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On the Wright track: Golfer overcomes her battle with depression

By Tom McGowan, CNN
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Back in the swing: Lindsey Wright has been in impressive form since returning to the game.
Back in the swing: Lindsey Wright has been in impressive form since returning to the game.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lindsey Wright makes strong start to Kraft Nabisco Championship, one shot off lead
  • The Australian recently took time away from golf to battle with depression
  • Wright says on some nights she drank two bottles of wine to help her sleep
  • She won the New Zealand Open in February, a month after returning to the sport

(CNN) -- "People would say, 'Oh, what's wrong with your golf, what's going on with your golf?' and I thought, it's not golf, it's my head. It's me."

When Lindsey Wright spoke after the opening round of the women's golf season's first major tournament on Thursday, it wasn't just her impressive five-under-par 67 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship that people wanted to talk about.

The Australian turned her back on golf last October, struggling with the isolation of life on the LPGA Tour and under the weight of a condition which was driving her to drink.

"People think, 'Depression, just get over it' if you're in a bad mood or whatever. It really impacts you physically," the 32-year-old revealed.

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"Playing on this tour, coming out and trying to play, grinding it out each week when you're not sleeping and you can't concentrate or focus and the other symptoms with it, it just gets you down, and it's a bit of a nightmare."

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Wright's battle was depression was at its fiercest during lonely nights on tour, when the only respite she could find was in the bottle.

"But I think the lowest is when you have insomnia and you're waking up at 2 a.m.," the four-time LPGA Tour winner said. "There's no relief from your mind, really, and I mean, the only time I really had any relief is if you had probably two bottles of red wine.

"It helps you sleep, but it's not the way to combat it. That's when I realized I've got a problem here, and I've got to deal with it because I'm getting worse."

Wright's condition was at its worse in 2009, after she had just achieved the most impressive result of her career by coming second at the LPGA Championship -- one of four majors in the women's season.

"I had a great season," she said. "I finished second to Anna Nordqvist at the LPGA Championship, and after that it was kind of on a downhill slope, slippery slope.

"It just kind of happened quickly. You have bouts, and without getting into the psychology and everything, it wasn't a great time, and I just couldn't really get through it.

"I rang home in September last year and said, 'I'm done. I don't want to play anymore.' And my dad had said, 'You know what, that's great if you want to do that, but you need to have something to fall back on.' "

So during her time away from the course, Wright set about taking her first steps on alternative career paths.

The only time I really had any relief is if you had probably two bottles of red wine
Lindsey Wright

"I worked as a media person at the men's New South Wales State Open, and then I worked with the tournament office at the men's Australian Open and did some other things relating to media stuff and sport," she said.

"It was really great. I didn't pick up a golf club from the last event I played, which is Taiwan, until January 2."

Wright's break from the sport seems to have worked wonders. She holed a 13-foot birdie putt to clinch the New Zealand Open last month, and after a solid first round she is on track to challenge for her first major title in California.

"If you had said to me before New Zealand, you're going to win, I would have went, 'Oh, yeah, whatever, I'm so unlucky.' But having won that tournament has opened all these doors for me to play in Europe, which I really want to do.

"I'm excited to do that. And I'm really enjoying my golf, which it's not a grind anymore. I'm actually enjoying it, the good and the bad."

Wright was one shot off the lead held by South Korean Amy Yang, who carded a 66.

Taiwan's five-time major winner Yani Tseng (68) was one stroke back from Wright, ahead of a clutch of players on three under including 2010 U.S. Open winner Paula Creamer.

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