Grayson Murray’s tragic tale is one that we can all relate to in some fashion

Mark McGowan

Happier times. Murray with fiancee Christiana in Hawaii back in January (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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I won’t pretend to be intimately familiar with the life and times of Grayson Murray, but I knew enough to know that he was a tortured soul. Supremely talented, but talented to the point where the game stopped being an escape from his troubles and instead became a lightning rod for his mental struggles.

Winning the Sony Open in Hawaii back in January, less than a year after giving up alcohol with which he’d openly admitted had become much more of a problem than a crutch, had promised to herald a new dawn, earning a first invitation to Augusta National and securing his playing rights through 2026.

But clearly, that victory provided little more than a thin veneer of paper over the cracks, and his tragic passing by his own hand served as a reminder that mental health can’t be controlled by a switch, that no amount of success can control the demons that lurk within.

Suicide, like cancer, is something that eventually touches all of us, in one way or another. Back when I was in secondary school, it became so commonplace that I attended two funerals within the space of a week, both self inflicted, one of which was a young man who was in my year and some of my classes, who I played football with, and though we weren’t exactly close friends, we were close enough that it should’ve sent shock waves reverberating through my entire life. It didn’t, and not because the enormity of the loss and what his family were going through – and continue to go through to this day – didn’t strike a chord, it was because I’d become numb to it.

Thankfully, finishing school and becoming removed from the high-pressure environment that exists within those walls and within the teenage years as a whole, meant that suicide became less of a factor, but it never went away. Every year, there’d be other names added to the most tragic of lists, but few that I knew well enough to be truly stopped in my tracks.

That all changed in 2011 when I received the news that a man who I had been really close with had taken his own life in Boston. This one hit differently, like I’d imagine a Mike Tyson punch with brass knuckles, and even as I write this almost 13 years later, I feel a little nauseous. In the nine years that he’d lived in the US, I’d twice travelled to Boston to visit, the second of which had come three years previous when another friend and I had stayed with him for a week.

Contact in the intervening years had been sporadic, but never non-existent, and I had absolutely no idea that he’d been going through struggles of any sort, never mind the sort that would lead him to the decision to take his own life. His last message to me went unreturned, not because I thought any less of our friendship, but simply because that’s the way it had always been. Life and other things – mainly my poor record of replying to messages in a timely fashion – got in the way.

But now that message haunts me. Not for it’s content – there was nothing to indicate that life wasn’t all rose petals – but I can’t escape the thought that maybe, just maybe, things might have been different if I had replied. The butterfly effect theorises that tiny, seemingly inconsequential things can have massive ramifications further down the line, and though it’s perhaps foolish – and egotistical – to believe that my failure to reply was a factor, I’ll never know.

Grayson Murray clearly wasn’t in a sound frame of mind when he walked off with two holes to go in the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge having just bogeyed his third successive hole, the last of which saw him fall to a tally that would eventually have been one outside the cut line. He cited illness as his reason for doing so, and unfortunately, ensuing events have proven just how ill he was at that time.

Watching Peter Malnati’s tearful interview on CBS – he’d played with Murray in the opening two rounds – was among the most heartbreaking golf interviews I’ve ever seen, because I know exactly what is going through Malnati’s mind. Was there something he could have done, or said, or shown that would’ve made any difference?

After all, golf is just a game, and though we all have a tendency to treat it like life or death every now and again, the truth is that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. A life has been lost, and several others ruined as a result.

Some people say that suicide is a selfish act, and though I understand where they’re coming from, to actually reach the point where you feel that it’s the best option puts you in a headspace that I can’t comprehend, therefore can never understand. But rational thought has long since exited stage left.

Murray has long had a complicated relationship with the game and with life itself. Back in 2014, after opening with a 66 at the Southern Amateur, Murray followed up with a 74 and was still very much in the tournament when he hit a poor drive on the 17th in round three and opted to walk off instead of going looking for it. Had he managed to play his final 20 holes in level-par, he’d have finished second, had he played them in -3 or better, he’d have won.

So Malnati need not feel any guilt. It’s not like this kind of thing hadn’t happened before, so how could you deduce that this time it was different? That his tap in bogey after a missed six-footer on Colonial’s 16th would be the last golf shots he’d ever take, and that at 30 years old, his life would end?

Murray’s parents, his fiancée, his close friends, will all naturally be devastated, and their nightmares are just beginning. My heart goes out to each and every one of them, and though I’ve never met Grayson, seldom thought of him outside of when he’d pop up on the TV screen from time to time, my heart breaks for him too.

I can only hope that in death, he’s found the peace that he couldn’t find in life.

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5 responses to “Grayson Murray’s tragic tale is one that we can all relate to in some fashion”

  1. dedovic avatar

    Great article. Depression is a serious illness. We don’t need more cases like this. We need to work more on it.

  2. Joe avatar

    His fiancée was not mentioned in his parent’s statement, issued yesterday. The omission is pointed, I would suggest. I know nothing of Grayson’s personal life so can’t comment any further.

  3. Leonie avatar

    A beautifully written piece.

  4. Ray avatar

    It is very strange his girl friend is rather silent. im wondering about why

  5. Lee Ann Element avatar
    Lee Ann Element

    Best piece of internet writing to date. you do good work

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