Matchstick Golf pro Victoria Gailey recently went to Wildhorse Resort and Casino to play in an Epsom Tour event. She finished in the money in her first-ever start in her pro career, a huge accomplishment. She was generous enough to give us her thoughts from her rounds in Eastern Oregon.
Thanks to Wildhorse Resort and Casino I was able to make my professional debut in my home state. I have so much Oregon pride, so this was such a special way to enter into the world of professional golf.
The Epson Tour is the feeder tour to the LPGA, equivalent to the Korn Ferry Tour for the PGA. Most players on the LPGA have played on the Epson Tour at some point in their career, so getting a glimpse of what the day-to-day looks like on tour I knew was going to be very beneficial to me.
I arrived in Pendleton, Ore. on Sunday for tournament week activities starting in the morning. On Monday I played my unofficial practice round where I started learning the layout of the course and deciding my plan of attack. The course was beautiful, and I was excited to get started. Then on Tuesday I practiced in the morning and spent the afternoon helping with two junior clinics hosted by Wildhorse, their sister course Birch Creek, and Nike.
Tuesday was the critical day for me, and the feeling was that this was the culmination of everything I had been working for since high school I really started to feel like a pro during the clinics, hitting shots in front of a crowd of kiddos and parents, answering interview questions, and signing autographs. It was such a fun way to grow the game and connect with the Pendleton community.
The next day it was back to work for the tournament, so I got out for a 9-hole practice round. As Thursday night came, I knew I had to focus mentally for the first round of the tournament the next morning. And boy, did I need it. Friday morning surprised us all with gusts of wind up to 40 mph, which I wasn’t expecting — not because that area of Oregon isn't windy, but because it had been so calm during the rest of the week. It was my first mental challenge to overcome.
My tee time was in the afternoon, and I started off hot. I was four under through No. 11 and was managing the wind well. In truth, the wind helped calm my nerves about playing on this new stage. That kind of elemental factor forced me to stay in the present, be creative, and have low expectations. That's always good, right?
Once the cameras started to show up and I saw my name on the big digital leaderboard I think my brain figured out where I was again, which was challenging the lead in the first round of my pro debut. Queue the freak out.
I turned to Sam (my caddy and boyfriend) and said, “Woah... I am nervous now.”
As I came into the tough finishing stretch and with my nerves ramping up, I managed to rack up a few bogeys, a birdie, and a double leaving me to shoot a 71 (-1), leaving me T-8 for the first day. I was pleased with my overall score despite the less than perfect finishing holes.
In the second round I started on the back 9, teeing off early in the morning. There was barely any wind compared to the previous day, and I knew scores were going to be low. It helped that I started off with a birdie on No. 12. which was a great start.
Then I hit some bumps.
The rest of the round was a bit of a rollercoaster as I was playing with the new pressure of a lurking cut line, the kind which I had never experienced before. I ended up going into my second nine at +2 for the day. I was determined to make some birdies, and coming in to the finish I shot -2 for on the second nine, finishing even. I had made it inside the cut at T-35.
Unfortunately, due to unhealthy air quality, the last round was canceled making it a 36-hole event. Despite the truncated tournament, I had made the cutline and snagged my first winnings of my pro career. What an experience. I was thrilled.
Overall, I was happy with how I performed in the event but I knew that I had not played my best golf. What I really took away from Pendleton was that I was supposed to be there. You dream of being a pro golfer, and through college you play tough competition so you think you're ready. You think you know where you stand. But doubt creeps in when you take it to the next level, and you wonder if you're really as good as some of the other women out there.
In golf, and in life, it's important to take away the positives at the same time you look for things to improve upon. Pendleton taught me that I am ready for this stage, and that my hard work has paid off. Yes, continued practice in the offseason will help me avoid some of the mistakes I made in my first nine in the second round, but I know I'm here to stay. Here's looking forward to what's next.