‘I spent millions on heroin’

In June 2015, professional golfer Will Wilcox was standing on the inexperienced on the ultimate gap of the Fed-Ex St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tenn. Ahead of him was a snaking 40-foot putt. 

Make it and there was a examine for $114,000 ready. 

Cool as you want, Wilcox stepped up and drained it prefer it was a tap-in.

“Most players would look at that as a good week’s work and go home. But I didn’t. I just went straight to a heroin dealer’s house to score. Ended up having a knife pulled on me too,” he mentioned, matter of factly. 

“That’s drugs. They take you to some strange, dark places.” 

As this week’s PGA Championship concludes at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., and gamers chase the $2.16 million first prize, it’s value remembering that not each skilled golfer lives a lifetime of luxurious. 

Will Wilcox actually doesn’t — however he has his causes. 

While one in every of Alabama’s most proficient younger golfers, Wilcox began consuming, smoking marijuana and popping drugs along with his associates at simply 13 years previous, resulting in a golf profession full of inauspicious setbacks.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

The 35-year-old grew up in Pell City, Ala., a small city simply east of the state’s second largest metropolis, Birmingham. His mom, Kim, was a proficient golfer who as soon as dreamt of taking part in the LPGA Tour however labored as the pinnacle skilled at their native observe, Pine Harbor Country Club. 

When he acquired his first set of golf equipment aged 5, Wilcox accompanied his mother to work, taking full benefit of the amenities and, over time, honing a recreation that marked him out as one of many state’s most proficient younger golfers.

But Pell City was no place to develop up. 

Some of Will Wilcox’s earliest associates, who used medication with him, have gone to jail or died.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

In his teenagers, new temptations emerged. Aged 13, he socialized with older youngsters, who had been consuming, smoking marijuana and popping drugs — and he dived proper in. 

Of the eight individuals in Wilcox’s highschool friendship group, one turned a profitable engineer, three went to jail for as much as 10 years and three at the moment are lifeless. “My home town and my high school were — and I’m really not kidding — like an open air drug market,” says Wilcox. “In that respect, I’m very much a product of my own environment.”

Wilcox’s teenagers and early 20s had been peppered with petty crime and arrests as alcohol and medicines took him within the incorrect course. It culminated in him being thrown off the golf group at University of Alabama at Birmingham, the place his mom was then teaching the ladies’s group. He was, he admits, his mother and father’ “worst nightmare.”

Kicked out by his mother and father, Wilcox moved in along with his sister in Auburn, Ala. He took a job making pizzas for $5.50 an hour, working 45 hours every week, and paying his sister $100 month-to-month lease. Another job got here at a paper mill the place he earned $9 an hour.

Running out of choices, he tried to affix the Navy in 2006 — however even they didn’t need him, not along with his rap sheet. With no cash and no future, he took his golf golf equipment to a pawn store however once they supplied him simply $50, he determined to maintain them.

It was that rarest of issues — a superb choice at a time when Wilcox was making too many dangerous ones.

Despite his addictions, Wilcox made about $4 million in winnings and sponsorships from 2014-2018.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

Then his luck modified. A pal of his father’s, Barry Harwell, was coach of Division II faculty Clayton State, exterior Atlanta, Ga. He supplied Wilcox a full journey. It was the break he wanted — and he delivered in spades. A 3-time All-American, Wilcox additionally received eight faculty occasions and the 2008 Alabama Amateur Championship.

There had been blips. While at Clayton, Wilcox overdosed on cocaine and was hospitalized, his coronary heart fee hitting 222 BPM. Not surprisingly, he by no means touched it once more.

But little or no else was off limits and, more and more, he turned to opioids like Percocet, Xanax and Hydrocodone. He was even snorting heroin, although Wilcox knew individuals who had died doing it. “I have tons of regrets and that’s a big one,” he mentioned.

The golfer’s mother and father, solely seeing his success, didn’t understand he had issues at first.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

Despite his addictions, he went on to go professional and make huge cash. From 2014-2018, Wilcox amassed round $4 million from winnings and sponsorships. 

“And that, for me, was a license to party,” he mentioned.

He was nonetheless on heroin when he waltzed onto the Nationwide Tour in 2011. “I started making good money there,” he recalled. “I must have made a couple of hundred grand but I’d lost it all by 2012 just because of the drugs.”

By 2013, Wilcox had relocated to St. Croix within the US Virgin Islands, to get himself clear. He started taking part in a few of the finest golf of his younger life, together with taking pictures the Holy Grail of the sport, a sub-60 spherical on the Utah Championship. 

‘My home town and my high school were — and I’m actually not kidding — like an open air drug market.’

Will Wilcox

But because the checks stored coming, the cravings returned — and Wilcox started utilizing once more.

Back in Alabama, Wilcox’s household had been largely oblivious to his off-course points. With a wholesome financial institution stability, he would usually deal with his mother and father, nearly to throw them off the scent. “I would get their yard landscaped or pay for something they needed to be done to their house,” he mentioned. “In their eyes, I was the golden boy.”

It’s solely now that they know the extent of Wilcox’s struggles. “Back then, I might give them snippets of what I was doing but I would really bend the truth,” he mentioned. “Besides, you don’t want to scare your family. You definitely need to sugar coat it some.”

Wilcox mentioned he would “treat” his household to throw them off the scent.
Jon Durr/Getty Images

Fortunately for Wilcox, drug testing within the recreation was comparatively lax. “You’re tested maybe twice a year but you still have to be careful,” he defined. “You just have to watch what you take and stay hydrated.”

