Returning To The Game I Love
by Dusty Schmidt | Published: Jan 01, '12
I have spent most of this year post black Friday figuring out what I want out of life. I was also able to spend a great deal of time reflecting upon poker and what it means to me. The whole process revealed a lot about myself and I was able to learn a lot. I came to the realization that I love golf infinitely more than I love playing poker. With that, I have decided to return to golf and use all of what poker has taught me to try and become the best I can be (whatever that is) at the game of golf.
For those that aren’t familiar with my background, I basically lived, breathed and slept golf from ages 8-23. It was literally all I cared about outside of friends and family of course. At one point I believed so strongly that golf was my only way to happiness that I once told my parents that, “If I had a crystal ball right now and it told me I would never play on the PGA tour, I would rather just die now than endure a life without a career on the PGA tour.” It meant that much to me.
I was very inconsistent with how I played. At times it seemed I was a can’t miss for the PGA tour, and at other times, no one would have given me even a fraction of a chance to make it. My golf game just never showed up day in and day out. Most of this was due to a lack of proper instruction and opportunity that other kids had. While they were getting lessons from folks who knew what it took to make it, I was often left observing their lessons from a distance and trying to apply it to my own game. And while my peers were playing in the most prestigious events in the country, I was often left at home despite being eligible to play due to a lack of funds. I simply lacked the opportunity. And unlike poker where the barrier to entry is small and literally anyone with an internet connection and a few hundred bucks can receive the very best poker instruction in the world, golf requires a lot of funding to really do it right.
At this point in my life, I am 30 years old and the chances of having a career on the PGA tour are fading fast, but it isn’t over yet. My chances are infinitesimally small of making the big time, but I have overcome far longer odds before in my life. I won’t let that intimidate me.
At 23 years old, I was finally getting some momentum in the game of golf. I was leading the money list on the Golden State golf tour (which is basically the equivalent of single A minor league baseball) when I suffered a heart attack that abruptly ended my career, at least for the time being. I remember distinctly laying on the hospital bed with my heart feeling like it was jumping out of my chest and thinking, “This can’t be it for me. I can’t die having achieved virtually nothing I wanted to achieve. This can’t be the end of my story.” Luckily I was able to survive.
I then channeled my energies towards poker. I couldn’t believe that I was able to find something that could satisfy my competitive cravings from the comfort of my own home. Having competed virtually every single day at golf for 15 years, it was miserable having nowhere to channel that energy. Then along came poker and wow was I hooked. It took me a couple million hands to really get the hang of how to play at a high level, but in less than 4 years from the date of my heart attack, was able to look at a bank balance north of a million dollars and that was when the wheels started turning again about taking the game of golf seriously again.
Over the past several years, I haven’t taken golf super seriously of course. But every summer I have been chipping away at making changes in my swing that would enable me to play at my desired level. I sought out the best instruction possible. I worked with 2 time PGA tour winner Brian Henninger for almost a year and that really opened my eyes to what I needed to be doing in my golf swing. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and while the swing changes are far from being completely ingrained, I was able to play a lot of golf this summer and found that while my best stuff was only marginally better, my worse stuff was miles better. I used to literally hit the ball crooked when I was struggling to the point where I just had no chance. But now my worst stuff is almost as good as my old B game used to be. Bad swings are now usually 10 yards off the fairway rather than 50. It feels like I have a chance now.
My short game has always been strong. In fact my good friend and PGA tour winner Kevin Na once told me that he wished he could be as good around the greens as I was. Kevin is now a perennial top 10 leader in up and down percentage on tour, so I took that as quite a compliment coming from him. While I do think he was probably being overly nice, there is a lot of truth to that. I have always been able to get the ball in the hole very well. I got so used to hitting the ball all over the planet (relative to PGA tour players anyway) that I simply had to be good around the greens to have any chance. Now that I can keep the ball in play much more frequently, I am excited to see if I can capitalize on that with my short game.
I did play 2 golf tournaments this past summer after a 7 year absence and was able to shoot rounds of 74-72-71 to win my club championship at Pumpkin Ridge golf club (site of Tiger’s 3rs straight US amateur win) and then shocked myself and nearly everyone I know when I was tied for the lead with 13 holes to play in the Idaho State Open this summer. I shot rounds of 65-67 to reach the penultimate pairing and then birdied 3 holes in a row early in the round to grab a share of the lead. I struggled home to a 73 from that point, but I found out that I could play this game again, which was very exciting to me.
