Will Wilcox, affectionately known as 'Willy', recently opened up about the addiction struggles that took a stronghold on his life and PGA Tour career in a heartfelt Fire Pit Collective feature.
Wilcox is a 36-year-old Alabama native who turned professional in 2009. Like so many before him, his path to the PGA Tour began on the competitive mini-tours. The American competed on the Hooters Tour from 2009-2011 before earning a place on the Web.com, now named Korn Ferry Tour.
This was something Wilcox grabbed with both hands. Victory at the 2013 South Georgia Classic was followed by a final round 59 at the Utah Championship, where he became only the fourth person in Korn Ferry Tour history to post the magic number, and Wilcox was on his way to the PGA Tour courtesy of a seventh place finish on the season long money list.
From the outside looking in, his career was following its natural path to success. From the inside, the American could not shake the despair of addiction troubles. He was unable to make his PGA Tour debut at that time after being suspended for marijuana use. "I still can't believe it wasn't the other stuff," he said. What other stuff, you might ask? "The pills." He added: “Opioids. Oxycontin. Hydrocodone. Percocet. Muscle relaxants. Xanax. Heroin. I was a drug addict with a PGA Tour card."
“A little weed nearly cost me everything,” he says. “Despite my drug tests coming back dirty for a litany of pain medication, that wasn’t against the rules. The lesser of two evils had the career-ending potential.”
By his own admission, there was a time during his career where he was either experiencing withdrawals or 'high' whilst he played. As is often the case with drugs, the demons were louder at night and prevented him from sleeping, leading him to consume an "ungodly amount of drugs" that put him "an inch from death."
Wilcox's professional golf career has been a rollercoaster ride. It included a career-best performance at the 2015 Barbasol Championship where he finished runner-up to Scott Piercy as well as a hole-in-one at the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in the Players Championship. Unlike his golf swing however, he was never able to fully control the trajectory of his troubles.
The juxtaposition of his career came to an impasse in 2021, where health conditions the result of drug abuse took their toll and meant he could no longer compete at the highest level. The American ultimately retired from the game at the age of 36.
“I made millions of dollars playing on professional golf’s biggest stage and blew a significant percentage of those winnings on drugs,” Wilcox says. “All of these things happened without almost anyone knowing.”
After dicing with death on more than one occasion, which he details in the feature, life granted Wilcox a mulligan and he took it - he is now sober and teaches golf out of his home-state in Alabama.
Read the fantastic piece in full - ‘I Was a Drug Addict With a PGA Tour Card’
.@willwilcoxgolf shot 65 in a competitive round on the PGA Tour but no one could have imagined what happened beforehand.Listen to the full podcast w/ @acaseofthegolf1 - A: https://t.co/k4c5zFVcOTS: https://t.co/zMnKnYE547@markbaldwin1's full story - https://t.co/3jjXImhMtn pic.twitter.com/kCvdXfLFVMApril 12, 2022
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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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