Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston reveals harrowing mental health struggles that threatened his career
Andrew ‘ Beef’ Johnston stormed onto the golf scene in 2016, becoming an almost-instant fan favorite and household name. But the overnight nature of his success took a massive toll on the young pro, as Johnston revealed in a recent blog post on Europeantour.com.
After a whirlwind first few years as a pro, Johnston’s struggles came to the forefront last season. A break-up with his long-term girlfriend in the summer paired with a break-in at his home left Beef shaken, forcing him to skip a couple of events he planned on playing.
Then his coach decided to move on, and while Johnston returned to competition, he could tell something was not 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.”
By November, things were getting worse. After finishing the Nedbank Golf Challenge, Johnston says he “couldn’t even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker” and instead went “straight back to the hotel and just cried.”
Unexplained frustration with his game and more tears followed at an appearance at the Australian PGA at the end of 2018. And the hits kept coming. After playing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to kick of the new year, Johnston split ways with his caddie, saying he didn’t know “which person [was] going to turn up day to day. I thought it was unfair to him, so we split.”
During the second round of the Vic Open the next week, Johnston suddenly found himself unable to correctly write in his scorecard, revealing that he was writing the numbers ‘backwards.’ That disturbing experience led him to pull out of the next event after arriving at the course.
At that point, Johnston knew he needed to do something to get better, so he took some time off from golf and started working with psychologist Ben Davies. Through working with Davies, Johnston finally realized that his harrowing struggles over the last year all originated from his stratospheric rise to fame, specifically on his first trip competing in the U.S. in 2016.
Johnston gained a lot of fans and a lot of attention in his first few events in America. That led to thousand of interactions with fans, and the ensuing pressure that goes along with it. At one point that year, Johnston noticed an online poll asking fans who’d they like to see most on Tour. Johnston beat Tiger Woods in the poll.
All of this proved to be too much to handle for the self-described “normal geezer from Finchley.”
While he enjoyed and appreciated the newfound attention he was receiving, it all happened too fast for Johnston to process it.
“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.”
But after putting in the work with his pyschologist, Beef has found a new perspective on his career in golf and life in general, as well as a newfound appreciation for psychology.
“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.”
Johnston says that he’s been himself a lot more recently, and his game and interest in competition are rounding into form. The effect of his fiancée Jodie (the two got engaged in December 2018) cannot be understated, and the young couple are expecting a baby later this year.
“Golf is just a small part of it at the end of the day,” says Johnton. “I didn’t realise that before.”
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