When Nick Bienz began his high school career, he realized some of his competitors had equally impressive junior golf résumés. As he started playing college golf for IUPUI, he found just about everyone had also been a state finalist in high school.
Now that he's in a fledgling professional career, the biggest jump in skill, he looks around and sees that everyone else his age had been all-conference the year before, too.
None of this is to diminish Bienz's accomplishments. It's just a reminder that at every step up, you've got to leave your ego at the door.
“And you're not just competing against guys who are within two or three years of your age now; you're competing against guys who are 40 and 50,” Bienz said. “I've learned that in college, if you shot even-par at a tournament, you had a decent chance of winning. In the pros, if you shoot even-par, you're not even going to make the cut.”
But, as Bienz usually does, he found the silver lining.
“The jump hasn't been as bad as I thought going in because you don't have classes to worry about and don't have outside homework you have to do. Everything you do daily revolves around golf and how to get better at it,” Bienz said.
Bienz, 23, began his pro career last year on mini tours in Florida. The Heritage High School graduate, who won the Fort Wayne Golf Association's City Tournament in 2017 and 2018, was living in the Jacksonville area.
“I started out, had a couple top-10s, quite a few top-25s, didn't miss a single cut,” he said. “As far as money goes, mini-tour events are more to just stay sharp. If you finish in the top-10, at least you make your money back and it's a break-even point. It is what it is, but it was fun to go down there and stay sharp and everything. Now the waiting game begins.”
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down tours, qualifying events and golf courses, so Bienz is back in Fort Wayne.
His goal had been to compete in Canada this summer, but now he doesn't know when he'll be able to resume tournament play.
“The plan was to go play up on the Canadian tour, PGA Tour Canada, but obviously that has (stopped),” Bienz said. “We got an email from the PGA Tour and it basically said, 'Hey, everything is on hold. We would tell you an update, but we don't know when we're going to do it.' It's supposed to start up at the beginning of May – the season is short and goes from May to September – but with it being all said and done, who knows what's going to happen with that.”
Bienz's home course in Fort Wayne is Autumn Ridge, but he has a tour development scholarship with the Bridgewater Club in Carmel that gives him membership there.
He's not too thrown by the inability to get out and play golf during a stay-at-home order because of COVID-19.
“This is the time to work out and get just physically strong,” Bienz said. “When I can't be playing outdoors, there will be a lot of physical training and reading a lot of books on the mental side of things, trying to get stronger.
“It's about trying to find the little things you can do to stay any kind of sharp. The good news is you know when you get back, everybody is going to be kind of rusty.”