After playing in the Solheim Cup in 2007 and 2009, and a T17 finish in the 2007 AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews, Becky Brewerton looked set for a long career at the top of the game.
But after a freak injury and a drastic loss of form, derailing a once-promising looking career, Brewerton has found herself in the golfing depths for the past decade. Speaking on the Women’s Golf Show, Brewerton shared the story of her remarkable return to success in 2022.
“I’m not sure it would quite make Hollywood”, Brewerton joked. “I’m not sure it was that good.”
A former Curtis Cup player as a teenager, Brewerton had a strong amateur career, and turned professional in 2003 with high expectations. Within six years, she had won twice on the LET, featured in two Solheim Cups, and gained a 10-year-exemption on Tour thanks to her brilliant 2009 season. The Welsh star also won the Tenerife Matchplay in 2011 at age 28, but things started to unravel soon after.
“Some of the things I did, even when I was playing well, were perhaps not ideal”, Brewerton said. “Mentally I was pretty hard on myself, and the way I saw myself was not that great. I had an accident too, I fell off a bike and injured my hip, and I think the combination of that and how I’d maybe been previously, it all just caught up with me one day.
"And it was literally like, I turned up at the first event of the season in 2012, and it was like someone had just removed my ability to play. And I couldn’t get my head around it for such a long time. It was like I was sort of wandering through time and I didn’t really know what was happening, and this time, it ended up becoming months, and then it was years, of just having this cloud, or haze in my brain, and I just couldn’t function at all.
Brewerton’s struggles manifested themselves in a string of missed cuts, but soon the problems created a greater psychological impairment, resulting in a case of the yips.
“I mean I would get panic attacks when I was going to the first tee to tee off”, Brewerton said. “It came out the most off the tee. I went through spells where I couldn’t use tee pegs, I could hit a driver better off the ground than off a tee which is insane.”
“Psychologically, these are the weird things that happen, and you do get to the point where you’ll try anything, but you get stuck in a cycle. The reality is I should have stopped a lot sooner than I did. But I had quite a long exemption from winning the Order of Merit, so it was always too tempting to think this could be the week, what if this is the week… what if this is the week?!”
Brewerton’s exemption proved a curse as much as a blessing, and the Welsh player didn’t record a top ten in a Rolex World Ranking event for nearly eight years after 2014.
“Sometimes I felt as if I was putting myself through the torture of it for no reason”, she said, “And I really wanted to give up. Then there was always this little voice in your head like, ‘what if it goes this week?’ Because it did literally feel like maybe somebody is going to give me my ability back, somehow it would magically come back.”
Signs of improvement slowly appeared for Brewerton at the end of 2021, highlighted by victory in a Rose Ladies Series event, but it was a visit to LET Q-School, after the end of her significant exemption, that proved the catalyst for an incredible return to form.
“It has been a pretty long process”, Brewerton said, “but things kind of started coming together a bit at the end of last season. And I ended up still having to go to Q-School in December, and after the first two days, I think at one point I was actually dead last in the first round.
“I was already thinking about what job I was going to get this year and what I was going to do, and then it was almost as if something clicked and I knew that I had to just let go of everything and trust the work that I’d done over the last few years to try and get my game back. And mentally it was like a cloud lifted, and I could see again, and I managed to have a really good finish to the week, get my card.
“It just felt quite freeing because it’s weird, it almost felt like it was part of a story that it was going to take me being within a round or two of losing my card for something to happen. It was all very bizarre. But you know a lot of work has gone into it and its all slowly getting there, but thankfully just managed to click in time at Q-School.”
“Then the start of the season I think, because this felt like a second chance, I’ve just had such a freedom since the start of the year. And I can honestly say I haven’t been able to play with any freedom for years. So I’ve honestly been enjoying it and I just promised myself I would accept whatever happened, good or bad. And I think just having that acceptance has helped me to stay calm and in the moment during all of my rounds. It’s been a good start to the year, so I am thoroughly enjoying and appreciating being back and playing some good golf.”
Just a few months into the 2022 season, Brewerton sits 11th on the Race to Costa Del Sol rankings. A T3 finish at the Investec South African Women’s Open was the highlight for the Welsh player, hailing from St Asaph, in spite of a final round 78 seeing the 39-year-old finish one shot shy of a play-off after leading by five at the start of the final day. Still, with two top-tens and four top-25s to her credit on the season, Brewerton is not disappointed with the result, and instead is looking at the bigger picture.
“It was a really odd week”, Brewerton said. “It was a tight course, so it was the sort of course that normally would have triggered a bit of reaction. But I did feel at the start of the week that I had put into place the mental stuff I had been doing for a few years, and just accept what happened. And I ended up going into the final round with quite a big lead.
“I felt really good on the last day, but it was tough conditions, and I just completely lost the pace of the greens on the last day, I think I had five three-putts on the final round, and I’d not had any issues with my putting the whole time, I had the yips off the tee. So it’s ironic that it was something else to scupper that final round, not the thing I assumed it might be. But to be in that position again, no matter what happens, I couldn’t be too sad because I never expected to win a tournament ever again.
“Honestly my goal at the start of this process, all I wanted was to have one round of golf, it didn’t even have to be in a tournament. I just wanted to go out and play a round of golf and actually enjoy it, without being bogged down by all these horrible feelings. I’ve had that now lots and lots of times, in tournament rounds this year. And it’s so freeing, it has given me an appreciation of it that I could have never had before, because in the first stage of my career I was doing quite well but I don’t think I appreciated it anywhere near as much as I should have, and it was probably part of the problem. You know, people expect this or expect that, whereas now I’m loving the fact that I’m just enjoying it.”
Brewerton’s partner Meghan MacLaren has also had a great start to 2022, winning in Australia last week and securing entry into the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. Brewerton herself is now in a position to qualify for the Championship for the first time in eight years should she maintain her form, which is wonderful news to those who know what she is capable of, including herself.
“Yeah, it was an interesting time, but I do feel like in some strange way, that had that not happened, I wouldn’t be where I am now where I feel the happiest I‘ve ever been, so that’s a pretty good combination. But who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t fallen off that bike, or any of that had happened, who knows?”
Becky will be hoping to compete once more in the AIG Women’s Open this summer. You can get tickets here.
You can also listen to the Women’s Golf Show below, including the full episode with Becky. Tune in today, and subscribe for free, to never miss an episode!