Rookie diary: Making cuts and pulling G-forces

May. 19, 2010

I’ve been busy and am about to fill you in on the last few weeks. Hold on to your seats.

The last few weeks I have had some ups and downs on the course, but overall I see a lot of improvements in my golf game. Things are without a doubt heading in the direction I want and I am very optimistic about the future.

One of the first stories I will share happened in Charlotte a few weeks ago during the Quail Hollow Championship. I was first alternate on Tuesday morning of tournament week and thought there was no doubt I would get into the event. Quail Hollow is by far my favorite event of the year and the course was also my favorite of any. I played with fellow Cleveland staffers Kevin Streelman and Cameron Percy on Tuesday in one of the most fun practice rounds I have all year.

During the practice round I also had the first person of the year tell me how much they enjoyed reading this blog on Golfweek.com. I’m hoping for more of those this second half of the season. The tournament was a celebrity fest of sorts as well. Michael Jordan and a number of other athletes played in the pro-am which made for an exciting atmosphere. All this being said, I never ended up getting in the tournament but look forward to playing in it soon.

After a week off following Charlotte, I spent a few days in Orlando working on my game getting ready for the Texas swing.

Last week was the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. We played the newly opened TPC San Antonio. Not only was length off the tee a necessity, the green complexes and surrounding areas were very difficult. You had to hit a lot of solid shots and be accurate with distance control. The greens were very big, but their size was misleading because every side had run-offs that sloped to collection areas (sort of like Pinehurst). Just because the greens were 30-40 yards deep, did not make them easy to hit.

Overall I saw a lot of positives with my game, made another cut, but did not play my best again on the weekend. Aside from golf, the highlight of the week for me was getting the opportunity to take a flight in a T-38 Talon at Randolph Air Force base in San Antonio. I want to send another special ‘Thank you’ to my pilot Kyle “Squeak” Goldstein and Lt. Colonel Stacey Knutzen. This was an experience of a lifetime.

Myself, fellow rookie Cameron Tringale, Nationwide tour money leader Bobby Gates, Scott McCarron, and his caddy were all part of the group who flew Wednesday morning. We arrived at Randolph AFB at 7 am sharp (no push ups for me) and began the suit fitting process. This took about 30 minutes in total.

Next we went in for our safety training, where we had to pass tests on strapping ourselves into a training cockpit (slightly more involved than a seatbelt), ejecting from out of the cockpit, closing and locking our cockpit, and parachute training. After about two hours of safety training we were taken to our separate squadron building to meet our pilots.

After our mission briefing, we headed to the jets. I flew with the Black Eagles who were the ‘combat’ squadron of the AFB. We flew for about 45 minutes all around the San Antonio area while pulling 6 G’s (G forces) for about 30 seconds at a time, doing barrel rolls, and flying upside down. I was prepared with three puke bags, but am proud to say didn’t need to use a single one (although I was verrrry close and did not feel balanced or right until about 4 o’clock later that day). All in all it was a great experience and would do it again if I have the opportunity. I had a TON of respect for those guys before hand, but have a newfound respect for being able to multitask while pulling G’s and trying to stay alive.

Thanks again to everyone at Randolph Air Force Base for having us come fly!

I am on to Dallas now for the HP Byron Nelson. This plane isn’t nearly as fast…

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