Lindsey Wright's win in the Women's New Zealand Open recently was described as a "Victory out of the wilderness".
Lindsey Wright's win in the Women's New Zealand Open recently was described as a "Victory out of the wilderness". But as she reveals here, she was completely lost as depression drove her to the verge of quitting the game.
Lindsey Wright headed into the second round of the 2009 LPGA Championship just two shots behind Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and in serious contention for her first major title. Having finished fourth at the opening grand slam event two months earlier, Wright looked impressive as she and the Tour rookie went toe-to-toe in a memorable shoot-out for the title. The pair exchanged several birdies down the stretch but in the end Nordqvist’s putter proved the difference and she claimed the trophy by four shots.
Wright’s runner-up performance propelled her to the edge of the top-10 in the world ranking and many, including this writer, had her tagged as a major champion in waiting. That was June 2009. By the end of September, Wright’s motivation for the game was fast evaporating but she played on – a decision she looks back on today, shakes her head and says “that was a mistake … I was done, I should have come home but I kept going. It was the beginning of the end”.
When Wright called a close to her 2009 season at the end of November she had played 24 LPGA events and a host of other tournaments and accrued more than $750,000 in prizemoney for the year. It had been her breakout year on the Tour and should have been celebrating when she arrived back home in Albury, on the NSW/Victorian border, to stay with her parents, Len and Linda. Instead, she went to bed feeling mentally and physically spent. She now knows it was the start of her slide into a major battle with depression.
“The end of 2009, that was when I really fell,” Wright recalls. “I overdid things that year. I had managed to keep going and then in September … I was done. I should have taken time off then and come home and put my mind, my body and health first.
“Looking back now that was when I was being overtaken by depression. That was when I couldn’t get out of bed and that continued throughout the whole of 2010 and into the start of last year.
“2009 had been a great run but I got to the point where I just thought, ‘What am I doing this for?’ I wasn’t happy, I did have some good friends looking out for me but I kept thinking, ‘Is this it? Is this what I’m working for?’ When I finished second in the LPGA it was a bit of an anti-climax for me. I finished runner-up and was disappointed but I also questioned whether that was what I was working hard for. It crushed my spirit.
“But I stayed out there and being on Tour … it’s very competitive and impersonal. I should have come home and when I didn’t straight away that kind of set the ball rolling towards having a breakdown.”
That breakdown came nearly 12 months later.
Wright struggled through 2010, playing no more than three LPGA events in a row in a season of just 16 tournament starts. Amazingly, considering all the turmoil she was going through off the course, she still managed one top-10 and only missed four cuts for the year to finish 60th on the LPGA money list.
“My golf suffered because I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t focus,” Wright says. “The end of 2010 couldn’t have come quick enough.”
Again, she returned to the sanctuary of her parents’ home and went to bed for five weeks.
“My depression really came to a head at Christmas in 2010 when I had a bit of a breakdown,” Wright says. “My parents were really worried. My anxiety was through the roof, my brain wouldn’t stop. There were times when I could not sit still and other times I couldn’t get out of bed. My behaviour was not normal and as far as communicating with people, I just didn’t want to.
“Then there was the crying. I kept crying … not in front of anyone, I had to keep leaving the room because I’d get very emotional for no reason. I’d be sitting there, relaxing and then I would just start crying and it felt like my chest was going to explode. I’d wake up, if I even got to sleep, at two in the morning and just start crying.
“Then there were days when I just didn’t want to wake up …
I was completely lost and knew I had hit bottom. There had been a lot of other moments before that, when I was on the road, in a hotel somewhere and I’d get anxious and start freaking out.
“It got so bad I couldn’t get any enjoyment out of anything. The only thing that really gave me some joy was seeing my niece and nephew. It was bloody horrible.”