In advance of PGA Tour Champions’ first 2019 full-field event this coming weekend in Boca Raton, Florida, Play Golf Myrtle Beach’s Charlie Rymer looks back to a year ago when he made his PGA Tour Champions debut alongside the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez (pictured). Join him on his quick trip down Memory Lane, and see the biggest lesson he learned from it.
By Charlie Rymer
I played in the Oasis Championship last year, and my results weren’t so good. The Old Course at Broken Sound is a cool course in great shape, and the fans and players are awesome.
I had in place what I thought were the core elements for success that week. I had a wonderful caddie in Mitch Knox, who has 15 wins as a looper to his credit, including a British Open. As a Titleist staffer, I had access to the latest and greatest equipment.
However, like all touring professionals, there is no way I can take the blame for my own poor play. No way! That blame must be deflected.
It wasn’t me. I didn’t cause it. It’s all Phil Blackmar’s fault.
That’s right. Phil Blackmar.
You see, when I had the inkling to play five PGA Tour Champions events after turning 50, it seemed like a great idea at the time. Even though I hadn’t played a full season on the PGA Tour since 1998, I (like all professional golfers) was confident I would “figure it out.” Especially if I practiced for more than a year.
So off to work I went. And I worked and worked, beating balls on sandy Orlando practice tees to the point of nearly wearing the grooves off three sets of Titleist AP2s (I’m actually in need of my fourth set of irons now).
Three months prior to my first official start on PGA Tour Champions, my good friend Phil called me. He knew I’d been working hard on this, and he wanted to give me a pep talk.
And man, did he get passionate about it. For about an hour, too. I figured I should listen to him, because he seems smart (he often uses really big words). And because Phil has actually won one of these PGA Tour Champions events, on top of 3 PGA Tour events.
Phil emphasized that the key to playing well in a debut attempt at over-50 golf is to get off to a great start. The conversation continued with “BIG” (that’s what we call him – what else would you call a guy who’s about 9 feet tall, a hair over 250 pounds, and likes to use large words?) telling me that I need a game plan for the opening holes. That I need to pre-stress for the moment, and should scout the course and have preconceived plans for what to do on the initial holes.
BIG urged me to look at this from a logical and emotional point of view … Consider all weather and setup conditions … Think about what I’m going to be feeling when I look over and see friends and family watching … remember that television cameras would be aimed my direction.
BIG said I needed to know with certainty how all these things would impact my thought processes and emotions.
Well, as I always do, I carefully processed his thoughtful advice. I couldn’t find a weak point in any of it. So I put the plan in motion. I followed his prescription for success to the letter.
And when the moment arrived, I was ready.
I went to my first official hole on PGA Tour Champions fully prepared to get off to a fast start. BIG’s coaching was perfect! I was dazed, confused, and emotional. But because I had pre-stressed ahead of time, I was absolutely ready.
I did deep breathing to calm my heart.
I acknowledged and accepted that I was nervous.
I choked back a tear as I scanned the gallery and met eyes with my wife and family.
I had done all of this a thousand times previously in a meditative state to prepare mind, body, and soul for this very moment in time.
As my name was called I immediately got into the shot with razor-sharp focus. I pulled my Titleist TMB 3-iron (2-iron loft) from the bag, and my eyes went to a pre-chosen palm just through the fairway on the right. The palm was swaying in the prevailing wind, just as I knew it would be.
I painted a medium-high cut in my mind, and kicked into autonomic mode. My heart was pounding and the throbbing in my throat and ears was intense, but that was okay – I had planned for that.
Without further thought or effort, my body and mind functioned as a highly synchronized unit, just as I had trained! The world stopped, and I smoked it. Right down the middle.
Reality matched the picture in my mind. It was perfection! I floated down the fairway and proceeded to hit my approach to 8 feet. I cruised to the green and gave the tower camera operator a confident wink and nod, just before draining the birdie. For good measure, I went to the next hole and made another birdie.
There I was. Two-under through two in my official debut on PGA Tour Champions! I was on my way!
And that’s when it hit me:
Phil had only read me the first chapter in the book.
I had no more information with which to operate. It never occurred to me that his plan might actually succeed. So I panicked, and ended up finishing dead last.
My grand takeaway from my debut PGA Tour Champions performance?
If you ever get golf lessons from Phil Blackmar, make sure you purchase the entire series.