Hey there. I 100% understand where you’re coming from. I played high(ish) level junior golf, high school, college, and dabbled very briefly in mini tour life (3 events). I gave up competitive golf for a few years after. I was burnt out on the emotional drain from it all. I relearned how to play for fun and my game got better. I’m head and shoulders above what I used to be. I got back into competitive golf a few years ago and I’ve had a lot of success on the state and local level. This summer I’m gearing up for a couple USGA events and I feel readier than ever to compete.
The big difference - for me - has been getting my mind right and understanding it’s not life or death. Although some events may be big for me, I still go home to my wife and son and go back to my day job on Monday.
To compete at any level you have to approach the game differently. You have to be a little more cerebral. Know your tendencies and misses. Plan for them. If you’re unfamiliar with the course you have to be really smart about where you take chances and where you play back. If you’re standing on the tee of a 325 yard par 4 thinking “I can get there” you probably can, but should you? Do you know how much room you have green side to miss? Probably not. So play it back to a distance you’re comfortable with, hit a good wedge, and have a chance at birdie. It’s all about making smart decisions based on what you do and don’t know about the course. Play the course. Never play what you think other guys/girls are doing.
As far as dialing back play for practice, yes do that. The way I’ve always done it - and I’m not saying this is THE way, just my way - I do a full range day early in the week. I assess where my swing is at in case there are specific things I need to focus on for more directed practice the rest of the week. I chip and putt every day. Midweek I’ll play 18, then chip and putt. Next day I’ll hit the range and work on the things I know I need to work on. I’ll work wedges from 130 and in. Then I’ll chip and putt. Day before event I’ll play 9 hitting 3-4 balls from everywhere, then chip and putt and eat a healthy meal.
I play mostly two day events, so this works for me. It’s about preserving my body as much as I can so my swing feels like it should come game day while dialing in my mind around the greens every day. Short game practice slows things down for me and puts me in a good place regardless of how a round or range session went. It’s a full reset.
Good luck and remember the most important thing - have fun.
I loved something Max Homa says about bad shots and bad holes - “Forgive Quickly”