Published On: Wed, Jul 17th, 2019

Christiaan Bezuidenhout ready for revenge at The Open after failed drugs test | Golf | Sport

He was two at the time of the poisoning. The damage it did to his body’s nervous system caused, amongst other side effects, a bad stutter. He dreaded communicating and hated the embarrassment of the never-to-be-completed sentence.

That in turn triggered a severe case of anxiety.

When he was 14 he was prescribed beta blockers by a psychologist to help with the condition. He was still using them seven years later when he was drawn out for a random drugs test after the first round of the 2014 Amateur Championship.

“I wasn’t aware they were banned. I wrote the medication down on the form prior to the drugs test, making no secret of the fact I was using this medication. I was part of the South African golf squad for ten years and they never educated us on it. I would never have taken it if I had known,” he said.

“Two months later I was back home practising for the Eisenhower Trophy when my dad phoned me to tell me I needed to come home immediately. I drove straight from practice and he broke the news to me that I had been suspended. I just broke down.”

Bezuidenhout was suspended for two years, although that was later reduced to nine months on appeal. During his time out of the game Ernie Els, whose foundation he was a part of, proved a rock.

“He supported me throughout the whole ban. He phoned me once a week just to encourage me to keep on going,” he said.

He won his first event on his return on one of South Africa’s mini-tours by seven shots to prove his golf was not drug-reliant and has not taken a backward step since.

“I’ve never taken anything else,” he said. “It’s something that happened and it’s always going to be part of my life but that’s how life goes. You learn how to deal with mistakes.

“I think it has helped me to become a better person and not to take the small things for granted in life.

“I just decided to take the positives from it and turn it around. It’s actually a story that can inspire people to follow their dreams.”

The stutter is still there when he speaks – “I just accept it. That’s who I am” – but the swing is fluid and, thanks to his victory at Valderrama in last month’s Andalucia Masters, a circle will be completed for the 24-year-old when he makes his Open debut at Portrush of all places.

“It almost feels like revenge being back. I don’t have great memories here but it is in the past now. Hopefully I can make better memories than five years ago this week,” he added.

“It’s great to be back. It has been quite a journey.”

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Christiaan Bezuidenhout ready for revenge at The Open after failed drugs test | Golf | Sport