Mon, Jul 09, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Golfer reflects on drug and alcohol abuse

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE, BETHESDA, MARYLAND

On mini-tour stops in river towns and faded country clubs, Robert Garrigus would prepare for golf tournaments by smoking marijuana. When his rounds were over, Garrigus said he would light up again, sometimes adding alcohol to the equation and spending his nights and mornings in a haze.

"I was getting high all the time," said Garrigus, 29, a PGA Tour professional who stood at four-under-par 136 and trailed the co-leaders K.J. Choi and Stuart Appleby by three strokes going into Saturday's third round of the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club. "I always hid it. I was very good at hiding my emotions, everything."

Four years after he entered a drug rehabilitation center, Garrigus is able to reflect on past drug and alcohol abuse that once accompanied his life as a touring professional. In his second year on the PGA Tour, Garrigus freely talks of the lifestyle that nearly derailed his rise in a game where he is slowly gaining traction and appearing on leader boards.

It was not until 2003, after several years of using drugs, that Garrigus said he began turning a corner in his life and in golf. In 2004, he qualified for the US Open and, the following year, earned his PGA Tour card.

But had he not gone sober, Garrigus said Friday. "I wouldn't be standing here right now, I tell you that much," he said. "I'd be either dead in a gutter somewhere, or I'd be in jail for any number of things."

Garrigus, whose father, Tom, won a silver medal in trap shooting at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, said he began using drugs while attending Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

His use increased to the point that he was almost never without drugs, he said. "We were out all the time," said Garrigus. "I was hanging with the wrong crowd, and it didn't do anything good for me. I just kept going down the same path and kept getting worse and worse."

After turning professional in 1997, he was soon bringing his off-the-course habits to tournament golf. One morning in April 2003, after a late night out, Garrigus said he was sitting on a couch in Scottsdale watching television at 3am.

"I was wasted," he said. "I was so disappointed in myself. It wasn't about golf, it was about my life."

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