Golf and Perfection Dangerous?

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.

Edwin Watts Golf

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.

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1 comment

    • Stephen Houston on March 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm
    • Reply

    Happiness: the exercise of vital powers along the lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope. – Aristotle

    Happiness to Aristotle was about being excellent at performing something, some said to him it was “being an excellent human – doing the tasks becoming of a member of the species” and then having time for reflection to appreciate that. I think applied to perfection in relation to Golf, it is striving to be as excellent and great a golfer as you can be, and then having scope and outside influences that cater to appreciate all of the accomplishments and niceities from that pursuit.
    A frequent “complaint” and negative theme in amny of the posts seems

    to be ‘danger’ ‘hardship’ ‘trial’ etc etc – which are just necessities the game of life gives us as opportunities for growth. It is one of the mysteries (at least to me) why some people think others have it easier, are given gifts from Zeus and placed on Mt Sinai without hard work, and that if they could complain enough and sit and wallow they too will have their day under the son. I could write a book in response to this post on the nature of perfection, achievement, and happiness, but it all comes down to work.

    One interesting anecdote is that if Beethoven was born in today’s generation he would be heavily medicated by 13, called a recluse, and would have created nothing. I just think that with the batibasaga example it shows that being great at something has nothing to do with mental aptitude for functioning on a normal level, nor is it an indicator of peace and ‘love of ease’. The aspiring life is a life is hardship, enduring, and prevailing – but it the most rewarding life given to us for the taking.
    May Baibasaga’s affliction in one circumstance, leading to it being a disadvantage, continue to flourish in the new circumstance (where it is an advantage) – finding what variables you have which will thrive in which and what surrounding is the point of life anyway!

    Challenge yourself. Be Great

    Just to highlight the point of excellence, and why its maybe fun and worthy:
    “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’ – Martin Luther King.

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