In this week's Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston opens up about his mental health struggles, adapting to becoming famous and how with the help of his fiancée and psychologist he is rediscovering his love for golf.
It's been a crazy year. Where do I start? Well, I got engaged on the 7th of December. So that was a nice start to the winter break, nice celebrations.
I started the 2019 season similar to how I would normally, playing Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Vic Open in Australia, but to be honest, I really wasn't in a good place. I would say that all came from a hell of a lot of change in 2018.
I split up with a long-term girlfriend in the middle of the year, which is obviously not easy, and I met Jodie quite soon after. She is amazing but I also wasn't in the best head space at that time. I was in France at Le Golf National but pulled out of the tournament after the round on Thursday. I drove home Friday morning, got back and discovered my flat had been broken into. It was really unsettling having to deal with that, so I decided not to play Ireland or Scotland, and to just take some time to sort it all out.
A few things were happening all at once last year. I had some time off, about seven weeks in all, so that was really good. But then as summer came, I had a chat with my coach at the time and he was looking to go a different way. So now all of a sudden I've got to find a new coach.
I played Sweden in August and I played well there, and played all right in a few other events, but I could definitely feel like I wasn’t being my usual self. I wasn't quite right.
I was angry. I was wound up. I just thought it was the golf. I didn't realise what was happening. It felt like every week was really tough. I was fighting. I was trying to practice more, do more, and I didn't realise that I was just slowly burning myself out.
I came off the course on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November 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.
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 came back to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and I wasn't quite right there. I said to Will, my caddie at the time, ’I just don't know which person is going to turn up day to day’. I really didn't, and I thought it was unfair on him, so we split.
I got to Australia and on the first day at the Vic Open I played lovely and shot 66. On the second day, I couldn't even write numbers in my yardage book. I was writing everything backwards, the numbers backwards. I didn't know what was going on. I shot 77 and missed the cut.
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.
I went to Thailand for a couple weeks with Jodie to clear my head. I thought maybe if I get away from it all for a few weeks, it would be all right. I got back home and flew all the way to Oman, and the same thing happened. I couldn’t bring myself to play. I pulled out of the event there too. Luckily Jodie got in touch with a psychologist and first off, he advised me not to play for a while.
I was planning to play Malaysia or India and deep down, obviously I was thinking, I want to play, I want to compete — but I couldn’t. What's going on? I had no idea what was happening and my psychologist said, ‘we strongly advise you just to take some time off’. In the end, I reluctantly accepted it.
I started working with the psychologist Ben Davies, piecing it all together. It can go all the way back to when I went out to America, where it all started happening. We sat down and started talking about the change in mentality. I had an amazing year in 2016, going out to America, but if I could do it again, I would do it very differently.
You've got to remember, I'm a normal geezer from Finchley. Next thing, I see a poll over in America asking fans, ‘who are you looking forward to seeing more?’. I was above Tiger Woods.
I was thinking, what is going on? To get your head around that is very tough, and then came the pressure I put on myself to perform. When I returned from the States my mindset had changed without me even knowing it. I played Wentworth and I finished around 20th at the BMW PGA Championship. I came off thinking I’ve failed, poor week. Any tournament where you finish around 20th is a decent week. It's only fine margins but I couldn't see it at the time.
I came out from The Open, finished low 20s, and I was fuming — failed again. That slowly built up. I could date it back to then, when my mindset changed. I wasn't happy on the golf course. I wasn't enjoying it.
At some of the tournaments around that time, the attention I got was just crazy. It's my nature to take pictures with fans and sign autographs. I'm a friendly person, a caring person. I want to take a picture with a kid who asks me, sign an autograph, sign a ball and make their day and let them have a good day.
But it happened so quickly, I didn't know what was going on. I mean, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the crowds. I would never change that. But when you throw someone into that, you don't know the effect it’s having on them. I had no idea. I didn't realise the underlying pressure I was putting on myself to perform, to try and please thousands of people. I didn't realise that was happening until I started working with Ben and he broke it all down.
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. Since coming back at the British Masters, I've been myself a lot more – I’m happy. My game's been moving in the right direction and now, it's just a matter of being patient.
I think perspective is a massive thing. Regardless of how you play golf and what you do, just enjoying life. Jodie and I are now expecting a baby too and that’s going to be amazing. With Jodie, we're constantly together, so to have your best mate with you all the time is wicked, and golf is just a small part of it at the end of the day. I didn't realise that before.
As long as you've got your family and friends and you're healthy, they are the most important things, and we are so lucky to be able to do this as a job. It comes with demands, but every job does. It's just a learning curve.
I've got a long way to go with this. It's still early days for me working with Ben, and I find you're able to sort of manage your mind better and understand it.
I've been called a "fat f**k" 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.
It's such fine margins and as I've learnt now, very easy for that mindset to change just slightly and a year and a half down the line, you're sitting in a hotel room crying.
The goal now is to get back playing Majors. Play all the biggest and best events like the Rolex Series this week and next week, play against the best players in the world and to test my game against them again. But also to enjoy it as well.
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