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Making the Cut: One Man’s Journey to the PGA Tour – Part 1

Does this sound like you?

You’re watching TV with your buddy and you decided to change the channel to follow a particular golf event.  You begin to watch the coverage and start up the conversation with your friend with this well-known line, “Dude, if I just practiced more, I definitely could make it onto the tour.  I mean all I need to do is have a scratch handicap right?” From there the two of you have an in-depth conversation about the sport of golf and how if you both practiced more, you definitely have a strong shot of  making it to the pros, and if one didn’t and the other did, that one would caddy for the other.  Ultimate bro trip.  At this point you guys probably have had a couple more drinks and now you’re definitely gunning for the big show.  You both decided to go to bed early, set the alarm early and be at the range by 7:00am.

That following morning, the alarm goes off.  You hit the snooze button. Again and again and again.  Finally you shut your alarm off and think, “Forget the PGA Tour, I’ll just hit the Senior Tour instead.  Once I’m retired, I’ll have all the time in the world to practice.”

Yup, you and everyone else.

And then there are those particular people, who don’t hit the snooze button and are actually at the range by 6:00, not 7:00 and won’t be off the range til 10:00, and then head to the chipping and putting area for a few more hours and finally tee off.  And once they’ve completed 18, they’ll be back at the range for a few more hours to work on whatever they thought went wrong that day.  Eventually they’ll progress in their game to the point they’ll try their luck at the local city/town tournament, then a regional tournament, then a state tournament.  And for those who perform well enough and will try their luck on the mini-tours.  And maybe, just maybe earn their pro card and end up one day being that golfer you wish you were that you saw play on TV.  They might not be the next legendary golfer, but they’ll go through hell and high water to reach a point you’ll dream about til the day you wake up and start “practicing” for the Senior Tour.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “Wait and see, with enough practice, I’ll be on the tour in no time.”  I wouldn’t be writing this article today; I’d be living in a mansion with my own private golf course on some private tropical island.  If I had a dollar for every time I knew someone who actually didn’t hit the snooze button and was hitting balls before you brushed your teeth that morning; well then, I would have one whole dollar.

And that dollar belongs Ray Senn.

I had worked my way through the caddyshack and was finally promoted for part time in the pro shop, when I met Ray.  Ray was interning at club as part of his internship requirements for his PGA Class A card.  And unlike most interns who worked at the club and ended up taking jobs in the corporate world, Ray marched on.

This coming January, Ray will be participating in the Gateway Tour, starting with the The Winter Tournament #2 on January 20th,  2014 at the Papago Golf Course, in Phoenix, Arizona.  Before he began his prep for the Gateway Tour, I sat down with Ray to get an inside look at what it takes to hopefully make a dream become reality.

RS: “Aside from close friends and family, no one has really wished me good luck or support for that matter…and I guess that’s my biggest motivation.”

BP: “And does that bother you?”

RS: “Not really, as long as my family is on board then that’s fine.  For right now at least, I really don’t care if people support me or not.  I’m not the type of person who goes online bragging about how I have an upcoming tournament or I’m trying to make tour.  I’ve realized in life that no one is going to respect you, unless you earn it.  And once you earn it, then you can start talking.”

Ray knew he wasn’t born a prodigy.   He didn’t grow up like the kids in the movie “The Short Game” playing in national/international junior tournaments.    His skill developed overtime.  By the time he reached high school he knew he had the ability to take it to the collegiate level.  However, by the time he made the decision to play golf in college he had  missed the recruiting window.  Fortunately his father stumbled upon a brochure for the Professional Golf Management program.  When the time came to make a decision, he chose to head to New Mexico State.  Once he fulfilled all of his requirements through the PGM program and graduated from NMS, he spent some time in Illinois working at Champaign Country Club.  Knowing he has his PGM license in his back pocket, Ray decided he once and for all was going to pursue his dream and not look back.

