Player diary: Car troubles test Nicole's mettle

LPGA Futures Tour's Nicole Noelle Smith during a glamour photo shoot. Nicole is blogging exclusively for Golfweek.com.

LPGA Futures Tour's Nicole Noelle Smith during a glamour photo shoot. Nicole is blogging exclusively for Golfweek.com.

My last few weeks have been that of a roller-coaster ride, and not in the good sense.

Two weeks ago I had a major car malfunction. When driving home from the course on Saturday in Decatur, Illinois, my car completely stalled in the middle of the road. I was terrified to say the least. I was able to somehow get the car over to the side of the road, and I sat there for a little bit before I was somehow able to drive the car slowly and rather jerkily back to my host family's house.

I was not able to accelerate the car over 3,000 rpms, or it would jerk violently. Mind you, this is after I had already taken it to a mechanic to have it looked at earlier that day, because I thought it was making a funny noise, and he told me that I was just fine. Liar.

The next day, Sunday, I was unpacking my car and leaving stuff with my host family when a neighbor, who is a mechanic, offered to take a look at it. He checked it out and it was running fine. He said the air-conditioning compressor had gone out, but assured me I could drive it safely to our next tour stop in Harris Michigan. Everything was looking good and I packed everything back into my car and got ready to leave Decatur.

On Monday morning, I drove to Panera to meet up with a group of friends to caravan to our next event. I was the leading car and hopped onto the freeway to take off for our 10-hour drive. Heading down the highway going 70 mph, my car took a violent jerk and dropped to 50 mph in an instant and kept dropping fast. I had no accelerating power and got to the shoulder as fast as I could.

The scary thing was I had the girls behind me and they had to get over as well and avoid my car, which was not moving anywhere very quickly. I then jerkily made my way to the next exit (which happen to be the dealership exit) and dropped my car off at the Mitsubishi dealership’s maintenance department to see what going on and if they could fix it.

By this point I felt helpless and I wasn’t sure what to do without my car and all my stuff. I wanted to cry.

I called up my host, Erica, and she was there in an instant. My friends took my stuff I needed for the week and loaded it into their cars, and Erica took the rest to the house, gave me hug and said she would see me after my tournament when I came back to pick up my car or whenever was convenient. I then signed some paperwork with the maintenance department and said I would be back next Monday to get my car if they could fix it. Then I climbed in the car with my friends and we were on our way to Harris.

I called my housing host in Harris, Michigan and told them my car trouble and they gladly offered me their third car to drive around for the week. How awesome are they?! They have no idea who I am and here they have opened their home to me and are going to me borrow their truck.

Back to my car ... the dealership called and said that it is going to be $2,200 to fix my car. Great. I just sent in my last seven entry fees for events at $500 a pop and have to pay this, plus cover expenses for travel … stress to say the least!

For the week, I did my best to stay on the positive and try to put the mess out of my head. I had a great week getting to know my hosts, but I had a horrible week at the course. I just could not put away the thought that money is tight and this is how I have to make it. That is not the way you play golf. Golf is meant to be played freely, for the love of playing. What is going on in my head?! I missed the cut and all I could think about was getting back to my car. The dealer had called after Friday's round saying it was fixed and ready to be picked up.

On Sunday, I was able to convince a friend to drive me back to Decatur to pick up my car and stay the night with my awesome host family. While driving down, my host guy, Greg, called me to tell me that he tried to go get my car from the dealer. He got a mile up the road and it stopped running again! Now I am stressed to the max and pretty sure I am going to have to buy a new car on top of all this already. Tears.

Monday I showed up at the dealership at 7 a.m. when they opened to air my grievances against them. They said they were going to have to keep it again but would make it top priority. But how does that help me get to my next event, and get around for the week since I am in a hotel room? And to top it off my flight home the following week is in Connecticut. UGH!

So I went back to the house and packed a bag and stored everything else in the closet at the home of my host family. I was a mess, crying my eyes out, not knowing what was going on or how I was going to operate the next week. Erica was great in calming me down and telling me I could leave my stuff for as long as I needed, and stay again as long as I needed as well.

Right before 11 a.m. when we were about to leave to head to Crown Point, Indiana they called…

“Ms. Smith, your car is fixed. We forgot to update the computer in your car to work with the new hardware we put in…”

I went back to the dealership and this time sure enough it was running great. I had the mechanic take a ride with me just to make sure. I headed back to the house and had to re-pack my car again with everything, while at the same time calming myself down, everything is going to be alright.

I was exhausted, just emotionally drained from crying, worrying, and packing and unpacking. I got on the road and just drove with my friend behind me praying my car was going to make the drive without a problem. Thankfully, it did.

On Tuesday I played a pro-am event in Angola, Indiana that benefited the Junior Achievements Program of Indiana. Pros get paid a small amount to help promote this charity event and I needed to get some cash in hand to use for the week. It was a beautiful day and a great day on the course. After the round was over, I had to head back to Crown Point, Indiana for my LPGA Futures Tour event this week. It was going to be starting on Thursday and I needed to get a practice round in the next day at 8 a.m.; I was playing in the pro-am there as well and needed to get some rest.

With my car trouble behind me, I went into the golf week with a new mindset: Play golf freely, take it as it comes and hit every putt only judging it by the swing that was placed on it. Control your controllable and move on. Life is crazy and there is not a lot you can do about it.

•••

A quick note and huge thanks must be given to the people who kept me going the last few weeks.

• Erica and Greg Lange I could not have made it through any of it without you. I miss you already, you have become like family to me over the last few weeks. You were so helpful, loving and supportive. I hope to someday be able to re-pay you.

• Mary and Jerry Freuerbach thank you so much for letting my stay in your home, borrow your truck, getting me a gym pass, and keeping my laughing all week. I hope we can see each other again either in Escanaba or somewhere. You are both wonderful.

• Blair Lamb, Rebecca Kim, Selanee’ Henderson, and Whitney Wade thank you for being true friends. Without any of you I have no idea how the last few weeks would have been possible.

•Mom and Dad, thank you for letting me spread my wings. I know it is hard hearing me go through all this and not knowing how to help or what to do so far away.

I love you all.

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