During my time in South America I met many great guys and our tournaments are among the many things we talk about. One thing in particular we talked about was what events everyone plays in during the summer when most tours have breaks, aside from Monday Qualifiers. Many of my friends said they play in two events every year in Iowa if they work with their schedules. These two events are the Waterloo Open and The Greater Cedar Rapids Open which just so happen to be back to back weeks. After some research of these events I decided to make the trip and added in the two Monday Qualifiers in Springfield, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois. During the two weeks I spent in Hilton Head Island I got a lesson in with my coach and worked on every part of my game, but spent the most time on my wedges. With lots of practice, my swing and game was starting to feel really great. So with my trip mapped out and my 6 different stops it was time to hit the road.
My trip began on July 15th by driving from Hilton Head Island, SC to Oxford, MS (8 hours) for a night to break up my trip to Missouri. The next day I drove to Springfield, MO from Oxford, MS (6 hours) for a practice round and the Korn Ferry Tour Price Cutter Charity Championship Monday Qualifier. There was some scheduled rain on the day of the qualifier and with my afternoon tee time I had to come back in the morning to finish my last two holes of the day. Altogether I shot 68 (-3) and missed a playoff by 3 shots. Even though I played well and shot under par, I missed many short putts and felt like with the way I hit the ball I should have qualified easily, but it was not meant to be. So I hit the road north from Springfield, MO to Waterloo, IA (7 hours) to prep and get ready for the Waterloo Open.
Based on my putting woes in the qualifier, I pulled out my secret weapon and reached out to a friend of mine and current PGA Tour Player Denny McCarthy to get an insight into the putting methods and strategies of the best putter on PGA Tour the last several years, especially inside of 10 feet. With his insight and drills that I practiced for several days before the event and my continued fantastic ball striking I felt like it was my week. Everybody in the field was gunning for the big $50,000 first place prize and it was off the the races. I started the tournament off very strong, I shot 66-66 the first two rounds to sit at -12 and three back of the lead heading into the final round. I started off kinda slow in the final round and was only -4 thru 11 holes and 7 back of the lead, but I turned on the big guns and birdied the next 5 holes in a row to shoot a final round bogey free 63 and tie for the lead at -21 after the leader made a late double bogey. After putting the pressure on him on the first playoff hole with both of us making birdie, I was able to make a 5 foot par putt on the second playoff hole to secure the victory and the $50,000 first place prize. An absolute incredible ending to the week and it was surreal to play the way I know I can under pressure.
After lots of congratulatory messages, I had to drive from Waterloo, IA to Chicago, IL (4 hours) Sunday night to play in the Korn Ferry Tour NV5 Invitational Monday Qualifier on Monday morning. My cousin, Parker, who lives in Wisconsin drove down to caddie for me and together still riding the high from my win, I shot 71 (-1) and missed qualifying by 5. After the qualifier, he and I both drove back to Waunakee, WI from Chicago, IL (3 hours) to visit with my aunt and uncle for a couple days before heading to my next event. We played their home course outside Madison, WI - Blackhawk Country Club and I was able to shoot the course record 60, -12 , my lowest round ever with everyone in my family watching. It only continued to build my confidence, especially coming off a win. After a couple days of good visiting I left Waunakee, WI for Cedar Rapids, IA (3 hours) to prepare for the Greater Cedar Rapids Open. I played in the Pro-Am and shot 65 (-7) which placed me 3rd and was great practice for the event. I went on to shoot 69-69-67 (-11) in the event to finish 5th. This finished my midwest trip and after the final round I drove from Cedar Rapids, IA to Hilton Head Island, SC (17 hours) thru the night to get home and rest from a long couple of weeks trip.
After running the stats from my two weeks on the road and I played a total of 10 rounds of golf, I shot combined -55 par and had a 66.4 scoring average including my course record 60. This trip was huge both financially for my professional career and in building my confidence heading into Qualifying School and my other events scheduled in the fall. On to my next trip of three events up North!
Recently, I competed in the final regular season event on PGA Tour Latin America. It was the Jalisco Open GDL in Guadalajara, Mexico. Based on my sub-average play (by my standards) throughout the season in the events that I Monday Qualified for and was exempt into, I needed to finish Top 3 in order to qualify for the Tour Championship in Tulum, Mexico and keep my card for the following developmental season. After the first two rounds I was in a great position to do so. I stuck to my game plan of hitting fairways and greens and shot 67-68 (-7) to easily make the cut and was T-7 heading into the weekend. However, as I started to push and move up the leaderboard it only resulted in bad shots, bad scores, and ultimately me shooting 75-74 on the weekend to finish even par and T-49. It was incredibly upsetting to throw away such a great start, but with my PGA Tour LA season complete it was time for self-reflection to learn from my mistakes and be better from them in the 2nd half of my calendar year and into the future. I returned back to Hilton Head Island to play in a Rolling Red Tour event in Augusta, GA. It was my backup event to the Tour Championship if I didn't qualify. Although my return was far from easy, I ended up losing my luggage (clothes) and with a day turnaround I was not able to get to Augusta for a practice round. Once my luggage arrived (the next day) I was able to get over to Augusta (2.5 hour drive) and get prepared for my event. The event is structured as a 1 day and 2 day event over 3 days, therefore I used the shootout the first day as my practice round. On the first day I shot 72 even par and missed the money but I learned enough to shoot 68-70 (-6) the next two days to finish 5th for the event. It was great to finally get a finish at the top of the leaderboard and was fun to get the juices flowing on the back nine. However, still not what I was looking for due to me being -5 in the final round and 1 back of the lead with two to play and making a triple on my second to last hole to finish 5th. The big numbers were the negative theme in Latin America and now my Achilles heel stateside, it needed to be resolved. Once I got back from Augusta, I spent a few days off celebrating July 4th with friends which I have always noticed helps clear my mind before getting back to work with my team of coaches to find the best way to move forward and get better.
Author - Evan Brown
I have created this Blog post page on my website to keep everyone updated on my successes, failures, and everything in between. I am excited to take you all along with me on my journey through the various levels and stages of professional golf, as it takes place. I hope that everyone will read, comment and make this an interactive space for all!