The Reclamation Of Robert Garrigus

Continued (page 2 of 3)

"He finished like a champion. I haven't been on the bag long, but I've known Robert for a couple of years, and you won't meet a nicer guy," Henley said, his eyes red and his voice breaking. "He's been through a lot, but you saw today he's got tons of game and tons of heart."

What Garrigus has been through is largely of his own making. Likewise, he can take all the credit for reclaiming a life that was wasting away mostly in a cloud of smoke. OK, so he won't take all the credit. "I have learned to put all of my trust in God," he says. "The whole reason I'm here is because I chose to change my life. I don't go around knocking on people's doors or anything. It's not something that I wear on my sleeve, but if somebody asks me anything about my past, turning my life over to the Lord and trusting in Jesus is a huge part."

Salvation nudged Garrigus out of a stupor via a 3 a.m. infomercial. He was high at the time, yet probing depths of despair as he sat on his couch in Scottsdale when he saw an infomercial for Calvary Ranch, a Christian rehabilitation center near San Diego.

"I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking I was wasting my career and my life," he recalls. "I was 25, and I hadn't done anything special. I felt I could be beating the guys I was playing against. I felt guilty about everything, and I knew I needed help. I knew if I could get clean, I could succeed. But I didn't know how to get there until that night."


After a disastrous 72nd hole at Memphis (above)
last year put him in a playoff that should not have
been, Garrigus won his first title -- the Children's
Miracle Network Classic -- four months later.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

There always has been a tiny thread of self-destructiveness woven into Garrigus' DNA along with potent athletic genes. The latter he derived from his father, Tom, who served in the Air Force and later won a silver medal in trapshooting at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While growing up in Banks, Ore., there wasn't a sport or an outdoor activity at which Garrigus didn't excel. But neither was there one in which he couldn't hurt himself. Had the X Games existed then, biking or snowboarding might have been his competitive calling. Fortunately, the option didn't yet exist. "I took up golf because I was on my way to breaking every bone in my body," he says.

Garrigus was 10 years old when his grandfather, Chet Carpenter, introduced him to the game. Born in Nampa, Idaho, Garrigus would visit Carpenter every summer and tee it up with him and his cronies at Eagle Hills GC near Boise. "He gave me a real stiff, heavy driver and told me to swing as hard as I could. I would learn how to putt later," says Garrigus, who led the tour in driving distance in 2009 and 2010 despite having the build of your average bass fisherman. (He would take this as a compliment; he loves bass fishing.) "Once I started rolling in putts, I got to a different level as a player." He rose to become the No. 1 junior player in Oregon, despite another hurdle: attention deficit disorder.

"He was a good kid, never got in trouble, but he was so active ... he was all over the place," Garrigus' mom, Linda Cox, says. "Turns out he was ADD, but we never knew it until he was in high school. Everyone has something now, but back then it didn't manifest itself. Someone told us on the golf course they suspected he was ADD. It was the way he played."

When he arrived at Scottsdale Community College, he majored in golf but excelled in chemistry. "It was all golf and partying," Garrigus says. "I never did hard drugs. I never did coke or LSD. It was just smoking and drinking and hanging out with friends. It was just a change for me, but the smoking got to be habitual: five, 10, maybe 20 times a day. I didn't keep track of how much. I constantly needed to be high. And I took it to the max. Every single day. Mostly just smoking, smoking, smoking."

And he took it with him when he turned professional in 1997, first to the Hooters and Gateway tours, and then, in 2000, to the Buy.com Tour (today's Nationwide Tour). It was as much a part of his routine as hitting golf balls. Not surprisingly, his scores got high, too.

"I played well in spurts, but I would be really inconsistent," he says. "I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It's hard to be consistent if your body isn't right, but it was part of my everyday life."

That included lighting up inside the ropes, if you must know.

"Oh yeah, there were plenty of guys on the Nationwide Tour who smoked in the middle of the round," Garrigus says without blanching. "We always talked about it. You could go in the Porta John and take your drags.

"I had a very high tolerance, and I didn't know that it wasn't helping me," he says. "All you're thinking is that it feels good, so it must be good for what you're doing. It wasn't until I quit that I realized how stupid it was. But I don't regret any of it because it put me on the path I'm on now."

The period in question is the 2002 season, six years before the tour instituted drug testing. Ty Votaw, PGA Tour vice president of communications, said the tour had no comment. Garrigus made eight of 21 cuts with one top-25 finish. He earned $15,357. He was back on the mini-tours in 2003 when Calvary Ranch parted the clouds. There he not only got clean and found spiritual peace, but he also met his wife, Ami, on a blind date. She was a student at San Diego State. They met through mutual friends at the church.

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