There are not a lot of times where the stakes are higher in “local” golf than in the county amateur tournament.

Each year 150 of the best golfers within 50 miles converge at the most prestigious club in the state for the grand prize of $5,000 cash and the obligatory pro-shop credit of $200. This is life-changing for some of the past winners as they can go into their offices on Monday with a swagger in the step and the knowledge they are in fact better than most of their co-workers. It is also bragging rights at their local club so that when people introduce them to new members, they say, “County Champion…” instead of “he owns a plumbing company.”

In amateur terms, this would be The Masters or The Super Bowl. 

There are major corporate sponsors that roll out the red carpet for the players, celebrity chefs that prepare the food for the two-day event, and all major local news outlets are there to cover the glitz and glamour. When you think of a golf tournament, you think of boxed lunches and raffle tickets, but at this tournament, it is a swag bag that would rival an Oscar party or that overzealous mom at her kids’ eight birthday party (we are talking to you, Natalie).

So a few days before the tournament, I read 10-Minute Toughness -by Jason Selk, and was preparing myself for something I have never accomplished in my life – a top ten finish in anything. This was my time – not just show the world I wasn’t a hack golfer, but rather a mentally conditioned superstar. I start practicing some of the points inside the book with an impassioned and strategic focus. Visualization of victory, success, and the manifestation of excellence was something I didn’t normally practice or even believe in, but this was different.

For 48-hours I did nothing but practice my internal breathing as I visualized each shot on each hole. I systematically plotted myself around the course with a fluid brilliance that I can assume Jack, Tiger, and Ben would have marveled at if they saw it. My phone rang, texts came through, Buzzfeed notifications were coming in fast and I ignored them all. Why? I was in a zone.

I visualized my opening drive soaring through the air and landing softly in the center of the fairway and the following birdie putt to kick the tournament off in a dazzling display of perfection. There were no tough spots within the round that I visualized. I didn’t let any negative thoughts creep in and each shot was crisper than the last. I saw the walk up the 18th hole as a smattering of people clapped and congratulated me on my first ever top ten finish of the tournament and the sudden realization from the gallery that I was no longer a hack golfer.

As my car pulled into the parking lot of the course on tournament day, my heartbeat was as steady as my hands and my hours of preparation were about to be tested in the highest sense. I walked up to the registration desk and gave them my name. She looked at her paper, looked up at me, looked at her paper again, and then told me I wasn’t registered.

Oh well, maybe next year.