'My goal is to win the Order of Merit – but do it my way'

The Scoop

In this week's Tales From The Mini Tours our resident pro Michael Helyard gets his season underway on the 1836 Tour

It’s that time of the year again when we’re all back marking a medal or competition card and I’ve now got my first ones under my belt on the 1836 Tour.

My last tournament was in September so there were the usual pressures of having a card in your back pocket and every shot counting for proper but there was also the additional pressure that I was putting on myself – I’ve got this new job and am writing this blog so more people are interested in how I’m getting on and, while it’s easy to say that it doesn’t really matter what I score, I want to be taken seriously and for this blog to have some impetus and some good results.

My big goal is to win the Order of Merit, as there are a lot of perks to topping that, and I also want to get my stroke average under 71 – and I want to do it my way. I’m not playing to make friends and, if that means, missing out on going for dinner and sharing accommodation then so be it.

I’m happy in my own company and I’ve got a plan and, because I know what works for me, this is what I think I have to do to make some progress and get to the next level. People get a bit embarrassed about wanting to get on and have some success but this is my career.

Michael Helyard

So, while I wasn’t that nervous, I just wanted to do well as I have put in a lot of work in the past few months.

The first tournament was at West Lancs which is the ideal starting point at this time of year and was still firm underfoot despite having some snow the week before. And it was a relatively gentle start for the first five holes wind wise so you could attack it but, given that my driver wasn’t working, I couldn’t.

Like a lot of us I was just trying to punch it into play and was smothering it a bit, rather than let it go, but these things tend to happen when you’ve not played a competition proper.

So much of my practice is done with an emphasis on scoring – I work roughly 20 per cent on mechanics and 80 per cent on scoring – but, when you’re out on the course, there is still an element of just playing yourself back in.

But after half a dozen holes I began releasing the driver a bit better and, come the 10th, I got a bit carried away with myself. We had played a practice round and decided that it was a 3-wood all day but, 24 hours later and with some wind at my back, I thought I could get somewhere near the green and took out the driver. And smothered it left again….

But walking off the 16th I was two under and, at this point, I thought I might be a couple short but I just wanted to par the last two and get in. You shouldn’t think about the money but it’s almost impossible not to and I thought two under would give me a nice enough pay day.

At 17 I then gave myself a 20-footer for birdie which I then three-putted. And then left myself a six-footer for par at the last after hitting the green so the prospect of missing that and finishing level after having done all the hard work wasn’t a great one. Thankfully I knocked it in, signed for a one-under 71 which, given that it was a proper grind for the last 12 holes, I was quite pleased with.

In the end a 67 from Sam Connor took the money which was a fantastic knock and I would tie for sixth which was satisfying. There were a lot of Challenge Tour players in the field as well as plenty of other great players so, from a field of 64, this was an OK start.

Formby Hall

The following day we were off again at a very cold Formby Hall and, with out of bounds right and water left, I pulled my opening drive which meant that my second shot was a shoulder-high drop.

But I didn’t panic which was good, knocked an iron onto the green and made a bogey. A lot is made of the 1st tee but, if ever there was a better place to make a mistake, it is the 1st as you’ve got so many holes to make up for it.

And, as golf often does, my driving was great but I couldn’t hole a thing. The last thing I want this blog to be is a tired rendition of ‘played well, just didn’t hole the putts’ but I had so many chances from six to 12 feet and didn’t hole one. The greens were actually quite fast which I wasn’t expecting.

I think I’ve got quite a good sense of how I’m scoring in comparison to the field and I thought if I could finish birdie-birdie then I would be in the money. The good news was that my hunch was right, the bad news was I didn’t do it!

In the end it was a 73 ­– Cameron Long, Joe Dean and Richard Prophet shot 69s to win – but, again, it was an OK start. It could have gone better but there aren’t many times when you walk off the course and don’t say that.

Michael Helyard will represent National Club Golfer on the mini tours. You can follow his progress on social media – @MichaelHelyard on Twitter and golfmichaelhelyard on Instagram. He plays Cobra clubs and wears Puma clothing and shoes. He is coached by George Gankas and James Whitaker who is based at Garforth.

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