Sullivan, battling mental illness, snaps missed-cut skid
April 07, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Patrick Sullivan finished T24 at the Savannah Golf Championship to strengthen his position in future reshuffles. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
For the first time in more than 18 months, the cloud over Patrick Sullivan lifted, just a little. He can peer through the fog. He’s battling every day, like the other 40 million Americans who also suffer from mental illness.
Sullivan, who broke a streak of 18 consecutive missed Web.com Tour cuts at the Savannah Golf Championship – and went on to finish T24 – says he doesn’t mind talking about his battle with anxiety and depression now.
But it’s been a struggle.
“It’s hard to function in life,” he says, “let alone play golf.”
The 35-year-old turned professional in 2006, but left the rigors of professional golf in 2010 and, for almost five years, worked as an assistant golf professional at two clubs in his native Arkansas after getting married.
He started playing professional golf again in the beginning of 2015 – a few events on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, a few on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, but mostly on a mini-tour in the southern U.S. as he prepared to get back out on the road – and earned Web.com Tour playing privileges via Q-School in fall 2017.
Sullivan finished 205th on the money list after missing the cut in 15 straight tournaments to end the year. He went back to Q-School and finished tied for 50th at Final Stage, earning conditional status but one shot shy of guaranteed starts.
But Sullivan, who started working with a therapist last year, was urged by a doctor to start taking an anti-depressant about a month-and-a-half ago. It’s been tough for Sullivan on the course, but off the course it’s been arguably even tougher.
“I know I still have a long way to go. It’s been a tough year-and-a-half with lots of frustrations,” Sullivan admits. “It’s not feeling like I’m playing bad golf, but just not where I should be mentally.
“During tournament week you’ve got your routine and that keeps you going. But during off-weeks, you have no motivation to do anything. It’s hard to keep your game up when you’re not motivated to practice, let alone do anything (else).”
But the Savannah Golf Championship was the first event Sullivan played while on an anti-depressant, and he felt as though there was a breakthrough, albeit a small one.
The craft-beer connoisseur says he has a dream to one day open a brewery – a little spot for beer and food – in Little Rock, a town that has gone through a craft beer revolution in the last couple of years.
He wants to have some success and make enough money to do that.
“It was terrible for so long,” he says of the craft beer scene in his hometown, but also, perhaps, of his own life away from golf, “but now we’ve finally got some good things going.”
In his own words, Sullivan breaks down his battle with anxiety.
A lot of things are impossible ...— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) November 10, 2018
until they happen.
Patrick Sullivan (@sullivangolf) closed Second Stage with back-to-back 64s, finishing one shot inside the number to secure 2019 #WebTour membership.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/fxQ6eOroL5
I definitely still have my bad days.
Obviously I know it’s not a short-term fix. It’s something I’m going to be battling. I felt less in a fog (in Savannah) and a little more clear, I guess. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s hard to describe to someone that hasn’t been through it. I wasn’t able to (describe it), until I recognized what it was. It’s just this fog. It’s this black cloud and it’s not fun. You feel out of control; you can’t get out of it.
The therapist has definitely helped.
It’s taken its toll on my marriage, though. Not only is it tough to be on the road a lot; going through that, it’s double tough. There are a lot of places I’ve been absent in my marriage too. That’s not easy, looking back. I’m trying to be a better husband as well. It’s a lot of stuff I miss because you have this cloud and you don’t see these things someone else might, who isn’t really dealing with them. It’s been tough … my wife is definitely a trooper.
I’m happy competing.
When I’m on the golf course, I’m focused on something that’s so singular. I’m focused on (golf), so you don’t have time for your brain to focus on anything else. You can get locked in on something and go, but the anxiety creeps in and makes it worse. I’ve battled some really, really bad anxiety on the golf course.
These days, there is a lot of awareness (of mental health).
Back in the day, I mean, I’m 35 so I consider myself an older guy now. When I was growing up … ‘Get your head out of your ass’ would be the mentality. I was telling someone, once I’ve been able to step back and where I’ve actually been, I felt bad because I beat myself up so much for not being able to snap out of it. I’d beat myself up; ‘You’re better than this. What’s going on?’ You don’t know at the time but it’s not something you can control. It’s a lot chemical-based. It’s not a mindset, it’s just your body working against you and that’s not something you can control even with all the positive thoughts in the world.
My attitude on the last year-and-a-half has not been very good at all.
My wife would almost be embarrassed watching me just because of my attitude. Number one, I didn’t know I was doing it in that way or what I was doing. You just don’t feel like you can control it, the outbursts and stuff like that. When I was researching depression and stuff like that – the mood swings and the inability to self-regulate – you have outbursts on small things, and these were warning signs the whole time. That’s one thing I noticed (in Savannah) was just my ability to shake off a bad shot and say, ‘It’s alright.’ I wouldn’t like (the shot), but this big cloud wouldn’t come over me.
Every day is a new day.
I still have my bad days, but I can definitely notice something a little bit different. It’s a long battle and I’m not taking one week as, ‘I’m cured; I’m done now.’ Every day, you just keep taking one step in the right direction.