Walker Cup candidate Miller blogs about European trek
U.S. Walker Cup candidate Mike Miller is headed to Europe for 25 days to compete in several European amateur events. Miller, the reigning two-time Metropolitan Golf Association player of the year, is writing a blog for the MGA's Web site (MGAGolf.org) during his travels. His blog also is running in its entirety on Golfweek.com.
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Blog No. 5
I was able to play the European Club on Feb. 21, where we will be playing the Carey Cup matches in April. Let me tell you .... I am really happy we are playing match play. On the front nine, you really have to know where you are going. It is very tight. A lot of trouble, well, everywhere! If you hit your ball in the bunker you are playing out sideways. Other than that, the front nine is fine!
The back nine runs along the water, and they are just some of the most unbelievable holes and views I have ever seen. The wind blows sideways every day and the club is really looking forward to having us there. It is going to be a challenge, and once again I am glad it is a match-play event.
Friday (Feb. 22) was a bit different, because I didn't touch a golf club. I took the entire day off and just went to the gym at Carton House and was able to get some nice work in, and also went to a concert, at the O2 Arena in Dublin. Pat took me to see the Killers, who put on an amazing performance and I really enjoyed myself. We went with two of Pat's buddies, who, like Pat, are huge Killers fans. I was able to listen to some great music and experience Friday nightlife in the city.
I woke up early in the morning on Saturday and went to play the K Club, the site of the 2006 Ryder Cup. The course was top-of-the-line in class and service. The only poor thing that went on today was that it started snowing while we were playing ... I felt like I was right at home. They have two courses at the facility and not only were the members friendly, but they were out there in the snow laughing and enjoying themselves! On a day where golfers typically don't leave their houses back in America, the Irish go and play. We were able to play the Ryder Cup course, and what a piece of property it is! It is more of an American-style course and very different from all the other courses I have been able to play over here.
I am finally off to Spain tomorrow morning. I am flying to London for a three-hour layover then off to Spain into the warm weather. I will have two practice rounds before the start of the tournament on Wednesday. I am looking forward to getting over there and playing some more golf and experiencing another new culture.
Thanks again to Pat and his family for letting me stay the week and to everyone back home who made this trip possible. Thank you!
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Blog No. 4
I’ve made it here to Dublin, where I’ve been practicing at the Carton House Academy golf facilities. Let me just say, they are top of the line! There’s a beautiful short game area and a freshly cut teeing ground where I’m able to hit anything in the bag. I’m also able to play both courses; the Montgomery, where the European Amateur was in 2012 and where the Irish Open Championship will be this year, and the Omera (which is just as good). Both are parkland courses and are equally tough.
Today I was able to play Portmarnock Links, which was a bear! It was the first day I actually felt like I was in Ireland. The last two days it has been flat calm and about 50 degrees, but today was a different story. It was 46 degrees and the wind was blowing sideways. I had to wear four layers and I was still freezing, trying to hit the ball 10 feet off the ground. To prove my point: I was hitting drivers 220 yards into the wind and 380 yards downwind!
The highlight of my day easily came on the par-3 11th hole (135 yards). I hit a solid 7-iron and it never left the flag. After coming to rest about 7 feet from the hole, my playing companion Paul (a player from the GUI squad) decided to crash my party and knock his shot in the hole! It was like a scene out of a movie; it landed about 5 feet left of the hole and rolled slowly down a slope, riding the wind before coming to rest on the lip…then it fell in! Gavin Moynihan (who we were also playing with) and I were going crazy! On just a miserable day to play, we had something to laugh and smile about.
Thursday I am gearing up for a nice round at the European Club (site of the 2013 Carey Cup matches) and then Friday I’m going to be playing Killeen Castle before heading to a Killers concert that night with Pat [Finn].
Thanks again to everyone and looking forward to visiting warm Spain!
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Blog No. 3: Proud in Portugal
I must say the third and fourth rounds almost went according to plan. In the third round I shot a nice 4-under 68, which put me in a tie for 5th and cemented my position in the second to last group heading into the fourth and final round. I was in shouting distance of the lead and only one back of second place overall. I knew I needed to get off to a hot start on the last day and just hope the leader fail to play his game. Unfortunately, neither happened.
I was 2-under thru six holes and then arrived at the reachable par-5 7th. I only had a 6-iron into the green but made a poor error missing left. I failed to get my ball on from a relatively easy spot below the putting surface, which resulted in a very costly bogey six. However, I still played my opening nine holes 1-under (35) and headed to the back-nine five shots behind the leader and two behind second.
