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Beef Finds a Road to Happiness

By: | Wed 20 May 2020 | Comments

ANDREW “BEEF” JOHNSTON is a larger than life character. He is loved on both sides of the  Atlantic, winning a huge army of fans during his one season on the PGA Tour. They adored him because he engaged with them. They loved him because he ate burgers and drank beer and made no effort to pretend that he was a gym bunny. And they loved him because he was happy to mix with them and sign autographs and join them for a drink.

But eventually it all got on top of him. He was living away from home, he was struggling with his game and he was bottling up his emotions. He hit an all-time low, losing his PGA Tour card. He later admitted that playing the fool all the time was more difficult than it looked and that he found it difficult to be in the spotlight.

Johnston, it turns out, is actually a pretty reserved individual

He finally admitted in a blog on the European Tour website last year that he had been to a dark place.

“Next thing, I see a poll over in America asking fans, ‘who are you looking forward to seeing more?’ I was above Tiger Woods.”

Beef revealed that he pulled out of numerous tournaments due to his mental health struggles, seemingly completely losing his appetite for golf.

“I came off the course on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November (2018) and couldn’t even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker. I just left them. I went straight back to the hotel and just cried,” he wrote. “I nearly walked off the course at the Australian PGA Championship a few weeks later. It was the end of last year on the Gold Coast, I hit two bad shots, and I couldn’t mentally handle it at all. I had no idea what was going on. I was so angry, so wound up, which is really unlike me. I came off there and cried. I knew then that something wasn’t right.

“I flew to Perth, then went to go to the course and I just said, ‘I can’t do it’. I went back to the hotel room and just thought ‘I’m not going to play’. So I pulled out.”

He knew that he needed help and sought out psychologist Ben Davies, who explained to him that it all started going wrong when he went over to America and shot to stardom.

“Ben telling me what was happening came as quite a nice relief. I was thinking, my god you’re right. It makes sense now, made me feel better and as I said, having that break has been good to help me reflect. I’ve been called a “fat f***” a few times in the States. But you’ve still got to have that bulletproof skin. You’re in the public eye. You can’t say anything. So I think for all sports people, it’s good to have someone they can speak to, a mental coach or a psychologist.”

Beef is now engaged to his fiancee, Jodie, and they have a baby, and he told Sky’s The Golf Show that, despite the lockdown, he is in a good place.

“I have been trying to keep fit, have been training, cooking and looking after the baby,” he said. “It’s been a strange time. Becoming a dad makes a huge difference. Five years ago I might have struggled with this but I am in a good place, although I haven’t been out on the course yet.

"What I have learnt is that it doesn’t matter if your have problems. It can happen to anybody. Don’t be worried about it. Talk to people. Be open about it. The more people who talk about mental health issues the easier it will become for everybody.

"I was hesitant to see a psychologist but once I understood the pressure I was putting myself under it all made sense. I am still learning about myself even now. Talking is so important. I cannot stress that enough. For me the important thing is to keep perspective. I want to win, play in majors and the Ryder Cup. But first and foremost I want to be a good father and a good partner, and that is way more important than golf. The golf will take care of itself.

"It would be interesting if the governing bodies could give us somebody to go to. Somebody who could put an arm around us, to chat to and explain why we feel the way we do.

"I have a totally different perspective. I miss the competition and just want to get in amongst it all again."

Rich Beem, the former US PGA champion who now works as a commentator and analyst, believes more has to be done to help today’s tour professionals.

“Golf could do more to help players,”he said. "It is such an individual sport and you cannot lean on other people. Golfers put more pressure on themselves mentally. I went through some of the same things as Beef. I wanted to be superhuman but as a human being you have to accept that you are fallible. I took a personality test and that helped me hugely. You think you know yourself, but you really don’t. It’s time for the game’s governing bodies to do more to help people.

“It is hard to admit that you are vulnerable. This goes deeper than seeing a normal sports psychologist. This is is different. This is about emotion. Psychologists get players focused but there is much more going on in their heads than simply being ready to play golf."

Mel Reid added: We are seen as superhuman because we are athletes. You are always putting on a performance, even in practice. You are constantly putting up a guard because you don’t know who is there. It is difficult for us to open up."

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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