Editor’s note: This story was first published on GOLF.com in 2011.
FORT WORTH, Texas — As Steven Bowditch walked toward a seat at the front table, a PGA Tour media official directed him to sit on the left so Bowditch went to his right, intending to sit in the chair that would be on the left side of the desk as it faced the room. No, the media official said, I meant the chair on your left.
“Oh, the other left,” Bowditch said. “I know I’m Australian but I’m not that opposite.”
What Bowditch is at the moment is hot. Early Friday afternoon he finished off a 64 that got him near the lead of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at storied Colonial Country Club. Bowditch played in the worst of the wind Thursday, managing a 67, and heated up with the putter in the second round. There was a 35-footer for birdie on the sixth hole and a 15-footer on the eighth hole, which was a nice bonus because he’d fanned his iron shot way right of the green, but it ricocheted off a tree branch and onto the putting surface.
Bowditch is 28, has dark, bushy eyebrows and a quick smile, and he’d be a nice comeback story except he doesn’t want to talk about coming back or what he’s coming back from. He’d much rather talk about being a Dallas-area resident — he moved to Addison when he first came over from Australia five years ago — and his September wedding at the TPC at Las Colinas to a local Fox network producer. He joked that by giving the TPC a plug, he might get some kind of discount. Nice try, man, but anybody involved in the wedding racket knows that’s not going to happen.
After four long seasons, he earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 17th on the 2010 Nationwide Tour money list. It was a six-year full-circle tour for Bowditch, a 22-year-old Australian phenom who first made it to the PGA Tour in 2006. That was part of what he’d prefer not to discuss. He played in 22 events and made only two cuts. He withdrew four times and was disqualified three times. He battled depression and it took a toll. There was sleeplessness, drinking, a near-drowning, and a disturbing inability to focus at times. In past interviews he has said he doesn’t remember most of that year. You can understand why he’d rather move on. He has to, it’s that simple.
Still, his journey has taken a long route, and not just the distance from Queensland, Australia, to the U.S. At one point he was playing the Troppo Tour in Northern Australia. That’s what the pro-am circuit was called because of the area’s tropical-like weather. It’s a series of one-day pro-ams, ranging in total prize money from $5,000 to as much as $100,000. Bowditch traveled that tour for a while, camping out with a friend in a tent.
“Yeah, I was that broke,” he said.
But his game carried him a long way. He was runnerup in the 2000 World Junior Championship and at 17, was paired with Greg Norman in the 2000 Australian Open final round. He was always supposed to make it in golf. That dark 2005 year was a huge setback. But he got help and eventually got through it. In a published 2006 interview, he said, “As a so-called man, it’s really tough to admit you have a mental problem. I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to people.”
He did what he needed to do, he just doesn’t want to become a poster boy for depression and field constant questions about it and be reminded of what he’s worked so hard to get past.
“I’m living in the future,” is all he’d say.
His future on the weekend at Colonial is bright. At 9 under par, he’ll be in the mix. Strangely, Colonial doesn’t seem like the kind of track he ought to play well on. Bowditch is a bomber. He ranks fifth in the tour’s driving distance stats. Yet Colonial is known as a short-hitter’s course, a precision iron player’s layout where anybody, even seniors, can still compete.
Bowditch is taking an aggressive approach this week. He’s still hitting driver whenever he can.
“If you hit it straight, it doesn’t matter how far you hit it,” he said. “My driver has been really good to me the last few months. I’m confident with it. Aim and hit. There’s not much more I can do.”
His lone bogey Friday came at the short par-4 17th, where he hit 2-iron off the tee and hit it into the trees.
“See what you get for hitting 2-irons?” he joked.
He plays golf locally at Craig Ranch. He moved to the Dallas area because it was centrally located in the U.S., the airport has a lot of convenient flights and there are a lot of quality golf courses and tour players in the area. He and his fiancÃ©e hope to look for a home and relocate within the area after their wedding.
They’re living in the future. It’s a plan.