Johnston leaves the 14th green during day one of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club in Lahinch, Clare. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Andrew “Beef” Johnston’s rise to fame was a quick one, so fast that one couldn’t help but wonder how he was able to handle all the attention as well as he did. While competing, Johnston could be seen smiling and thumbs-upping fans as he strutted up fairways so much that Phil Mickelson was jealous. Apparently, it wasn’t all smiles behind the scenes for the seemingly fun-loving guy they call “Beef.”
On Friday, Johnston missed his fourth cut of the season on the European Tour at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, carding rounds of 71 and 76 at Lahinch Golf Club. A day earlier, the 30-year-old Englishman wrote a blog detailing his struggles with mental health on europeatour.com
The worst of it came this past November, when Johnston finished in a tie for 27th at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I came off the course on Sunday and couldn’t even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker,” Johnston wrote. “I just left them. I went straight back to the hotel and cried.
“I nearly walked off the course at the Australian PGA Championship a few weeks later. I hit two bad shots and I couldn’t mentally handle it at all. I came off there and cried. I knew then that something wasn’t right.”
Johnston actually managed a T-9 finish that week at the Australian PGA, which still stands as his best result of the 2018-’19 season. But as Johnston explained, even good play wasn’t enough to quiet the demons.
“You’ve got to remember, I’m a normal geezer from Finchley,” he said. “Next thing, I see a poll over in America asking fans, ‘who are you looking forward to seeing more?’ I finished above Tiger Woods. To get your head around that is very tough, and then came the pressure I put on myself to perform. I finished low 20s at the  Open and I was fuming.
“The attention I got was just crazy. I want to take a picture with a kid, sign a ball and make their day, but it all happened so quickly. I enjoyed the crowds and would never change that. But when you throw someone into that, you don’t know how it will affect them. I didn’t realize the underlying pressure I was putting on myself to perform, to try and please thousands of people.”
Fortunately, it sounds like Johnston’s mental health is improving. He has begun working with sports psychologist Ben Davies, who believes Johnston’s issues trace back to his breakout season in 2016, when he won the Spanish Open, finished in the top 10 at the Open Championship and earned his PGA Tour card. Johnston’s life off the course has helped as well. He got engaged in December to Jodie Valencia and the couple announced on Instagram last month that they’re having a baby.
In addition to his T-9 at the Australian PGA, Johnston has a pair of top 25s on the European Tour this season. He’s not made a single start on the PGA Tour, and he’s yet to qualify for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. His last chance to do so will come next week at the Scottish Open, where he’ll need to finish inside the top three of players who have not yet qualified to earn an invite.