I lost focus and three-putted from about 20 feet on No. 10, which just about put me out of contention of winning the championship. But the thought of giving up never entered my mind for a second. After another bogey on the 13th hole and lipping out for birdie on the 14th, I knew I had to regroup and step up over the next three holes — the par-5 15th, drivable par-4 16th, and par-5 17th. Earlier in the week those holes bit me pretty hard and I played them very poorly but this time I figured them out. Standing on the 15th tee 1-over for my round and looking like I was going to finish a couple shots back again, I put my head down, swallowed my pride and played solid golf. I went birdie-birdie-birdie and quickly went from -4 for the championship to -7 and a tie for 3rd. I had a chance on the last from about 15 feet to get it to 8-under but my putt slipped past the hole on the right.
Going out in 1-under and standing on the 14th tee 1-over for my round and finishing 2-under on the day (70), it made the trip to Portugal that much more successful. I ended up shooting rounds of 70 (-2), 73 (+1), 68 (-4), and 70 (-2) for a total of 281 (-7). I finished T3 overall, and there’s no doubt my finish provided me with another momentum booster moving towards my ultimate goal of hopefully playing for the United States of America on the Walker Cup Team in September.
Starting the week with little knowledge of the course, I have to give a special thanks to the GUI boys — Pat Murray, Gavin Moynihan, Eddie McCormack, Alex Gleeson, and Tony — for showing me around. And of course a ton of credit to my caddie Pat Finn. I really don't know where I would be without his support. For him to take me under his wing, make the trip over to Portugal with me, and to open up his home and let me spend time with his family over the next couple of days (before I head off to Spain for the Spanish Amateur), I really can't thank him enough. It truly means the world to me!
I’m off the for the next five days and I plan on going back to Dublin to practice at Carton House Club in Dublin, Ireland. Then it’s off to Spain for the Spanish Amateur, where it’s 36-holes of stroke play qualifying, with the top 32 qualifying for match play. Hopefully everything keeps going well and the momentum continues to build...
Thanks again for all the support, Portugal has been so much fun!
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Blog No. 2: Two down, two to go
The first two rounds of the Portuguese International Amateur Championship are in the books. I’m pleased with how I’m striking the ball but not satisfied with my results. I know I have two more rounds to go, but I've thrown away so many silly shots right around the greens and haven’t been able keep any momentum going. I’m confident in my game and like the course, so tomorrow is a new day.
As far as my caddie goes, Pat [Finn] has been doing a great job; aside from the fact that he broke my bag, dropped a few head covers, and asked where the 5-under 31 (on the front nine in the first round) came from and why I can’t play like that all time! But in all seriousness, he’s doing a fantastic job (he already fixed the bag and keeps me laughing on the course). Without him, the GUI and MGA, this trip over to Europe wouldn't even be possible!
Off the course, we have been able to go out for dinner every night in town which is just outside of the Montado Golf Resort and near our hotel (which by the way isn't a typical hotel). We’re staying in a castle that has been turned into a hotel, which is really unique! We also found out they filmed parts of the movie Taken 2 in the streets here. They’re very tight and made of cobblestone, something that I have never experienced before. The people are really friendly except for the fact that in some restaurants we are pointing at the menu to order because we don't speak Portuguese. Though it does help that I took a little Spanish in high school and I'm able to understand some of the things they are saying and talking about.
My trip so far has been a success. The food, the people, the weather have all been great and a couple of rounds in the mid-60s will make the trip that much sweeter. Thanks again to my family for making this trip a reality and to everyone that has supported me through it all! Let’s take it deep tomorrow and see how it goes!
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Blog No. 1: Goodbye America, Ola Portugal
On my flight to Europe I had a lot of time to think, since I didn't get one wink of sleep on the red-eye from JFK to Dublin, which was followed by a four-hour layover before heading onward to Portugal. I wanted to come over with a mindset of no expectations, and make a fresh start. No matter how comfortable you think you may feel outside of your home, being away from your family and friends, you never quite feel the same. Not being in your own environment, sleeping in your own bed and eating the food you grow accustomed to throws you for a twist! Everything over the next few weeks here will be an eye-opening experience. I am looking forward to not only the obvious reason why I travelled all this way—to play golf—but to embrace the challenges that lie ahead.
I arrived at Montado Golf Resort, the site of the Portuguese International Amateur Championship, and was able to play a practice round today. I feel the course really suits my eye. The front nine is kind of a driver's paradise, with a touch of links golf, but on the back nine you kind of have to plot your way around, and I hit a lot of irons off tees. There are a couple of par fives that will bite you if you fall for the John Daly "grip it and rip it" mindset. Being smart and patient, something I lacked in my last tournament, the Jones Cup, is something that I am learning each and every round. Hopefully my caddie, General Secretary of the Golfing Union of Ireland Pat Finn, who made the trip to Porturgal with me will keep me in check. Tomorrow is the first of four rounds, with a cut after round three! I am looking forward to getting off to a good start. The weather should be a bit windy, but about 60 degrees which is ideal golf weather. I tee off 1:03 local time (five hours ahead of you guys in New York).
Thanks again for all the support, and I can't wait to get started!