Golfer Becky Brewerton’s mental health journey is back on top



CNN

Not deserving. scared impostor

From two-time Ladies European Tour (LET) winner to Wales’ first-ever Solheim Cup player, there were plenty of ways for viewers to label Becky Brewerton in 2012, but none came close to the way she described herself.

Formerly a prodigy, for eight years Brewerton had traveled the world competing at the pinnacle of women’s professional golf. Then, almost overnight, his game disappeared.

Regular top-10 results became fleeting, then non-existent, and as Brewerton’s ranking fell, so did its revenue. Soon without a place to live or a car, he delivered packages and takeout, any hope of a professional golf career all but abandoned.

How is it that an elite athlete who has spent countless hours perfecting his craft suddenly becomes nearly paralyzed by fear and anxiety every time he competes? And more importantly, how do they overcome this fear to return to the top level years later?

Brewerton enters his 19th season on Tour.

In January 2012, Brewerton had been enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon in Spain before deciding to go for a bike ride. A small rock into a corner later, the 29-year-old was flying headfirst over the handlebars, her hip hitting the pavement.

He cut his head and ripped off half the skin from his right hand, the impact was so severe that it left a gash around the hip joint big enough to fit an entire thumb through.

Yet just two weeks later, despite looking more like a recently defeated boxer than a golfer, a bruised Brewerton limped onto a plane to Australia to play a series of events down under.

Four events, four missed cuts – the typically consistent Welshwoman quickly found herself in uncharted waters of form and drowning in equally uncharted feelings.

Standing on the ball, his mind and limbs would, seemingly on a whim and with increasing regularity, completely disconnect.

Approaching the first tee, Brewerton was often greeted with a heaving chest and palpitations as the task of simply hitting the ball where she wanted became downright daunting.

“Even though I had a physical fall, I didn’t feel like it was the physical part of the injury that caused a problem. It felt like my mind; I was scared,” Brewerton told CNN’s Alex Thomas.

“Maybe it was partly because of the shock of something like that, but it was the first time I can remember really feeling fear on the golf course.

“I would close my eyes and it was like there were cars going a thousand miles an hour the whole time, I couldn’t think straight because obviously if I had been thinking straight I would have realized something was wrong and I would have tried to do something about it instead of moving on.”

    Brewerton came out during the Women's World Championship in China, 2013.

While he believes returning to the game so soon after that fateful bike ride was a mistake, for Brewerton, as he reflects on his psychological struggles, he acknowledges that even when he was basking in his success, all was not well. it had felt good

Already when she burst onto the scene as European Women’s Amateur Champion in 2002, finishing runner-up in two LET events aged just 16, Brewerton was battling doubt.

Two Tour wins in 2007 and 2009 did little to quell those feelings. Although she made history by reaching the pinnacle of the women’s game in those years, representing Europe twice at the Solheim Cup, Brewerton’s internal struggle continued.

“Because I didn’t talk about it at the time, there was a part of me that thought, ‘I’m weird or I’m just weird,’ or people will think I’m weird if I say something. .

“I just thought, ‘one day this is all going to go wrong.'” My biggest fear was not knowing if I could be the player I wanted to be.

“I always doubted myself and it was very much like impostor syndrome… ‘I don’t deserve to be here, I don’t belong here, I’m not as good as all the other players who are here.’

“Even the tournaments where I won, I obviously enjoyed them, but there was a part of me that always felt, ‘Did I deserve this?’ How did I do it?’, because I didn’t think I could.

“And all of a sudden it’s like it just builds up and builds up and then one day it’s like the glass got a little full and it all came crashing down.”

European teammates Gwladys Nocera (L) and Brewerton (R) after defeating the US team pair at the 2009 Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms, Illinois.

Brewerton traces its roots back to childhood, where an ingrained “just get on with it” attitude overwhelmed any thoughts of asking for help.

When golf became a full-time profession, his sense of self became precariously intertwined with results.

“Even some people who were friends of mine, and nobody does it on purpose, but everybody always wants to know how your golf is,” he said.

“Nobody ever asks you how you’re doing, so you’re feeding the narrative that your whole identity is wrapped up in whether you’re playing well or not.”

That connection proved devastating as Brewerton’s form went into freefall.

After recording five top-10 finishes in the LET in 2011, over the following nine seasons he would accomplish the same feat just three times, none coming after 2014.

At the 2016 Ladies European Masters, all of Brewerton’s anxieties played out cruelly. After obsessing for weeks about shooting an embarrassing score, a self-fulfilling prophecy saw officials tell him he could not return to the second round after shooting 88 on the opening day.

However, it was this new low that marked a turning point for Brewerton.

“It was weird, once it actually happened it was almost like a relief that it was done,” Brewerton recalled.

“I didn’t have to obsess over it anymore because the worst had happened and, lo and behold, nothing horrible happened: I was still alive, I was still healthy.

“You build these things up like, ‘you’ll never be able to do anything again,’ and as soon as it happens, you realize, ‘OK, that’s it, it’s time to move on.'”

Brewerton during the RACV Ladies Masters at Royal Pines Resort, Australia in 2016.

In Brewerton’s words, he had hit rock bottom.

Playing just a handful of events in the following years, he worked for Amazon, Deliveroo and a golf club pro shop. Without a place to live, she stayed with a friend and former fitness trainer for two and a half years.

Despite his struggles in the game, Brewerton never fell out of love with golf.

Working other jobs acted as a “reality check”, offering perspective on how lucky she felt to be a professional athlete. While doubts still remained, Brewerton was encouraged to start over.

Paradoxically, this meant less golf.

Looking back, Brewerton believes he was often guilty of overtraining, at the expense of working on the mental side of his game. Cutting back on her tournament appearances, she began journaling and meditating, as well as starting to work, and at times be brutally frank, with a performance coach.

“Sometimes being deadly honest is hard because it’s upsetting, so it’s hard to talk about it,” she said. “I had to overcome the shame, if you will, of being afraid to get angry in front of other people.

“It takes a long time to change your thought process because if in the back of your mind you think you’re not doing very well or you’re having a bad time, you can’t turn it off. If you could, everyone could.

“See, my golf got so much better because I was practicing less and it wasn’t hurting my body as much and I was actually healing the part that was making the biggest difference.”

Brewerton is enjoying tournament golf more than ever.

After returning to LET qualifying school to regain his Tour card, in late 2021, Brewerton found himself enjoying tournament golf again.

Flying back from an event in November, Brewerton got to work on a blog post titled “How Did I Get So Bad at Golf?”

The response was overwhelming, with the rejuvenated golfer surprised by echoes of similar experiences among his fellow golfers.

Sitting comfortably inside the LET’s top 20 players, Brewerton is enjoying his best season in a decade, with three top-10 finishes highlighting a string of top-25 starts.

Brewerton embraces a partner in the Scandinavian Mixed at Halmstad Golf Club, Sweden in June.

While she dreams of a return to silverware, the 39-year-old is aiming for success beyond wins.

“Deep down, I’d like that to happen. But the flip side is if I start obsessing over it, I know that’s the route that got me to those dark places in the first place,” he said.

“It’s strange, sport. You experience those moments when you find yourself in these pressure situations, and yet when you get there, sometimes you interpret it as a feeling of nerves that you don’t want or all the big adrenaline pumps out of you and you start to doubt. yourself, even though the reason you put in all the work you do in the first place is to be in this position.

“So I have absolutely promised myself, in my heart, that I will not interpret this feeling as a bad thing, because this is what we live for.”

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