Undeserving. Scared. Impostor.
From two-time Ladies European Tour (LET) winner to Wales’ first-ever Solheim Cup player, onlookers had many ways to label Becky Brewerton in 2012, but none came close to how she looked. described.
A former amateur prodigy, Brewerton traveled the world for eight years to compete at the pinnacle of women’s professional golf. Then, almost overnight, his game disappeared.
Regular top 10 rankings were fleeting, then non-existent, and as Brewerton’s rankings fell, so did his earnings. Soon without a home or a car, she delivers parcels and takeaway meals, all hope of a career as a professional golfer totally abandoned.
How can an elite athlete who has spent countless hours perfecting her craft suddenly become nearly paralyzed with fear and anxiety at every competition? And more importantly, how do they overcome this fear to return to the top level years later?
In January 2012, Brewerton had enjoyed a peaceful Sunday afternoon in Spain before deciding to venture out on a bike. A small stone in a corner later, the 29-year-old was flying headfirst over the handlebars, her hip slamming against the pavement.
Slashing his head and ripping half the skin off his right hand, the accident was so severe that it left a gash around his hip joint large enough to insert his entire thumb.
Yet just two weeks later, looking more like a recently defeated boxer than a golfer, a bruised Brewerton limped on a plane to Australia to play a flurry of events below.
Four events, four missed cuts: the generally consistent Welsh woman quickly found herself in uncharted waters of form and drowned in equally unfamiliar feelings.
Standing above the ball, his mind and limbs would disconnect, seemingly on a whim and with increasing regularity.
Approaching the first tee, Brewerton was often greeted with tight chest and heart palpitations, as the task of simply hitting the ball where she wanted became downright daunting.
“Even though it was a physical fall that I had, I didn’t feel like it was the physical part of the injury that was causing a problem. It was like in my mind; I was scared,” Brewerton told CNN’s Alex Thomas.
“Maybe it was partly due to the shock of something like that, but it was the first time I remember being really scared on the golf course.
“I closed my eyes and it was like there were cars going a thousand miles an hour all the time, I just couldn’t think straight because obviously if I thought straight, I would have realized something was wrong and I would have tried to do something rather than just continue.
Although she thinks rushing back to the game so soon after that fateful bike ride was a mistake, for Brewerton, as she reflects on her psychological struggles, she recognizes that even when she was enjoying her success , all had not gone well.
Already as she burst onto the scene as the European Women’s Amateur Champion in 2002, finishing second in two LET events aged just 16, Brewerton struggled with doubt.
Two Tour wins in 2007 and 2009 did little to quell those feelings. Although she made history for reaching the pinnacle of women’s football during those years, representing Europe twice at the Solheim Cup, Brewerton’s internal struggle continued.
“Because I didn’t talk about it at the time, there was a part of me that thought, ‘I’m just weird or I’m just weird,’ or people are going to think I’m weird if I say what. whether it be.
“I just thought, ‘One day, everything will go wrong.’ My biggest fear was not knowing if I could be the player I wanted to be.
“I always doubted myself and it was like impostor syndrome… ‘I don’t deserve to be here, I don’t belong here, I’m not as good as all the other players who are here.’
“Even in the tournaments where I was winning, I obviously enjoyed them, but there was a part of me that was always like, ‘Did I deserve this? How did I do this?’, because I didn’t believe that I could.
“And then all of a sudden it’s like it was piling up and piling up and then one day it was like the glass was a little too full and it all shattered.”
Brewerton traces the roots back to childhood, where an ingrained attitude of “carrying on with it” overwhelmed any thoughts of asking for help.
When golf became a full-time profession, his self-esteem became precariously tied to results.
“Even some people who used to be my friends, and nobody does it on purpose, but everybody always wants to know how your golf is,” she said.
“Nobody ever asks you how you’re doing, so you feed into the narrative that your whole identity is wrapped up in, whether you’re playing well or not.”
This connection proved devastating when Brewerton’s form went into freefall.
After recording five top-10 finishes on the LET in 2011, in the following nine seasons she would only achieve the same feat three times, none after 2014.
At the Ladies European Masters in 2016, all of Brewerton’s anxieties were cruelly manifested. After obsessing for weeks with the idea of shooting an embarrassing score, a self-fulfilling prophecy saw her told by officials she couldn’t return for the second round after shooting 88 on the day of the opening.
Yet it was this new low that marked a turning point for Brewerton.
“It was weird, once it happened it was almost like a relief that it was done,” Brewerton recalled.
“I didn’t need to obsess about it anymore because the worst thing had happened and lo and behold, nothing terrible happened – I was still alive, still healthy.
“You build these things up like, ‘you’ll never be able to do anything again’ and then as soon as that happens, you realize, ‘okay, that’s it, now it’s time to move on.'”
In Brewerton’s own words, she had hit rock bottom.
Playing a few events over the next few years, she worked for Amazon, Deliveroo and in a golf club’s pro shop. Homeless, she stayed with a friend and former physical trainer for two and a half years.
Despite her struggles in the game, Brewerton never fell in love with golf.
Working at other jobs acted as a “reality check,” offering a perspective of how lucky she felt to be a professional athlete. While the doubts remained, Brewerton was invigorated to start again.
Paradoxically, that meant less golf.
Looking back, Brewerton believes she was often guilty of overtraining, to the detriment of working on the mental side of her game. Cutting back on her tournament appearances, she began journaling and meditating, as well as to start working – and sometimes being brutally candid – with a performance coach.
“Sometimes being deadly honest is hard because it’s upsetting, so it’s hard to talk about it,” she said. “I had to kind of get over the embarrassment, if you will, of being afraid of getting upset in front of other people.
“It takes a long time to change your thought process because if in the back of your mind you think you’re not very good or giving yourself a hard time, you can’t just turn it off. If you could, anyone could do it.
“Lo and behold, my golf got so much better because I was practicing less and not hurting my body as much and actually healing the little bit that made the biggest difference.”
After returning to the LET qualifying school to regain her Tour card, at the end of 2021 Brewerton found herself enjoying tournament golf.
Back from an event in November, Brewerton got to work on a blog post titled “How Did I Get So Bad At Golf?”
The response was emphatic, with the rejuvenated golfer stunned by echoes of similar experiences among other golfers.
Comfortably inside the LET’s top 20 ranked players, Brewerton is having its best season in a decade, with three top 10s highlighting a flurry of top 25 outings.
As she dreams of a return to silverware, the 39-year-old is aiming for success beyond victories.
“Deep down, I would like that to happen. But the flip side is that if I start obsessing over it, I know that’s the road that got me to those dark places in the first place,” she said.
“It’s weird, sport. You live for those times when you’re in those situations under pressure, and yet when you get there, sometimes you interpret that as a nervous feeling that you don’t want or you get all the big adrenaline pumps and you start doubting yourself. -even, even if the only reason you put all the work you do in the first place is to be in this position.
“So I absolutely, hand on heart, promised myself that I wouldn’t take this feeling as a bad thing, because that’s what we live for.”