Mike Lorenzo-Vera is back in the big time and playing in the WGCs, but it was only a few years ago that things couldn't have been more different
We know tournament golf is tough at any level – the odds are stacked well against you and you might win once or twice in what is deemed a successful 20-year career. There will be losses of form, interest and even parents, your body will be creaking from all travel and hours spent hitting balls, you might have personal or relationship issues, like anyone else, and every year there are a handful of new, young bucks who can likely move more easily, swing it faster and have more drive.
It’s a bloody good life at the top end of the game but wherever you are it can be both physically and mentally frazzling.
But we rarely get to hear about it. Press conferences are generally there to fill a few lines for the next day, post-round chats don’t go far beyond how you birdied the 11th that day and other interviews, for print or online, you are generally limited to a round table or a 15-minute one-to-one when you might be trying to cover a variety of subjects.
This week Mike Lorenzo-Vera opened up on the always-excellent European Tour blog about his struggles. From a distance the super-suave Frenchman has enjoyed a bit of a hit-and-miss career but he pops up every now and then to keep us all happy that everything’s still rosy and the past year or so has been lovely.
But roll the clock back and things were very different.
“I know all about the dark side,” the 35-year-old explained. “I really struggled in 2011, 2012 and 2013. And I mean big time. I finished almost last on the Challenge Tour in 2013 (he earned just over €5,000 from 11 starts) and I had almost €400,000 of debt in France because of bad decisions, partying, and being very generous to everybody around me.
“I’d had one good year in 2008 when I won around €350,000; but after taxes and expenses there’s not much left, and trust me I spent it really badly. I never looked at my bank balance. Never. And then one day the card stopped working and I called the bank shouting at them. ‘Why isn’t it working?’ and they say, ‘Well, because you’ve got no money.’ Then I was trying to make cuts to try and bring cash back in, but it was ridiculous. I messed up my taxes as well. Believe me, I made all of the mistakes!”
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Things changed at the end of 2013 when his girlfriend pointed out a few home truths and, with the help of his brother Frank and then the psychologist Meriem Salmi he has made a collection of big steps forward, both on the course and mentally.
And, like any golfer, taken advantage of a bit of luck when it comes your way.
“We are at the Q School final in 2013, and I am playing my last hole of the fourth round at PGA Catalunya. I’m one shot inside the cut. I’ve hit the fairway and the heart of the green, and I have a putt with a big angled break. I told my brother that I was going to chip it over the break with my sand wedge, and he tells me ‘No, you’re going to putt that four metres right.’
“So we get into this argument and he says, ‘I’m going to snap your sand wedge so just take the putter.’ I hit the putt to one foot from the hole and made par to make the cut.
“I got so lucky because I was only first reserve for Final Stage. But Miles Tunnicliff pulled out and I got in. Then I made the cut and I got a category on the Challenge Tour and started to rebuild. That was crazy but you need a bit of luck.”