Billy Horschel and his wife Brittany are teaming up together for the first time in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week, becoming the first husband and wife pair to play together in the history of the DP World Tour.
In this week’s Player Blog, they talk about what it means to play together this week, to be each other’s support system, and why Billy has become increasingly more encouraged to speak out about mental health
Billy: I’m very excited for this week. I would never have imagined when I started coming here and playing on the DP World Tour that the support I would receive would become almost the biggest support I’ve received anywhere else in the world. It truly is unbelievable, and I can’t thank people enough for coming out and supporting me, pulling for me.
Brittany: When he first started playing over here, I was like, you’ve found your people, babe. It feels like a second home now and everyone loves him so much, the support is unbelievable and it’s so heartwarming for me to see because I love him, I know him, he deserves it all. And I’m excited to share that this week.
I think the reason I love it over here so much is just the little more relaxed feel. I think it has to do with the culture over here in Europe versus the culture in America. Both places you’re trying to work hard and make a better life for yourself but, when you get away from work, people over here seem to be able to enjoy themselves a little more and enjoy life and be more present. I think we struggle with that in America, always pushing and trying to be better, always looking at what people have compared what you have. It’s a completely different mentality.
A big part of my sobriety and life is very much about being present and mindful and grateful and out here for Billy he’s able to tap into a lot of that when he’s here. Last night he was talking about why would I be stressed about anything while I’m here? He’s able to step back and enjoy the moment for what it is. I think that’s a big key to life and happiness and you can always be better at everything or have more but to be able to sit back and enjoy where you are at the moment is all you can do. Out here, he’s able to do that.
I’ve always loved the British history, Scottish history, I always found that fascinating at school. I love British shows, I always loved watching Top Gear, I love Capital radio, and I get the humour here. I love the humour over here. I love that people are honest here to a T, maybe a little too honest sometimes, brutally honest but you know where you stand. And they are very sarcastic too, and I completely understand that.
I think his sense of humour connects out here, but he’s also straightforward, honest, and people here appreciate that more. I think there’s definitely more of that, life is a bit simpler over here too in a positive way, in a way there’s not so much excess in everything, which I appreciate a lot.
I think I’m really relaxed, too. I don’t know why that is, I just enjoy my time over here a lot. I look back and I wish I had made a better effort to come over here earlier in my career but I’m happy I’m doing it now and getting the experiences of this Tour and seeing some of these beautiful countries and tournaments I’ve watched on TV for years.
It's nice to be able to share that together. This one I’ve come to a few times, I’ve been to the BMW and I went out to Dubai two years ago, but other than that I’ve not had much of a chance to come out to these events, so this is special.
It’s cool to have Brittany out here out here as my partner this week. Last year she caddied, and now this week with her playing I get to support her too. She hasn’t done this in years, she’ll be looking at me to help calm her down so I’ll have to help a little bit there, but we’re excited to play together.
We decided about six months ago, when Billy decided this fit into his schedule, that I would like to play. I caddied last year, but it’s my first time playing. It’s a bit new for me. After playing in college I took about 10 to 15 years off, I didn’t even touch a club. I had three wrist surgeries in college so that killed it for me for a while. But our four-year-old son loves golf, so I started going out with him and chipping again and I thought OK I love the game, so I’m playing a little more. Billy’s dad made the Team cut, Nobes (Mark Noble) played it last year, so I’m hoping I can keep that up. We are very grateful to Dunhill and Mr. Rupert for the opportunity.
It's just cool to share this together, because we truly support each other. She supports me in my golf and I support her in being a mom at home when I’m gone and all the endeavours that she wants to do. We’ve also come through a lot together as each other’s support system, and she’s really encouraged me to be open about that this year.
Obviously we love each other, we’re married but I think our friendship has grown immensely and our respect for each other has grown immensely throughout the last few years. I think being able to go through my struggles with him by my side and his struggles with me by his side, it’s just a comfort, and it gives you a sense of confidence. That’s really hard to find. It takes work, but it’s very reassuring and comforting to have that support on both ends, and we’ve done a really good job of that.
I’ve struggled with my golf this year there is no doubt about it but mentally I was in a good place and my life off the course was good. On the golf course it was a struggle, because I want so much out of myself and I want to do well for all of the hard work I put in. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to expectations I have of myself, but to be able to share that was like a weight off. Even though I’d shared it with my wife, my team, with my golf psychologist, for some reason sharing it after Memorial made everything sort of disappear, and I was able to start moving forward from that point.