RS: “I’m realistic.  I know how hard this game is. It’s straight up hard work that will lead to my success.  You’re always gonna have your phenoms such as  Mencio, and Matsuyama.  My life will never be a phenom story.  That’s not me.  I’m the working mans version of a guy who started young and is gonna give it a shot.  I truly believe it’s not pure talent , its all aboout hard work.  There are alot of scratch golfers out there that you’ll never notice.  And most of those golfers are just happy to say they are scratch golfers.  But I look at it this way:  You can shoot a 59 with your friends but if you don’t do it in a tournament, then it doesn’t count.  At the end of the day its all about the number you shoot.  If you can do that, the respect is earned.”

ray senn

 

So what’s an average day look like now?

Day 1:  Work on irons, p – 7.  Finish with chipping and putting.

Day 2:  Tee shots: 3 iron-D.  Finish chipping putting.

And always: PLAY 18 EVERYDAY

 

RS:  “It’s all about getting the numbers and doing it consistently.  I don’t need to get better at hitting.  My true advantage is that I can hit it far.  Top 20% percent with  295 avg.   I need to get better at control and consistency.   Everyone wants to hit it farther.  And while it’s great to hit a 300 yard drive, it’s what you do after that is the true issue.  It’s about controlling your play, learning how to ultimately getting up and down, then finishing by making putts.”

BP: “So for your practice rounds, how do you work on your control?  More importantly what are you trying to control?”

RS:  “It’s not so much controlling your shots, it’s controlling yourself on the golf course.  Most tournaments that I normally had played in, were mostly 1 day tournaments, sometimes 2 if there were ties at the end of the day.  Now, I have to mentally prepare myself for 3 day tournaments with expectations that it could go to four.  And in order to prepare myself, it’s all about course management.  When I’m out there, I’m not really thinking so much if it I hit this ball with X-iron it will get me to the green.  You can’t always rely on that.  Originally that’s what eluded me and caused me to struggle in late tournaments.”

BP: “Golfers today are relying on more of a 1-2 punch combo.  Essentially.  Drive the ball, then Iron/wedge to the green.  They are forgetting their surroundings.  Tunnel Vision if you will, all they see is the green.”

 

In the bag:

Ping Anser 9.5* x flex diamana white board 44″

Ping Anser 14.5* x flex 3 wood

Ping i20 18* stiff flex 5 wood

Ping i20 irons 3-pw steel stiff

52* gap wedge

56* sand wedge

Odyssey 2ball putter circa 2004

 

RS:  “Exactly, and that’s what everyone should work on, course management.  It’s more than just laying up and hitting a shot.  This isn’t a video game.  Once your learn how to play golf, the second part of it is learning how to play golf on a golf course.  Understanding club selection, studying the golf course more, etc.  And now that I am playing in 3 day tournaments its learning how to keep the body in check too.  It’s learning how to pace 54 holes.  I spent way too much time on a golf cart.  It really messes with your consistency.  Which in turn messes with your mentality.”

BP: “So besides walking, how do your deter the noise in your head?”

RS:  “I’ve been reading alot of golf psychology books.  Try to learn how to thinkin clearly through 18 holes.  Zen Golf by Joe Parent is one.  The other is called the Fearless Golf by Gio Valiante.  It’s learning to have the highest competive confidence level.  But in the end I do have to realize, this game is not life and death.  It’s just a game, I have to keep remembering that”

BP:  “You’ve mentioned to me previously about Golf and Social Media.  How does that correlate with your confidence?”

RS:  “The world of Social Media for Golf has been remarkable.  Not only has it the sport grow, but it’s creating a community for Golfers to discuss their game.  I’m part of all these different pro forums.  For example Bunkers Paradise.  We can go onto  blog and forum with ideas and issues…anything.  It’s as almost if we were part of team.  As I continue my pursuit for the Tour Card, it’s great knowing I have my golf “family” at my side.”

 

Check back again in the coming weeks as we will catch up with Ray and see how things are going for him out on the Gateway Tour!

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Written by BP Staff

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