Andrew “Beef” Johnston’s road to success in professional golf was a quick one.
The 30-year-old paired a win at the Spanish Open and a top-10 finish at The Open Championship together in 2016 to take the golf world by storm — becoming an ever-popular player both on the PGA Tour and European Tour.
As he revealed this week, just after he missed the cut at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Johnston struggled with his newfound success.
The Englishman wrote a blogpost for the European Tour detailing his struggles with his mental health — something he said cumulated last November after he finished in a tie for 27th at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the European Tour.
“I was angry. I was wound up,” Johnston wrote. “I just thought it was the golf. I didn’t realize 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 realize that I was just slowly burning myself out.
“I came off the course on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November and couldn’t even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker. I just left them. I went straight back to the hotel and just cried.”
Johnston then almost did the same thing at the Australian PGA Championship just a few weeks later, even though he finished in a tie for ninth that week.
“It was the end of last year on the Gold Coast, I hit two bad shots, and I couldn’t mentally handle it at all,” Johnston wrote. “I had no idea what was going on. I was so angry, so wound up, which is really unlike me. I came off there and cried. I knew then that something wasn’t right.”
Johnston played a few more events, and split with his caddie, before his psychologist finally convinced him to take some time off from the game — which he “reluctantly accepted.”
That’s when he and his psychologist started looking at when Johnston’s life changed — starting in 2016, when he burst onto the PGA Tour. He played in four events that season, finished in eighth at The Open Championship, won the Spanish open and earned his PGA Tour card.
He received so much attention so fast that, even though he enjoyed it, it took a toll.
“You’ve got to remember, I’m a normal geezer from Finchley,” Johnston wrote. “Next thing, I see a poll over in America asking fans, ‘Who are you looking forward to seeing more?’ I was above Tiger Woods. I was thinking, ‘What is going on?’
“To get your head around that is very tough, and then came the pressure I put on myself to perform … At some of the tournaments around that time, the attention I got was just crazy.”
Now, though, Johnston is happy on the golf course again. He got engaged late last year, and is expecting his first child with his fiancee, Jodie Valencia. He’s finished inside the top-25 twice already this year on the European Tour, and will attempt to qualify for The Open next week at the Scottish Open.
While things are trending up, Johnston knows it’s an ongoing battle. He’s set his sights on playing in major championships again, but knows he needs to make sure he’s enjoying the game along the way.
“I think perspective is a massive thing,” Johnston wrote. “Regardless of how you play golf and what you do, just enjoying life. Jodie and I are now expecting a baby too and that’s going to be amazing. With Jodie, we’re constantly together, so to have your best mate with you all the time is wicked, and golf is just a small part of it at the end of the day. I didn’t realize that before.
“As long as you’ve got your family and friends and you’re healthy, they are the most important things, and we are so lucky to be able to do this as a job. It comes with demands, but every job does. It’s just a learning curve.”
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