Since then I’ve definitely been sharing a lot more about the mental health side of things, because I realise how tough it is for people to open up, even to loved ones. It’s sort of happened by accident. There’s a lot of people in this world that have dealt with mental health and addiction more than I have, and have even more of a first-hand experience than me, but in talking about my struggles on the golf course, I’ve sort of fallen into talking more about it. I’m not someone who is afraid to talk about it, and I want to encourage people to do the same with whatever issues they have. The more people can do that, the more they might discover that others might be going through things that are similar to them, or have been through something. Sharing goes a long way.
I think it’s tough for humans in general to admit weakness, it’s not something that we like to talk about. But you know my wife, going through alcohol addiction, being in recovery now for so many years, you learn that to be sober you have to be able to admit to yourself something you are not good at. You need to be able to do that on a daily basis, and that’s what opened my eyes to it more. The people in the addiction community are some of the best people I know, because they are true to themselves, trying to be somebody that can admit and correct their faults. You don’t need to do it in a public arena, but for people that are comfortable sharing that publicly, it helps others share privately. It helps them say OK, here’s this person that looks like they are living a great life and everything, and has all the money, he is sharing this with me and his struggles, and I can relate to that in some way – whether it’s in a sport, at work, at home.
That’s why I don’t like when people start criticising athletes for saying they are struggling because they make a lot of money. It’s sad that people think that, because I don’t think people can understand what it is we do until you’re in our shoes and the stress and the pressure of trying to get to the highest level of something we’ve dreamed of our entire life. They think they can relate to that, but unless you’ve been in that arena and in those shoes, you can’t relate at all. That’s why I’m always very cautious of trying to be in someone else’s shoes that I don’t know much about.
I grew up very blue collar, lower middle class and didn’t have a lot of money. I understand what it’s like to live with little money. My parents had two mortgages on our house, a parent out of a job, I understand that and if someone is struggling with similar things to that I can relate to that in a way, but there are other situations that aren’t as easy for me to relate to. I just wish people would be less critical of others.
I think with what my wife went through with alcohol addiction and mental health I also have a decent understanding of that life and the struggles that people go through and the stigma that goes around them. The more that we can take the stigmas away, the more people will feel comfortable with sharing their struggles and can start to be present and understand that while everything can be tough and not everything is easy, every day can bring something different.
We are obviously very fortunate for what we do on the golf course and the rewards we get for competing at the highest level, but at the end of the day we are no different to anyone else that is trying to get through life. That’s why I don’t like when athletes or public figures or people who have a sizeable bank account try to act better than someone else, or think they should get treated differently because of where they are in life. The more that we can relate to other people, the better it is for all of us. It allows people in a private setting to be more open.
We are no different to anyone else. I try and relate it to work rather than golf: if you put all your time and effort into trying to be better at what you do in life and you aren’t seeing yourself move up or progress or barely treading water, of course it’s going to be a struggle, it doesn’t matter who you are.
I think having a great perspective about everything in life is something I’ve done fairly well. Putting into perspective that you have these ups and downs in life you’ve got to work through, looking at what you need to do and asking yourself is this the end all be all? Is this going to define me? For me, no, a tough year on the course is not what defines me. I’m a good person, I’m a good father, I’m a good husband. I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist.
I think we all strive to improve our lives, and for me it’s important to have a day-to-day plan to do that. Setting a goal is great, but some people get so caught up trying to set a goal that anything else feels like a failure. One of my goals is to win a Major next year, but it’s more about how I get there, what do I need to do to get there? Getting better in those aspects, and if that allows me to win a Major great but if it doesn’t, that’s not a failure because I did get better, it just wasn’t my moment or time.
Since I first started sharing how I’ve been struggling, my confidence is a lot higher than it was in June. I still would like it to be further along. There’s still some scar tissue there on certain shots, but it’s a process and I’m getting there. I think I just got there by doing what I’ve done by entire life, working hard and have a process in place and a plan. Focus more on that than outcome and goal and what I’m trying to achieve. And I’ve got a great team around me that helps me keep everything in perspective. You’ve just got to keep chiselling away at the stone. It’s that saying, it could take a thousand hits before the stone cracks, but it wasn’t that last hit, it was the 999 hits before it that made it happen. It’s just little by little to get back to where I want to be, and hopefully beyond that.
And a week like this, playing with my wife by my side, it’s easy to maintain that positive perspective.