Earlier this month, Mark Hensby joined a short list of players who have been suspended for violation of the PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Policy when he refused to take a urine test after the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in October.
A statement by Hensby, released by Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker, seemed heartfelt but also curious. Hensby clearly was upset with the one-year suspension, effective until Oct. 26, but he also alluded to bigger issues in his life.
Hensby, 46, an Australian who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., had won on the PGA and European tours, played in a Presidents Cup and climbed to 27th in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2005 but had fallen to No. 1,617 this week. He spoke by phone to discuss his predicament and his future.
Alex Miceli: How did things go so wrong?
Mark Hensby: I had a lot of off-course distractions. I went through a divorce and [right] shoulder surgery [from a January 2006 auto accident], but there are a lot of factors to it.
AM: As a kid, did you dream about playing professional golf?
MH: My dream was always to play on the U.S. circuit and obviously be as successful as I could be. The dream was to get to the Masters. When I got there [in 2005], it was just surreal, even though I felt comfortable. The biggest shock for me was the difference in the levels once I was starting to get paired with the big-name players like Tiger [Woods] and Adam Scott. As we know on Tour, there's the good players and probably the guys who are struggling to keep their card, and then there's the superstars. Playing with those guys, I realized that it didn't matter how hard I worked but I was never going to be one of those guys. Technology, and the guys are getting bigger and stronger, and so I think that maybe I lost a little bit of the passion I had for the game, knowing that I would never be what I set out to be.
AM: For the past 10 years or so, have you been saddled with the fact that you never would be able to do what you had done in the past?
MH: Yeah, I hate to say this, but I just kind have been going through the motions. Don't get me wrong; I worked hard and tried to get better. Even when I had great finishes, I knew I didn't have a chance to win, because I just wasn't good enough. People say, Well, you could have made a good living doing what you're doing. If you're a competitor, that's not what you want to hear. So, I went through different trials and errors of trying to get better. Once you see the ball starting to go a little bit sideways, then you lose a little bit of confidence. I had an injury, and then a lot of things kind of snowballed from there. There's been a lot of turmoil going through my head in the last year or so.
AM: When things weren't going very well, did you ever think about what you would do with yourself if you weren't playing professional golf?
MH: I just love golf, and I've never wanted to go deep into that thought process. I just always thought that I could get out of this garbage. It's hard to have a motivation when you can't hit the golf ball on the planet. If I had a few good results, obviously all the motivation would come back. I still feel like inside I've got it, but I just haven't driven the ball in the fairway at all.
AM: Are you still thinking you want to come back at some point?
MH: It's still sinking in, what happened. It’s hard because there's no direct way to the Tour anymore. You have to go through the Web.com. It’s a good tour, but it's just you're playing against 22-year-olds, and it's a little bit different. I want to play, but if something came up and really got my interest and in a year, I'm like, no, I would rather do this than play golf, well then so be it. At the moment, I still don't know what's going to happen.
AM: Because you don’t have an agent, you had to represent yourself. How was that experience?
MH: To be honest, with all the lawyers and things I've gone through the last two years with my exwife and stuff, I'm so sick of trying to fight stuff. I was in the wrong; I understand that. Obviously, I didn't know to the extent how much I was in the wrong, in the fact that I got a year ban. But I think that I didn't know what I was going to appeal. At the end of the day, I broke their rule.
AM: How have your peers reacted to you?
MH: I've had a lot of people reach out to me. Some guys have said we have had to do the same thing. A few people have said we have wanted to walk, but no one would walk, obviously, except for me. The drug policy, obviously you have to have it in sports. On the PGA Tour, when you play 5½ hours in an afternoon round and then you get pulled in and then if you can't go to the toilet for a few hours and then you can't drink too much water because then you're too hydrated and they can't get a sample, you could be there for three, four hours. I think that it should be done after morning rounds. I'm not saying this because I got in trouble or, you know, I left, but it's just I think that it's something that needs to be looked at.
AM: If a player had the option of a blood or urine test, would you have taken the blood test?
MH: Oh, definitely. Anybody would take that, especially if they knew they weren't going to go to the toilet. I think everybody would take the blood test. I actually thought they were doing it at the beginning of the year, but I guess they hadn't started it yet. I think that that will give a better reading, too. Most guys would prefer to do that.
AM: What are your days like now?
MH: Pretty lonely, man. My little boy [Caden, age 6] goes to school at 8. I'm just trying to exercise a little bit and look at the future and see what it holds.
AM: Have you talked to Tour commissioner Jay Monahan?
MH: We had a good chat. I really enjoyed talking to him. He's a fair and smart guy.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli