In April 2006, following a poor run of form on the US PGA Tour and suffering from acute clinical depression, Australian golfer Steven Bowditch attempted to take his own life only to be saved by the timely intervention of his then girlfriend at his condo in Dallas, Texas.
Following this close call with death he immediately sought medical attention for his condition and was prescribed antidepressants. At first they didn’t work; “It went worse,” he said. “Less sleep. By then I was running on about an hour a night, if that. We went on to strong sleeping tablets to take with it. Then the thoughts, the bad thoughts of hurting myself again, they were coming very regularly. Every day was getting worse. I was starting to get my emotions back, but my emotions were all angry.”
Bowditch tried to play once in May in Memphis, but couldn’t manage it and posted another DQ. He finally returned full time at the end of July and made his first cut at the end of August in Reno. He was playing with fellow Aussie Jason Day, whose caddie, Colin Swatton, was the golf professional at Bowditch’s home course of Kooralbyn part of the time Bowditch was a student there.
“I remember walking down the last,” says Swatton, “and he’s right in the middle of the fairway. All he’s got to do is wedge it on and two-putt and he makes the cut. He walked down to the ball, and I said, ‘Come on, mate, let’s just finish this off.’ He says, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ That was the first glimpse I saw of it. He was nearly crying when he knocked in the putt.”
After sharing confidences with his old mate from Kooralbyn, Swatton recalls seeing an episode from the Golf Channel shortly after; “I was in Ohio, and they were doing that “Grey Goose 19th Hole” and one guy was saying, ‘Oh, Steve Bowditch has picked up a new sponsor, Dairy Queen, for DQ.’ I was thinking, gosh, you don’t even know the story,” says Swatton. “He used to not be able to come out of the locker room. He’d jump in the car, and he’d be gone. They just didn’t realize.” Cruel game golf!
After his poor experience with the first medication, Bowditch was put on Prozac, which helped some, and then Zoloft, which helped a great deal. A certain amount of trial and error is common since each of the medications affects the chemical composition of the brain in a slightly different way. By June 2008, under the supervision of his doctor, he was taken off medication entirely but relapse is always a concern. The people closest to him, including his mother and father, are understandably watchful.
“Obviously, they’re just more concerned from the past,” Bowditch says. “I know I would know, with things like not remembering shots. There were times back then where I would sit on the next tee and I couldn’t remember hitting a golf shot. My mind was just shut off. I’d have to ask my caddie what happened. Short-term memory loss is a symptom.”
Bowditch has since become associated with an Australian group called beyondblue, a nationwide depression initiative. He made a DVD for them, detailing his struggles. While he has never been able to bring himself to watch it, others have. He has received notes from people thanking him for saving their lives.
Bit by bit, Bowditch started to get his life back to a point in 2009 where he actually fell back in love with life – off the course. This was in no small measure due to his relationship with future wife, Amanda Yarussi, a producer for Fox Sports. Then the wins started to come. In November 2009, he won the Queensland PGA. The NSW PGA Championship followed in May 2010, the Web.com Tour’s Soboba Golf Classic in California, October 2010 and then, four years later following a good run of consistent performances, he hit the big time.
His first PGA Tour win was the 2014 Valero Texas Open, which gave him his first and only Masters start that same year – he finished a credible 26th. Then, just weeks ago, he won the AT&T Byron Nelson by four shots; at the very same location where he and wife Amanda married four years prior.
Some redemption story this. One hopes it will get even better.