As I reflect back on a less than satisfactory performance at the PBA Summer Swing, I prod inside my soul for what drives me, what inspires me, what do I love about competing, where does that competitive fire come from and why does it turn on and off like a light switch?
When competing against the best players in the world (minus a few of them from these tournaments), one has to be at the top of their game, more so mentally than physically. It’s a complex and confusing equation that often times has no defined or correct answer, figuring out what angles, location, speed, tilt, rotation, cover stock, weight block, lay-out, etc. that will work to a player’s advantage and also play to his strengths. For some, the answer is provided, often times by chance that the environment just happens to be matched up to that player’s strengths. But for the best in the world, their job is to figure out how to get the job done. At the PBA Summer Swing, I, Michael Machuga (PROFESSIONAL Bowler), failed to do my job.
I make no excuses. I am physically gifted enough. I am smart enough. But I was NOT mentally tough enough. The conditions were not difficult to figure out. The attack plans were simple, tricky yes, but overall, fairly easy to see the general idea. I knew what I had to do to get the ball to the pocket and had a pretty good understanding of the carry, even with the asymmetry of the pin spotting. But why did I continue to bowl games 20-30 pins less than the par in relation to the scoring pace? Mathematically, it was easy to figure out! One too many opens per game is 12-35 pins off the tally, one marginal shot between good ones is 20, one missed spare is 11 or 12….easy to calculate and add up all the negatives to a result of MC (Missed Cut).
So what was the missing part of the equation? I find the answer on the golf course. My golf game is a mirror image of my bowling game. Obviously, not at the same competitive level! My golf swing is fairly simple and versatile. I am able to hit any shot that is needed, whether it be high, low, left to right, right to left, etc. But my scores are blemished by my mistakes. Obvious as it may seem, this is where the strokes (pins) add up. A mediocre tee shot has a CHANCE at Birdie if it is the PROPER miss. As in Bowling, a mediocre shot has a chance to hit the pocket, and at worse, leave a makeable spare. My mistakes at the Summer Swing were exactly like my mistakes in a bad round of golf. When trying to play a low draw with trouble down the right side, the inexcusable miss is a blocked high fade. When dealing with a flat pattern with sharp backends, the trouble is up front and the inexcusable miss is grabbed and left of target. In both cases, a likely bogey or split is the result. Surely, one can hit a great recovery, make a putt for a par, or, make a tough split resulting in a spare. On the score card it looks like no harm, no foul, but in the overall big picture of things, these mistakes will inevitably be the demise of your day. I could feel, at the Summer Swing, what mistakes could be rewarded and which mistakes WOULD be penalized. Mind and body were not on the same page. I repeatedly, like golf, continued to make shots that would inevitably be penalized, and I knew that result upon impact/release.
So, why could I not make myself stop the “penalized” release? I continue to prod my soul with that question. How could a seasoned veteran/Champion repeatedly make such juvenile mistakes? Was it lack of preparation? No. Bad technique? No, although, possibly the wrong thoughts on the approach. Bad equipment? NO WAY. Lack of motivation to stay focused?…..hrrrrmmmmmm……and the prodding goes deeper…..
There will be some serious soul searching on a couple of long flights to and from Italy for the Brunswick Italia Challenge. And there will certainly be a more focused and motivated Michael Machuga prepared to win a Green Jacket at the BPAA U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio the 3rd week of July. This I promise you.