Baldry: Wright stepped away to get herself right

Lindsey Wright has a laugh while on the practice green on Wednesday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lindsey Wright describes depression and anxiety as living with a pair of 50-pound weights attached to your frame. It’s exhausting. Everything is an effort.

She stood off to the side of the chipping green at Mission Hills on Wednesday and thought back to three years ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship when she wanted to take a medical leave.

“I knew I wasn’t right,” said Wright, a quick-witted Aussie who at one point rose to No. 12 in the world.

She kept playing.

Two years ago at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, she burst into tears on the putting green at Royal Birkdale. She was miserable.

Wright, 32, has won more than $2 million on the LPGA. She came to the U.S. at age 20 to play golf at Pepperdine and work her way onto the tour. In 2009, she finished 18th on the money list, with a pair of top-4 finishes in the majors. America has been good to her.

But it has also been a grind. The road can be lonely. The LPGA is a business, and players either keep to themselves or keep their circles small. If anyone noticed that Wright had changed over the years out here, no one said anything. She didn’t cope well with her 30th birthday, which happens to be on New Year’s Eve.

Wright tried cognitive behavior therapy (talk it out). When that didn’t do enough, her doctor suggested she go on medication for anxiety and depression.

Wright played in only 16 events last season, taking four months off toward the end of the year. She worked media and hospitality at tournaments in Australia, thinking she might not return inside the ropes.

In January, Wright picked up her clubs again and teed it up in Australian events. When she birdied the last hole to win the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open in February, it was a sweet surprise. Wright hadn’t hoisted a trophy in eight years.

In an article Wright helped write for The Sydney Morning Herald about the victory, she revealed her inner demons. Wright said she got tired of making up reasons for her poor play. She wanted people to know the truth.

“My golf is fine,” she said. “My brain wasn’t. My mental health was just crap.”

Many people think depression equates to a bad mood and a few extra tissues. Wright said it affected her physically as much as it did emotionally. She suffered from insomnia, which in turn impacted her ability to focus on the golf course.

Her mother, Linda, said: “You’re not the same person you were five years ago.”

Wright knew she was, well, right. That fun-loving personality had been replaced.

Thankfully, that dark hour has passed. Wright joked around with friends on the practice green this afternoon. And later, when her host family for the week dropped by, she needled and laughed like the old days. It wasn’t a facade.

Wright’s victory in New Zealand opened up more opportunities for her to play in Europe. She originally intended to stay on the LPGA through September, but the win has caused her to rethink.

Like many players on tour, Wright has been worn down by the travel. She’d like to settle down one day. And the older she gets, the harder it is to stay away from home.

But for now, she’s penning a new chapter on the LPGA, one that’s lighter, and hopefully, more fun.

“My big thing is, life’s not to be endured,” she said. “It’s to be enjoyed.”

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