. I will be the first to admit that this area often gets overlooked because I put so much emphasis on the mistakes. As usual, there were plenty of positives and negatives. However, as I write this blog almost a week later, the positives continue to weigh heavy on my mind. For example, even though I really didn't hit the ball well throughout the week, only one person beat my cumulative score on Saturday and Sunday. Too bad I wasn't near the lead after Friday! Also, I finished the week with some decent statistics in relation to the entire field - 17th in Driving Accuracy, 16th in Driving Distance, 12th in Putts per Round, and 5th in Putting. This obviously showed that even though I am very hard on myself and my expectations are extremely high, I am not as far off as it may appear. I didn't play my best and somehow managed a respectable finish. I will continue to work hard and hopefully my next event will bring improvement and a better finish.

This week at home has been great. I flew in from Houston on Sunday night and spent all day Monday with Beth and Jake. I checked on our new house, took Jake to swimming lessons, and I hit golf balls with my little shadow (Jake). On Tuesday, I drove to Athens to watch UGA football practice with my brother Chris, my UGA college roommate Davis Thomason and his father in-law, good friend Trey Rhodes, and former UGA football player Brandon Tolbert. Mike Bobo invited us to come watch and after practice we were introduced to Coach Richt. We then drove to Sanford Stadium and walked on the field while Bobo played a highlight video on the jumbo screen for several recruits. I am not sure which thrill was bigger. Meeting Coach Richt, standing on the 50 yard line at Sanford Stadium, or driving my truck alongside the hedges as I circled the inside of the stadium. On Wednesday, I took my lovely and very pregnant wife to Augusta to watch the Masters. The day started great when a parking attendant said he liked my truck and gave us free parking directly across from the main gate at CVS. Kinda strange but ok! We then approached the entrance to Augusta National and for the first time ever, all I needed to enter was my Players Badge. This was a very weird feeling and Beth got in trouble for having a bag that was too large. She sweet talked her way into being able to carry it inside. We walked around a bit and talked to several of my friends playing in the event. We wound up sitting alongside the 18th green and talked with Jake's new best friend "Uncle Perry" (Kenny Perry). Jake started calling Kenny this a few weeks ago when he saw him on the Golf Channel one night. As we were about to leave, I approached a security guard and asked where the nearest restroom was because my pregnant wife was in dire need. He said the general public restroom was down the hill unless you want to follow me into the clubhouse! Ahmmmmmmmm, yeah! We strolled behind the ropes and into a wing of the clubhouse. Beth laughed and smiled the entire way. Afterwards she said I need to hang out with her more often in order to get "star" treatment! Whatever.

I spent Thursday and Friday in Statesboro practicing and preparing for next week's event in Hilton Head. I went home to Eatonton on Saturday to practice as well. I am leaving for Hilton Head today (Sunday) for my first trip to the Verizon Heritage. Due to the close proximity of Hilton Head from some of your homes, I hope many of you will be able to attend. I will find out the availability of tickets on Monday at registration. Some events provide unlimited tickets for players but others like Pebble Beach, only give a maximum of eight passes for the week. I will do my best to gather as many tickets as possible but I can't promise anything. I invite any of you within driving distance to join me for the week. Harbor Town is a very difficult golf course and it demands tremendous accuracy. There are overhanging trees on every hole and the giant limbs make the fairways very small. You can be blocked out from a pin location even if you hit the middle of the fairway!! It will be a tough week but one that I am anxious to challenge. Beth, Jake, and I are staying on the 10th hole with my Pro-Am partner from Pebble Beach. I look forward to seeing those of you that can make the tournament. Safe travels and hopefully the putts will fall this week!

Six years ago today (April 11th), my Dad left this earth on a beautiful Easter afternoon and Masters Sunday. Fans around the world were watching Phil Mickelson win his first green jacket but I never saw him hit a shot. I was in North Carolina at a golf tournament. I finished the event in 2nd place and one shot out of a playoff. My Dad was always the first person I called after I finished a round. When I dialed his home, the paramedics were there attempting to save him for a massive heart attack. They didn't succeed. I rushed to his house in Dalton, Georgia, in shock and disbelief. I spoke with him on my way to the course that morning but in a blink of an eye, he was gone. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about him and the influence he had on my life. Most people say I remind them of him. We have a very similar facial appearance, the same mannerisms, and our laid-back personalities are a perfect match. I wish he was here to see Jake and the other grandchildren that he never met. He was a huge golf fan and would have really enjoyed my rookie season on the PGA Tour. We often talked about what this experience would be like and I credit him for my success. He is truly missed and I often think about him as I walk down the fairway. I always carry something of his in my golf bag or in my pocket. I cannot believe that it has been six years since I last spoke with him. He has missed so much. So as you read this, please do not take for granted those people who are close to your heart. Nobody is promised tomorrow.