An insight into golfers’ mental health battles as Memorial Tournament approaches

DUBLIN, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s been a week since pro golfer Grayson Murray withdrew from the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas after the 16th hole in his second round. The following morning, he was found dead by suicide.

Murray had been open for years about his mental health battles, even expanding on the progress he’d made after winning his second PGA tournament of his career earlier this season. His death has brought the conversation of mental health in the sport of golf to the forefront as the Memorial Tournament approaches at Muirfield next week.

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This week, ahead of the United States Women’s Open, LPGA star Lexi Thompson, who came on the scene as a teenage phenom, announced her retirement at 29 years old, citing mental health issues.

Some of those challenges come from the game itself and the pressures on the course. But Kyle Morris, a former professional golfer and co-founder of the Golf Room, says golfers fight a silent battle before they even tee it up on the first hole.

“You’re getting done with a tournament on Sunday at seven. You’re driving nine hours to the next site to maybe Monday qualify and then if you do get into the tournament, you have to make the cut to make a check,” Morris said.

Morris knows first hand the hustle and heartache of professional golf.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, you are losing. So 99 percent of the time you walk off a golf course feeling deflated in the fact that, ugh, should have done better,” Morris said.

That kind of constant criticism is hard for anyone, even for people who are already the best of the best in the world.

“The one thing with golf that was interesting was the higher up you got on tours the lonelier it got,” Morris said.

Professional athletic counselor doctor Chris Stankovich says talent can hide torment with some athletes, especially when the sport becomes a person’s whole identity.

“The assumption is if you’re really good at your sport you can figure it all out or you know how to handle situations, but that’s not always the case,” Stankovich said. “I always worry about sports where they are more individual than nature. They don’t have a lot of people to talk to. When you’re anxious or depressed for just feeling kind of out of things, who do you go to? Who do you turn to? I think when that gets internalized, that leaves someone really vulnerable.”

Stankovich and Morris both believe that mental health conversations and awareness need to start with young athletes.

“The biggest signs are the lack of affect,” Stankovich said. “And when they are not as proud of their accomplishments or excited to get to that game, I think those are big flags.”

Morris said there’s nothing wrong with competitiveness and feeling a sense of letdown after competition.

“There is a subjective line when the drop of morale extends too far,” Morris said. “Find what they’re really passionate about and then let them run really really fast at it.”

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