Four years after his last appearance and five years since depression led to him attempting suicide, Steve Bowditch returns to the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii this week.
The 27-year-old Australian's last full season on the circuit saw him disqualified four times, quit on three other occasions and make the cut only twice in 22 starts.
While Tiger Woods was winning 11 of his 21 events and earning more than $13 million, Bowditch -- with more rounds in the 80s than the 60s -- took home a whopping $11,160. But very few people knew what was going on behind the scenes as the former amateur star battled with an illness that nearly ended his life.
A magazine article two years ago told the story of the time he didn’t sleep for 12 nights, drank a bottle of whisky, put on all his heaviest clothes and tried to drown himself in the pool at his Dallas base. Bowditch was discovered floating by his then-girlfriend, who resuscitated him and got him to hospital.
The drinking had begun to be an issue in 2005.
"I would start at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, go all the way until 5 o'clock in the morning and tee it up in the tournament at 7 o'clock," he revealed. "That went on for six weeks. That was my only escape from the person that I was."
As treatment continued following his hospital release, the PGA Tour granted Bowditch a medical exemption for the start of the 2007 season.
To keep his card, though, he had to win nearly $650,000 in five events and, when he missed the cut in four and pulled out of the other -- in other words, did not earn a single cent -- that might have been that.
But by, then Bowditch had begun working with a program in Australia helping fellow sufferers, and finally felt able to talk about what he had been through.
"As a man, it is not considered 'tough' to admit you have a mental problem. But as soon as you sit down and talk about it with someone, it is a great weight off your shoulders," he continued.
"I want people to know that depression is common and the sooner you get the right treatment the sooner you're on the road to recovery,” he added. "You shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. It can happen to anyone. If you think you may be depressed, even if you're not sure, talk to a doctor."
Three years ago, Bowditch made only two of 16 cuts on the developmental Nationwide Tour in the United States and earned less than $4,000. But in 2009 he had two top-10 finishes and in 2010 a victory and winnings of more than $250,000 gave him another shot at the big time.