South African golfer Christiaan Bezuidenhout knows more than most about overcoming adversity.
The 26-year-old won the South African Open on Sunday to become the first man to win back-to-back European Tour titles since 2017 but his life could have been very different.
When he was just two-years-old, Bezuidenhout accidentally drank rat poison in a grocery store after mistaking it for a can of soda.
In a blog post written for the European Tour in 2019, the golfer says it was a moment that changed his life forever.
“As a result of that moment of naivety, I almost died,” he wrote.
“The hospital had to pump my whole stomach to get rid of all the poison, but the poison affected the whole nervous system in my body, and one of the long term effects of this led to me having a stutter.”
The stutter caused Bezuidenhout to withdraw from social interactions as his self-confidence was affected by anxiety. He was scared to pick up the phone or even answer a question.
As a result, he says he suffered from depression and was eventually prescribed beta-blockers by his doctor when he was 14.
He says he used the medication, which is supposed to reduce anxiety, for seven years throughout his amateur career but while competing in the British Amateur at Royal Portrush in 2014, Bezuidenhout was randomly chosen for a drug test. He declared taking beta-blockers for his stutter and thought nothing more of it.
In his 2019 blog post, Bezuidenhout says he then received a phone call from his father who told him he had been suspended for two years for failing the test — a sanction eventually reduced to nine months.
The International Golf Federation did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on Bezuidenhout’s suspension and its subsequent reduction.
“The worst part of it all were all the stories that came out from people in the golf industry and supposed close friends back home,” wrote Bezuidenhout.
“I was accused of using it to better my performances, which really hurt me and my family. A lot of nasty things were said and I was known as the guy banned from golf for a drug related incident.”
After being left “inconsolable,” the South African decided to use his enforced break to develop as a player and return stronger than ever.
In his first event back, he won by seven shots and his career has only been heading in one direction since.
He’s now won three European Tour titles and has his eyes firmly set on the majors after winning on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable to stand here with this win. It’s any South African golfer’s dream to win his national tournament,” he said after winning the event by five strokes.
“It’s unreal. I’ve fought hard today. Font nine, things didn’t really go my way but I dug deep to come out with a win today.”
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