LIFE ON TOUR

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT LIFE ON TOUR WAS ON THE LPGA? WHO PAYS FOR FLIGHTS AND HOTELS? A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE IS FIT FOR EVERYONE?

Life on tour and as a professional golfer (athlete) is probably one of the most underrated topics in sports. Everyone wants to have our life, every one thinks we are golden people, living a life full of luxuries and opportunities. Most of them believe we are traveling like sheiks, being provided flights and hotels, and untouchable to the struggles of jet lag or travel mishaps like flights cancellations, golf bags unsolved mysteries and so on.

Even though I consider my self a royal in terms of the abundance of blessings I have been given with the life I have, there is always another side to every story. And this is our side on ‘life on tour’. 

Before I start, I want to make something very clear. Not a second I spend writing this blog entry I am actually complaining or belittling the tour or my life. I would never take for granted the life I chose to live and the life my parents sacrificed to give me the option to live. But nothing is given, nothing was free. There was a big effort from a lot of people to give me the opportunity to live this life I have. 

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Being a professional athlete is hard. That is why there are only a number of professional athletes in the world. But there is a difference between achieving a professional athlete status and living out of being one.  

 

When you and your family make the commitment to dedicate your life to a sport you love, it is sacrifice and dedication for a lifetime. And this is something that most people don’t get. Having a passion and talent for a sport is not enough to make it on tour. To have a healthy life on tour you must learn that it comes with a price. Like all good things in life, it comes with a price. And this time you sacrifice family and stability to pursue your dream. For golf, I have sacrificed my family at age 13 when I moved out of my house into a sport school 6 hours away from home. I sacrificed my friends and family. I have never been part of any birthday celebration, cousins baptisms, weddings, funerals, get togethers, etc. I have gotten used to not get linked of rooted to one place, but sleeping in different beds every week out. 

Big dreams happen in American, its sad for us foreigners but its true. The big tours are here. And once you make it to the top, the next step you ought to do is to move in. So, if you didn’t go to college in America, your first year on tour and living in a new world, new friends, probably new swing coach, trainer, golf club to belong to, new culture to adapt to, food choices and routine patterns to adapt to… is tough. There is definitely a big change if you come from overseas. However, at the same time, when you are a foreigner, you are more used to the traveling and independence lifestyle. At least, I grew up like that. 

Once you are on tour, and you have made the transition to living in the US - or at least base your self in the US during the season — being a rookie gets you. It is really tough to generalize on some of the topics, because each person is different. I guess I will make it my own experience, which I doubt it truly deviates from the mainstream. I am sure, this subjective appreciation of life on tour might not qualify for those top player. Not that I don't consider myself a top player, but I wasn’t brought up to just become a professional golfer. And golf didn’t run in my family like it does to those which their future were laid out to them at age 5. 

Being a rookie on tour is hard. You know you got there on your own terms but you cannot help but stare around. You look to compare, and most of the time is not to put yourself on top. You go from rocking the world after Q School to trying to fit in with the others. 

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I remember when I started on tour it was like that. I made it on my own, confident I got the skills to make some noise out there. But once I got there I couldn’t help but belittling myself against the big girls. I started to look at the way they walked, they talked, they hit balls…I tried to pick up on putting drills or even putting routines, I even started to pay attention to the way they swung the club. They all looked very professional, with a big entourage behind them. I was just… me. With a new clothing brand, new clubs I just started hitting a couple months ago (because of a new club contract), a very unnecessary big bag with my name on it and a caddy that now did everything for me. All of a sudden I was a boss and making decisions. 

It was hard the first few years to go onto doing my own things and being myself. It was hard to stick to your routine. To define who Belen was. You want to be so perfect that it is inevitable to get stuck in a slow golf routine— which on the LPGA is highly penalized. Time flies out there, and you feel like you don’t have time to do everything in one day. Media wants you, fans are intrigued about you, and you are not being efficient with your time. 

The LPGA is growing every year, and we are very humble to be part of such an inspiring organization of women. I remember the first years I was on tour, the traveling was hectic. We didn’t have the leverage we might have today and tournaments depended on the dates the sponsor would want not when the tour wanted. That meant that we could be flying from the West coast to the East coast weekly, jumping into international events back to national events sporadically. That takes a big toll on your body and your mental stability. 

Traveling is also not as luxurious as you might think. Starting with the fact that we are women, that adds a few extra pounds of unnecessary baggage. The golf bags are very heavy. Having to be equipped for hot or cold/rainy conditions. Same goes for the suitcases, as we can go from really cold weather conditions to extremely hot. Traveling overweighted almost every week of the year is very uncomfortable for your body and your wallet. You learn to make the decision of investing in the same airline to become a frequent flyer during your early years on tour, which most surely you have little money to cover your expenses. 

If you think dealing with travel misfortunes during your vacations is hateful, imagine if you are a rookie on the LPGA and you only have two days to learn that week´s new golf course. It becomes more complicated and stressful with no clubs or suffering flight delays or cancellations. 

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Also about expenses. 