He wasn’t at all times profitable. In 2013, aged 27, he received the South Georgia Classic and completed seventh on the Korn Ferry Tour cash record, incomes himself a ticket to the gold-paved streets of the PGA Tour. 

But a constructive check for marijuana on the Boise Open in Idaho earlier than his rookie season began landed him a six-month suspension. “Of all the things I’d taken, it was weed that got me,” he laughed. “You can take opiates like hydrocodone and that’s OK. Go ahead, take that stuff that turns your organs to concrete. Have at it. Eat a big bowl of ’em for breakfast!”

Will Wilcox’s mom was the pinnacle skilled golfer at their native observe when he was rising up.

When he lastly took his place on the PGA Tour in 2014, Wilcox couldn’t consider he had made it. “I remember looking for my locker. They’re all lined up alphabetically so I get to mine and whose is it right next to it? Tiger Woods! F—–g crazy!”

He performed rounds with many prime gamers, together with Brooks Koepka, former world No. 1 Jason Day and the 2009 US Open champion Lucas Glover. “He’s one of my favorite players and the first time I played with him I shot 65 and he shot 77,” he mentioned. “I couldn’t believe I’d beaten a US Open champion by 12 shots over 18 holes. I was like ‘what the f–k!’” 

Everything gave the impression to be going to plan, even when he was affected by withdrawal signs most weeks.

Wilcox publicly blamed his 2017 profession decline on a wrist harm.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

Golf followers had been rooting for him. “I’m a small-town kid from Alabama — ain’t no silver spoon here. I didn’t grow up playing elite clubs like Riviera or frickin’ Shinnecock,” he mentioned. “Maybe people liked that? I was kind of an underdog out there, an everyman I guess.”

Like the prodigal son, Wilcox returned to Pell City in December 2014 however on Christmas Day he discovered himself not at house along with his household, however in a run-down lodge room scoring heroin from a seller. “It’s what happens when you’re addicted,” he displays. “And then I had to go home for the family dinner. Let’s say I was very inebriated.”

Having certified for the profitable finish of season FedEx Cup playoffs in 2015, Wilcox was unable to play within the second occasion of the PGA Tour, the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, having spent the week earlier than smoking weed and popping drugs. A constructive drug check was a threat he couldn’t afford so he withdrew, blaming it on a minor harm.

Wilcox is one in every of simply seven gamers to make a hole-in-one on the the famed seventeenth gap at Sawgrass.

Wilcox returned to motion the next season, and even made a hole-in-one on the most well-known par-three gap in golf — the 17th at Sawgrass — in the course of the Players’ Championship in 2016. It was the primary ace there in 14 years and Wilcox stays simply one in every of seven gamers to do it. His household had been there within the gallery to see it too. 

It was a uncommon spotlight in a yr that noticed his kind and well being deteriorate. By 2017, his 73-event run on the PGA Tour was over. Publicly, his decline was blamed on a wrist harm however solely Wilcox knew the actual purpose.

‘I’m fortunate that I’ve come out the opposite aspect and I haven’t destroyed my organs and my physique.’

Will Wilcox

By the top of 2021, he had even misplaced his card for the second-string Korn Ferry Tour and, disillusioned, determined to retire from golf, aged simply 35. 

But, with out the day-to-day distraction of taking part in, Wilcox was at a crossroads. He may keep it up utilizing and find yourself as one other statistic or search assist. “I was withering away, mentally and physically, which was becoming more and more clear to my loved ones — so they intervened,” he mentioned. 

When Wilcox joined the PGA Tour in 2014, his locker was proper subsequent to Tiger Woods.

His family and friends rallied round, discovering him a therapy middle. In February, he attended the clinic of Dr Krishna Donaparthi in Atlanta, Ga., a specialist who makes use of electro-shocking of the mind to scale back the signs of withdrawal by as much as 70%. “It cost as much as a Honda Civic,” mentioned Wilcox. “But I credit Dr. Krishna for saving my life, I really do.”

Just a few months later, Wilcox is again within the groove. “Now I have clarity in my mind,” he mentioned. “I feel like a kid again.”

In April, he received his first occasion with out his “birdie pills,” cantering to a seven-stroke win at an Emerald Coast Golf Tour occasion on the Holiday Golf Club in Panama City, Fla. It was the primary time he had received a match clear.

“Just holding a big check again means the world,” he mentioned after his victory, “and getting it sober means even more.”

On Thursday May 5, Wilcox and 84 different gamers took half in native qualifying for this yr’s US Open, to be performed at The Country Club, Brookline, Mass., from June 16-19. With simply 5 locations accessible for the following and ultimate stage of qualifying, Wilcox shot 66 at RTJ Golf Trail at Silver Lakes in Gadsden, Ala., and comfortably made it via. 

Next up is Final Qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockland, Md., on June 6 the place Wilcox will try and go one higher and make it via to the beginning area.

Wilcox’s subsequent intention is to get again his PGA Tour card.
Roger Kisby for NY Post

Next, he’ll try and regain his PGA Tour card. “I’m lucky that I’ve come out the other side and I haven’t destroyed my organs and my body. I can still swing the club pretty well,” mentioned Wilcox, who’s single and has no kids.

And if the golf doesn’t work out then the 35-year-old, now dwelling in Moody, Ala., is pleased to assist unfold the phrase in regards to the risks of drug abuse. “I just want to raise some awareness about what kind of wild s–t that’s going on with kids these days,” he mentioned. “The primary reason for loss of life for 18-40 year-old males in America is overdose and that’s a giant deal. 

“I should have died many times in my life but if I can stop anybody from going down that path then that’s what I want to do.”

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