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In the golfing world, Morgan Hoffmann might not be a household name but there was a time where he was well on his way to being so before an incurable illness took control of his body. To fully appreciate where he is at now, we have to first understand his journey.
Hoffmann was a two-time All-American during his time at Oklahoma State University and propelled to the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Since its inception in 2007, amateur No.1s include the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm. In 2009, Hoffmann was present in a Walker Cup team that included PGA Tour alumni in the likes of Bud Cauley, Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Cameron Tringale and Peter Uihlein. They would go on to beat Great Britain & Ireland in convincing fashion (16 ½ - 9 ½).
Hoffmann elected to leave college early in pursuit of the PGA Tour. Without any form of exemption, the American relied solely upon Monday qualifiers on the Web.com Tour (now Korn Ferry). A testament to the strength of his game, it would prove to be a success. In 2012, he played in 13 events and finished inside the top-20 on the money list, earning him promotion to the PGA Tour. In the same season, he qualified for the US Open at Olympic Club, finishing in a tie for 29th.
Hoffmann continued to retain his PGA Tour status between 2012-2017, posting a career high T2 at the Honda Classic along the way. To the golfing public, his career was progressing as expected. Behind the scenes, Hoffmann was battling an unknown ailment. After years of working closely with specialist Doctors, in 2016, a diagnosis was confirmed. It was facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; an incurable and genetic muscle disorder in which the muscles of the face, shoulder blades and upper arms are among the most affected. In Hoffmann’s case, it was his pectoral muscle. Between 2011 and the official diagnosis, Hoffmann noticed visual changes in the structure of the muscle and felt its strength deteriorate. In golfing terms, his swing speed dropped 10mph throughout that period.
Hoffmann, who is a private person by nature, went public with his diagnosis. Penning a heartfelt open letter in the Players’ Tribune, he revealed his struggles. Perhaps most inspiring was his determination to overcome the condition. He writes, “This disease won’t keep me from achieving my dream on the PGA Tour”.
The then 27-year old hit pause on a PGA Tour career to focus solely on his health. He would go on to create the Morgan Hoffmann Foundation, with a mission to help those suffering from debilitating diseases.
Throughout his battle, and in his own words, Doctors had failed him. In a bid to live with the condition and improve his quality of life, he turned to a natural overhaul of his diet. Hoffmann began researching this way of living, drawing inspiration from others who had made extreme dietary changes that ‘halt, and sometimes even reverse, symptoms’. When faced with an incurable disease, he was willing to try anything to give himself what he described as “the best possible chance”. That’s where the story gets super interesting.
Dan Rapaport, staff writer at Golf Digest, recently spent some time with Hoffmann and captured his new way of living; which now sees him living on the mountaintop in the jungle of Costa Rica – an area attributed to health and longevity of life. Hoffmann has given up all animal products and embarked on a raw diet. Nothing is processed. Nothing is cooked.
Hoffmann recalls tales of eating only grapes for a 17-day period. He joked, "Each morning I’d go to the Whole Foods in Jupiter right when it opened to clear out the grape section,” he remembers with a laugh, “and they’d be like: ‘There’s the grape guy!’ They knew me pretty well".
Rapport discovers that Hoffmann's neighbour is a kung-fu master from Spain who rides around town on a horse, wearing a robe, with a sword on his hip and a joint in his mouth. “It’s like his uniform”, Hoffmann says. “It’s hilarious.” The kung-fu master’s property and the Hoffmann house are separated by a one-kilometre driveway that runs straight uphill. “Sometimes the driveway feels like it never ends”, Hoffmann says. “Other times it flies by. It’s kind of a window into how you’re feeling that day". Perhaps equally as poignant is how Rapaport writes, “In Nosara (Costa Rica), Morgan Hoffmann isn’t a former PGA Tour player fighting an incurable disease. He’s just Morgan”.
Whilst Hoffmann didn't reveal any plans to return to the PGA Tour, he still had the game in his mind. “I really want to buy that and build my own driving range", he told Rapport, pointing to a patch of grass between the mountain and the ocean. You can almost picture the views. Rapport's work is legitimately insightful, heart-warming and really makes you root for Hoffmann. Not necessarily to return to Tour, but to live a happy life. We can’t encourage you enough to read the story in full.
In August 2021, Hoffmann was awarded the PGA Tour Courage Award for his work with the Morgan Hoffmann Foundation. The award is presented to a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy, debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. Introduced in 2012, Hoffmann is the fourth recipient of the Award, joining Erik Compton, Jarod Lyle and Gene Sauers.
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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