Once you’re up, a hundred times you’re down…
WHAT EVERY ATHLETE KNOWS – and what every coach will confirm – is that form can only be timed twice a year. When you’re at the top, competing for titles, finishing among the best, making no mistakes, climbing up the rankings, the world seems carefree and rosy. But when you don’t have the form, you can struggle with a number of things – yourself, your body, your mind, the conditions on the course, putts that miss the hole by an inch (even nine times in a row), inconsistency and mistakes that always seem to come for some reason. You may not be exactly a hundred times down between two peaks of form, but the question during this period always remains the same: How low or high can you set your “down” and then actually play it?
As if it weren’t enough that the form, this fleeting thing, takes a break from time to time. When that happens, you have to arm yourself with patience and diligence and rely on your own experience and determination. Build your game on self-confidence and don’t let external factors disturb you. And sometimes the weather goes crazy, too. Just like this year’s summer part of the season, when I wasn’t in the best form and the weather went bonkers. Ups and downs all the way round!
The London summer didn’t happen. The Centurion welcomed us with cold, almost a winter storm, strong winds and equally strong rain. The course was soft. The weather was down. Alicante was the complete opposite: it was hot on La Sella, with 90% humidity and storms – for a change. This time true summer storms interrupted the game several times. The course was hard, parched. The weather in a top form. Évian-les-Bains was something between England and Spain. Pleasant warmth, but again rain and the constant fear of being driven back to the clubhouse by a raging storm. The course was soft, too much. The weather somewhere between up and down, just like my game at Évian.
Someone asked me recently: “How do you carry so much clothing with you? How do you even pack for such a long time?” Well, these are tricky questions. I have a long-standing practice in packing and can plan ahead how much of everything I will need. But when you’re away from home for more than two weeks, you sometimes need to do the laundry. In the U.S., you just go to a laundromat. You’ve probably seen it in movies: You put the laundry in the washer, add detergent, insert a coin, pull out a book, sit on a bench and wait for the thing to finish up. In Europe, it helps if you book an Airbnb with a washing machine. You save some money and time, plus you don’t have to go anywhere. Clothes dry better like that, too. This comes in handy when you happen to play whole day in the rain (and there was plenty of rain this year!). Even though I have more than enough golf clothing from Bogner, you just can’t fit more than for one or two tournaments in the bag. So, you do laundry.
And then came Dundonald, the Scottish Highlands, and their typical summer, which means rain, wind and daytime temperatures of only 15°C. The Troon course was very soft after a month of rain, but beautifully green. The weather was down. And then came London again for the second time in a short while. This time, completely different – pleasant, sunny, almost hot. The Walton Heath course was hard but fair, as it usually is at The Open. The weather was up. But here I was starting to feel tired, and the team and I decided to take a break for recovery before defending my title in Ireland. What kept me on my feet until then was perhaps the 50,000 spectators along the course. Wow! Like at the men’s Open.
When I looked back at those five weeks and five tournaments, I was tired but satisfied and had a good feeling about my game. I got to play two majors, and even though the first one in Évian-les-Bains didn’t go well, I showed a solid performance at The Open. To this day, I don’t know what happened in France – maybe an untreated virus from Prague – but it helped me catch my breath again and start climbing up.
The Open didn’t start off well for me. About twenty minutes before the start, I got stung by a bee in the arm. It scared me quite a bit, and Sean quickly called the doctor. They even gave me some painkillers. As if the nervousness of the first round of the biggest major wasn’t enough.
By the way, have you noticed how much traveling we’ve done this year or how tightly packed the tournaments schedule is? Travel plans are a logistical operation. Thankfully I have a team that takes care of flights, accommodation and car rentals. I often feel sorry for them – like when they find out at the last minute that I got into the Women’s Open starting list or that I chose to skip the next tournament and fly home for some rest. I cannot begin to imagine what happens back at home in Prague then. But it is all about teamwork, without which my career would not be possible. I’m not alone in this, thankfully.
One more thing happened. When I returned home a few days earlier and promised myself not to touch my clubs for a week and just relax, Volvo called me. As soon as I arrived in Průhonice, they took my car keys. Guess why? I got a new car as a surprise. It’s actually similar to the old one, but with a lot of new improvements. They should probably just give me something small, stylish and city-friendly for the busy Prague centre. But we’ve known each other for a very long time so they know very well what I need for golf and travel. So I got a big car again, where not only one but two bags fit comfortably in the trunk, and the seat massages my back on the way. You can tell how good a business partner you have by how they help you when you need it most and expect it least.
Just as you can be up or down, you can have luck or bad luck, or fortune in misfortune. Sean and I flew to Ireland a bit earlier than usual. As a defending champion, you have a lot of responsibilities, but also the honour of staying at Dromoland Castle right on the course. The Irish are incredible and know how to treat champions. So, according to the local tradition we stayed at the actual castle, and we weren’t alone but with the whole family. Sean’s parents flew to Newmarket-on-Fergus so we basically spent the whole week in the family circle.
In fact, they were even lucky to make it there. In London – here comes London again – I’ll talk about it later – the airport flight system failed and air traffic stopped for a few hours. We managed to arrive, unfortunately my clubs didn’t. They got stuck somewhere at the airport, and we had to wait for them for a day. Thankfully, only a day. Other players didn’t have such luck – some arrived only in time for the competition round and they basically went straight to the course. But they are professionals and they managed without a practice round as well as I did.
Having your clubs lost is quite common. Most often in London. It’s almost a rule. No matter where you fly from, when you get to London you can bet that you’ll be waiting for your clubs at the baggage reclaim. After you have been waiting for more than 24 hours, you start to get a little nervous. But in the end, you realize that there’s nothing you can do about it and that it’s simply better to generally avoid large airports altogether if possible. Fortunately, my clubs have eventually always arrived, so hopefully this streak of fortune in misfortune won’t leave me in the future.
Ireland and the Netherlands were great. Nice weather at both tournaments, with just one interruption due to a storm. The Dromoland Castle course in Ireland was so wet and soft that we were allowed to lift, clean and place balls, while the Hilversumsche course in the Netherlands was so dry and firm that the balls were running like crazy on it. I had great final rounds at both tournaments, which will give me a lot of energy for the future.
When we talk about being “down” in terms of gameplay and form, we also have to talk about money. Making the cut is a duty, just like playing until the last hole and trying to move up in the standings. If your minimum is somewhere around the top thirty, the financial rewards hardly cover the costs of travel, accommodation and food. You have to quickly forget about everything else. And this is tournaments and travel throughout Europe.
Another thing that isn’t often discussed is taxation. It’s nice to see that you’ve earned so much from a tournament and will add it to your account. Well, that’s not entirely true. You have to deduct, on average, 20 percent from the prize money you earned, which is taken by local tax, while the Ladies European Tour also keeps some of it as fees. So, what lands in your account is, in the best case, the prize minus 30 percent, sometimes even less.
The end of the season is approaching. Just a few tournaments to highlight the whole year and finish off with a good feeling. I plan to do everything I can to move my “down” a bit higher again, closer to the top, so I could get excited for the next year a bit more. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there is still plenty of work to do before this season is over.