Stresses of Covid bubble force early exit for Johnston
Fans’ favourite bows out after nine holes at British Masters Hall ends run of runners-up places to win Rose Ladies event
The European Tour’s medical team are supporting Andrew “Beef ” Johnston after the Englishman withdrew from the British Masters after just nine holes due to fears concerning his mental health.
Johnston, a fans’ favourite, revealed this time last year that he had struggled so much with the pressures of life on Tour that he had gone back to hotel rooms and cried following competitive rounds.
The 31-year-old was advised by sports psychiatrists to take time away and, together with fiancee Jodie and baby daughter Harley, made notable strides toward recovery, returning to post two top-fives in Rolex Series events in the back half of 2019.
However, Johnston did not feel comfortable in the strictly controlled Covid-19 environment that greeted the pros when the Tour resumed here at Close House following a four-month hiatus. After playing his first nine holes in four over, he walked into the clubhouse and withdrew.
“I’ve been on-off about playing for months – I kept changing my mind,” Johnston said. “But actually being here and being confined to the hotel, confined to the course and not being able to bring my family is ultimately not what I want at this moment and not how I want to live my life.
“We like to travel as a family and it’s just been very difficult to get my head around. I’ve learnt now to be honest about it, whereas in the past I might have just swallowed it up. I’m not going to do that anymore. If I’m not happy, I’m not going to be here. That’s my golden rule now.”
The Tour would not discuss the Londoner’s case specifically because of patient confidentiality, but it is understood that Dr Andrew Murray, the Tour’s chief medical officer, who does a lot of work in mental health, has been helping
Johnston. The golfer is entered to play in next week’s Hero Open at the Forest of Arden but, like this event and indeed the six tournaments that form the “UK Swing”, that would also need him to travel without his family and then remain in “the tournament bubble” that essentially requires the pros, caddies, support staff and media to be confined to the course or the designated hotel at all times.
Johnston will have been assured that if he decides to wait until the regulations are eased then his card will not be in jeopardy.
In his absence, Dale Whitnell, an old friend from Johnston’s amateur days, is promising a feelgood story. Two years ago, the funds ran dry as Whitnell, a Walker Cup team-mate of Tommy Fleetwood, chased his professional dream and the 31-yearold from Essex was forced to take a job as a courier.
Here, after a second-round 64, he is in a tie for second on 10-under alongside South African Justin Harding, just one off the lead set by Italian Renato Parore and with his sights set on the £200,000 first prize.
Meanwhile, Georgia Hall finally tasted victory in the Rose Ladies Series at Bearwood Lakes after three second placings in as many starts.
The 24-year-old former Women’s Open champion said: “I have to be honest, it was frustrating finishing runner-up each time, because I’d really played well.”
With two events left in the series, Charley Hull – the world No25 who finished in a tie for 15th yesterday – leads the standings with Hall in second spot.
Time out: Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston withdrew before admitting he was missing his family