When Golfing Perfection Gets Dangerous
As I think of all the cute names we used to use growing up to describe mental institutions, never dreaming of the possibility that any of us could actually end up in one, I dearly wish that this article could be funny – but it can’t. The striving for perfection in any walk of life that requires physical repetition and refinement always stands just across the line from obsession and addiction. It’s so easy to get taken over, and one aspiring professional from Australia found himself on the wrong side of the line, unable to find his way back.
It was going well, he thought. He was almost there, he thought. If I just work harder, he said. So it was that Rika Batibasaga began to hit more balls at the range, then more until he had developed a regimen of ten to eleven hours of constant swinging. Batibasaga had traveled from his hometown of Brisbane to spend some time in Orlando with his friend, Jason Day. He watched as the National Tour went about its business, and hungered to get closer. Emulating the mega-regimens of some of the game’s greatest players, he increased the dosage, not realizing that the mental study employed by those players was slipping away into mindless physical repetition. After that, it was the gym. Batibasaga admits that “I pushed myself way too hard, mentally and physically.”
He used other words as well – “wired…stressed…couldn’t sleep.” That’s where it turned the corner. Batibasaga went almost six days without sleep at one point, and as he described it – he snapped.
Crashing one car into the garage, he hopped into his friend’s and tore around Orlando, until he was finally pulled over and arrested in front of Universal Studios, for the most part unclothed. Surprised to see a gun barrel pointed at each temple, he was dragged from the car, cuffed and thrown in an ambulance as a likely drug suspect. They didn’t find any in his system, but with no wallet or identification of any kind, Batibasaga spent two days in a mental institution, until his friend was able to locate him. His mother was summoned from Brisbane, and she escorted her son home.
Would that it had all ended there, but the affliction continued once back in Australia. Batibasaga found himself institutionalized once more for a period of two months, and heavily medicated. One might think that given such episodes, it might have been better if he put the game away entirely, but once on his feet, he approached the idea of competition again.
If the story of the obsessive golfer can’t be funny, it can at least be optimistic. Once through rock bottom, Batibasaga was picked up by international agent Andrew Chandler, who invited him to the UK for six months, got him an apartment and introduced him to the European golf scene. The twenty-five year old Aussie responded well, with two top 10s and a 43rd ranking on the money list during that half year. The light has come back on for Rika Batibasaga, and appears to be steadily brightening.
As he himself pointed out, golf is already a solitary game, but for one who is playing badly or just on the outside looking in, it’s a lonely one. Given the high bar for making any of the tours, the ranks of aspiring players are riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, and the tension can manifest itself in a wide variety of physical and mental forms. Let’s hope that Rika Batibasaga continues to go the way he’s going, and never looks back.