On January 3rd I am going to hop in the car and drive down from Portland, OR to southern California to start my journey. On the 5th I am entered in my first event back, which is the Golden State tour event at Temecula Creek. I have 14 tournament days in January alone, and 18 in February. I simply could not be more excited. While I am down there I am going to look for a place to rent a house and my family will eventually come down to join me down here while I am pursuing my dream of playing golf competitively day in and day out. I am not sure how long I will do it for since a lot depends on what transpires with poker and what kind of progress I am making with my golf game. Honestly, I actually hope this is the end of the road for me with taking poker as seriously as I have for the past 6 years, but it probably won’t be.
I would obviously love nothing more than to make it to the PGA or Nationwide tour in golf. And if I do that, playing poker full time will be just a distant memory. But in all likelihood this will just be a break from poker. While I am pursuing golf, I will still be making videos as well as playing 20-25k hands a month of poker so that I be sure not to let my skills diminish. At the end of the day, golf is a long shot for me to really make a career out of it, and poker is what is going to pay the bills for me. More importantly, should my kids decide to take the game seriously some day, nothing will be more important to me than being sure that they don’t lack opportunity the way I did. It would obviously break my heart if I couldn’t support them in golf or anything else they may decide to do. I don’t want them to struggle the way I did.
I honestly have no expectations for now with golf other than to practice and prepare as well as I can, and to give it my best each and every day. I guess you could say my goals are all process oriented right now. Even though I have practiced very little the past 3 months, I felt it was important to throw myself in with the wolves right off the bat and see where my game is at. Tournament golf will expose you like nothing else. So I should have a good idea by the end of January what I need to work on. And those experiences will go a long way towards figuring out how to keep getting better and better. My only expectation is that my leaks will quickly become exposed and then I can get to the real work.
The only thing that really matters throughout the year is how you play at PGA tour school. You can win every tournament and have a bad week at qualifying school (which will be staged in the Fall) and most players will consider their year a failure. Quite honestly, I am chasing the experience of playing golf competitively day in and day out with no financial barriers for instruction or opportunity, as much as I will be chasing a PGA tour card. I definitely won’t consider 2012 a failure if I don’t make it on the tour. The only way I fail is if I don’t give it my best. And for those that know me, that means that my chances of failure are very low.
I will be keeping my eye on the pulse of the poker games by playing and of course the pending licensing and regulating of online poker here in the US will be of particular interest to me as well. My hope is that poker comes back as soon as possible, of course. Although, part of me deep down inside hopes it just comes back with a huge bang in about 5 years so I am not torn between big $ and my dream of playing golf. I really don’t want to be in a position where I am making a ton of progress in golf, but yet the poker games online are good enough to make 7 figures a year. That would obviously be a an amazingly good problem to have, but wow, if I were in that position, Holy Shit I don’t know what I would do! But of course, wow do I hope I am in that position!
For all those who have supported me in poker throughout the years and want to keep a passive interest in my golf game, I am still keeping my blog and will likely update it much more frequently. It will be a mixture of golf and poker, with maybe a slight emphasis on golf now since I will be doing more of that than golf. I will be sure to keep everyone posted on my progress as always.
I am also proud to announce that Scott Brown and I are making some wonderful progress on Treat Your Poker Like A Business 2. We have all of the publishing options sorted out, and we expect (and this time we mean it haha) a Spring 2012 release. Since it gets dark early in the winter months which means I can’t play golf after 5 or 6 o clock, and the fact that I will be away from my family quite a bit for the next 5-6 weeks, I have committed to banging out the rest of the book in the evenings. We are about 50% done as of this exact moment, and our expectation is to complete the book and release it at least temporarily this Spring on my website. At this point I have literally received 1,000 messages from folks who have read Treat Your Poker Like A Business asking when part 2 was coming out. That has been inspiring, no question. Thanks to everyone for writing!
We have only 30 days at this point to sell the remaining copies of Treat Your Poker Like A Business and Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth at my website before they go out of print temporarily. Cardoza Publishing, the same group that did Super System, among others, will take over the rights in 30 days and then they will release them in bookstores nationwide later in the year. So please take advantage of the last opportunity to get these books. In fact, you can get them for 50% the already reduced price by entering code DUSTY at DustySchmidt.net
Well, I am off to the driving range to get ready for the season. You can’t ever practice this crazy game enough….