Queenslander masters his game
Back on track . . . Rika Batibasaga. Photo: Getty Images
Living proof that golf can drive you crazy, Queensland's Rika Batibasaga is feeling remarkably calm about sitting near the top of the Australian Masters leaderboard.
The 25-year-old spent time in mental institutions in 2008 as his all-consuming drive to become a professional golfer pushed him over the edge.
But as he sat a shot behind Adam Scott after a bogey-free, four-under-par opening round of 68 in his Masters debut on Thursday, Batibasaga felt only joy, not pressure.
''It feels like a blessing to be out here. I'm just lucky and trying to make the most of it,'' he said.
Batibasaga said he was a changed man from four years ago.
''Definitely. Just more perspective - I learnt a lot through that whole experience,'' he said. ''My results in golf aren't the be-all and end-all. I just give everything I've got and enjoy the time out on the course.''
That's a huge change from 2008 when, while in the US chasing his professional dream, his ever-increasing demands on himself to train and push himself harder forced him into a mental breakdown. That eventually resulted in him in being placed in an institution by police, who had handcuffed him at gunpoint after stopping him while he was driving naked. He spent more time in a mental facility after returning to Australia.
Crediting the support of family and friends with his return to health, Batibasaga turned professional last year, something he had doubted could ever happen after his inability to handle the stress in 2008.
''Things happen and we're not always in control and I just really struggled there for a little bit with my health,'' he said. ''But it's great to be back healthy, in good shape and just enjoying my golf.
''It's my first year out - I'm just absolutely buzzing to be playing Kingston Heath and my first Masters.'' AAP