Lots of time to reflect


Gavin with his caddie Dean Smith at the Omega Desert Classic in Dubai.

HEY everyone, welcome to Gav Talks. Many of you know that I am a man of few words, so when we were talking about starting this column in TeeUp, yes, you’re right thinking that it was both scary and exciting at the same time. In the end I took it as a challenge and here it is – we have “Gav Talks”.

Today, I would like to share the new norms and some of the challenges we face as we go about our everyday lives, which to me, is playing on Tour.

Covid-19 brought the European Tour and many other Tours around the world for that matter to a standstill back in March 2020. Thankfully, the European Tour has been amazing in terms of bringing the Tour back to life! The European Tour, since getting back on track in July 2020, has designed a string of strict protocols to ensure that the players and the staff are safe and protected. As a result, for every event there is a bubble in place.

Every Sunday or Monday of tournament week we are subject to a PCR test before we are even allowed to enter the bubble. I would say I have had more than 50 tests since then.

Once in the bubble, we are not allowed out of the designated areas, which usually include the hotel, the club and facilities, as well as the golf course.

We have a limited number of people whom we are allowed to interact with and we are usually confined to a buddy system that includes my caddie and another player and his caddie.

I am sincerely thankful that such strict measures are in place as this, at least, allows me to play with one less worry.

Just slightly over a year ago, one of the perks of playing on Tour was that we could check out the tourist spots of the country we were in – there was plenty of social interaction, we could indulge in our favourite restaurants and also meet friends and fans.

Today, with the bubble in place, we are stuck facing the four walls of a hotel room. Apart from practice and play, our best friend has become the four walls of a hotel room and managing that space can take a lot out of a person.

It gives new meaning to the word “loneliness” as we have to figure out what to do with ourselves, given the fact that there is really nowhere to go after practice.

It’s not the easiest thing to handle but we are in this situation and we have to learn how to handle it.

There are days when my own company is great but there are also days when it gets a little difficult. On the good days, it’s fine as I get the time to think about my game, plan my game and work on my notes. It’s also cool as I get to play games and watch Netflix.

The tough days are when I feel restless and frustrated. When that happens, I try to work out, to make sure that energy is spent and not pent up.

Being in this situation can be mentally taxing, but if we are resilient enough we can get on top of it. It just takes some getting used to.

The good thing about our new norm is that it challenges you to develop a level of mental toughness that forces you to rely on yourself and no one else. It’s not easy if you’re not used to it, especially if you’re so far away from home.I used to come back if there was a two-week break between tournaments, but today, due to quarantine measures, I just stay out there. A two-week break is just not enough for me to nip home for my Malaysian food fix as I will have to go through quarantine which doesn’t allow me to practice and play. That’s just no good for the game. So, there you have it – no Malaysian food for me, for sometimes two or three months, lah.

One good thing in all of this is that you learn to appreciate your own company more and you also get opportunities to reflect and pray. There is a lot of time for me to internalise my goals and my plans without any distraction.

I am just thankful that we have tournaments to play and our safety and health is also given priority. Till next time, Gav Talks!

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