Travel: All the travel expenses are on our own, some people think the tour puts up charter flights for us players — they sometimes do, but we have to pay for it— or they have an airline partnership to ease some of our travel experiences. To be honest, I don't understand how come a big institution like the LPGA cannot score a partnership deal with any airline. Having the flexibility to guarantee 150 + families and LGPA staff for 30+ roundtrips a year it will be a no brainer for airlines to land a relationship with LPGA players. But that’s just my opinion. Traveling on tour can be lonely. You do have a lot of friends out there, but at the end of the day you are mostly traveling on your own. It also gets very tiring in terms of lacking an emotional stability or link to your home. It has happened before that I have woken up in the middle of the night not knowing where I was sleeping. The one good thing about this is that I have learned how to sleep anywhere and every where!

Hotels: hotels are not covered by the LPGA unless you are playing overseas in limited field tournaments like the ones we play at the end of the year in the Asian swing. Limited field events are determined by current year money list ranking. If you are in the top 50 you can guarantee playing in almost all of them. There are some that the cut off are top 40. The odds in life, the better you become at something the more stuff you are given for free! Those limited filed events are the best, where everything is taken care off, you just have to show up and play. 

For the rest of the regular year, you have to find your own accommodation. The hotel arranges a host hotel for each week, with a special rate for the players. I am not sure how big of a discount we get as I seldom stay at host hotels. The way I looked at it is that, if I were to stay each week of my {lets say} 10 years golf career in different hotels, life gets very monotonous and boring. Life on tour is very individualistic as it is. You have the option to share rooms with some of your friends on tour, but even when sharing a room each has their own routine or even the lack of the draw opposite tee-times that makes comradery somehow difficult. I choose to stay in host families. 

I have learned that this options truly works when you do it with the intention of having some social life after your round of golf. Most of the players have to do it to reduce costs, which definitely helps our yearly travel expenses budget. But I love doing it because I crave that social attention. I am a social butterfly and I love coming back home after a good or bad round and sitting in a dinner table with my host family. I understand some people are more private or prefer a more low key environment. But I find it so special the kind of relationships I have made in my 7 years on tour with some of my host families that I have stayed with every year since. It is freaking awesome to have that kind of connection with families all over the US. You prematurely leave your home to pursue your dream of becoming a professional golfer, it is inevitable that you start craving a more family oriented environment. 

If I don't stay in housing for the week I usually rent a house for the week with some of the players and caddies. I have to remind you guys that my brother caddies out on tour, so he is the family I have every week on tour. He is also an impressive cook, so its becoming a ritual for him to cook paella for the growing Spanish crew on tour. 

Cars: We also have to find our own transportation for the week. Some events have a very reliable transportation system back/ from the golf course, but that leaves you empty handed when it comes to dinning at night or freedom to go to the gym, shopping, etc. So we always rent out own cars. This option gets very expensive when you are still underage for car rental policies (25+). But it is still the best option to make sure you are capable of doing everything you need to do to make yourself ready for competition.

Food: This is a topic I have been fighting for a long time on tour. It has gotten drastically better, but it could get better. I have the opportunity to travel with my boyfriend Robert to some of his event, and the food options the players have is amazing. I am not talking about the variety but the quality of food choices for athletes. Sometimes I wonder if they consider us athletes or just simple amateurs finishing a Saturday round of golf with some friends. I have been in places like Alabama playing at 100 F weather and coming in for lunch after the round to only have BBQ pulled pork and gravy. This is just an example. Please don't use it to make non-relatable comments. But it is true. And maybe this is just something I really care about because I am very conscious about my diet. Not only because I have a couple of severe food intolerances, but because I consider myself an athlete. And meanwhile I live as one during my golf career, I am making sure I take care of all things necessary to become a good one. A nutrition is very very importance. 

Another reason I like to stay in host families or renting an apartment is to make sure I have control on what I eat during the week. 

Activities: This is another topic important to touch on. People often make remarks about how jealous they are of all my travels. They think that I go to beautiful places all the time and that I have time to do fun activities every week. Well, not really. Golf takes us to wonderful countries, but when have you seen a good golf course in the middle of a metropolitan city with fun activities or restaurants to go to? Normally golf courses are in the outskirts of big the big cities. So the areas where we stay at are always the suburbs or remote places in the country. For example, we had for many years a tournament in NY, but in Rochester NY. ATP tennis, for example, they stay in Manhattan during the US Open. It is also true that I always try to make the best out of my tournament weeks and I went to see the Niagara Falls when I was in Rochester. As well as I go hiking in Palm Springs, in Hawaii, or go the the National Park in Banff, Canada to take photography lessons. Is that appropriate to do while on tour? Will the top players in the world spend time doing it? Probably not, but I might be enjoying my life on tour in a more versatile, cultural-rich way than the rest of them. 

Enjoy some of my life on tour extravaganzas...

These are some of the ‘inside the ropes’ examples I wanted to talk about to explain a little bit how life on tour is and what it means. Within its challenges, it is a wonderful life to have the opportunity to life. It is also a tough life, that challenges a lot of us and that not everyone fits in it. That’s why the life of a professional athlete is not a one size fits all. But it is a life that has taught me about time-managment, self-worth, patience, humility, responsibility and how to fight for those things you value and love most in life.

Belen Mozo14 Comments