Christiaan Bezuidenhout is out for Royal Portrush “revenge” on his return to the scene of his nine-month drugs ban.
The South African qualified for the Open by winning the Andalucia Masters last month, and knew immediately that meant a return to a venue harbouring the worst memories of his fledgling career.
The 25-year-old failed a drugs test during the 2014 British Amateur Championship at Portrush, and that despite informing authorities at the time that he took beta blockers to combat anxiety induced by his stutter.
Bezuidenhout stutters because as a two-year-old he drank from a glass bottle he found in the street that contained rat poison. He nearly died as a toddler, but the repercussions spanned into adulthood, through the stutter and the medication he did not know was prohibited.
Now the Delmas native is back in Northern Ireland for the 148th Open Championship, determined to prove just how much has changed since his last Portrush visit.
“It’s weird, when I was walking down the 18th at Valderrama and my Open qualification was pretty much done I thought, ‘this will be revenge for me for what happened five years ago’,” said Bezuidenhout.
“It is quite funny but it’s nice to be back. Hopefully I can make better memories than five years ago.
“It does almost feel like revenge being back.
“I don’t have great memories here but it is in the past now, I’ve put it behind me and I’m taking the positives out of the negative and moving forward. It’s great to be back.”
Bezuidenhout paired up with compatriot and mentor Ernie Els for practice on Monday, chipping in from a smart bunker shot on the 17th to underscore his fine form.
No longer taking any kind of medication for his stutter, Bezuidenhout believes the entire ordeal has altered his outlook – and now he hopes it can provide inspiration for others, too.
“It’s always going to be part of my life; it’s something that happened but I just decided to take the positives from it and turn it around,” said Bezuidenhout.
“It’s actually a story that can inspire people to follow their dreams. It has been quite a journey.
“It doesn’t matter how difficult something is, you can always turn a situation around.
“When I found out about the ban I turned it into a positive straight away, took the nine months off to work on my game and came back stronger.
“I wasn’t aware that beta blockers were banned at all. I was part of the South African golf squad for 10 years and they never educated us on it.
“I was using it for seven years prior to my suspension. I would never have taken it if I had known. That was also a mistake from their side.
“If you play for the national side you have to be up to date with stuff and we weren’t.
“I stopped straight away and I’ve never taken anything else since.
“If I look back now it wasn’t really necessary to take anything. 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.
“And being a better person on the course also helps. I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I just enjoy doing something I love.”