HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA | While it may be mathematically possible to measure the distance from the Himalayas in Nepal to this shoe-shaped island on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the numbers are meaningless in Morgan Hoffmann’s journey here.
The same goes for the trip from his wall-less house in a Costa Rican rainforest where he lives with his wife, three dogs and two cats to the RBC Heritage, his first PGA Tour event in nearly three years.
It’s tempting to say Hoffmann has gone from the far side of the world to the far side of his unique and curious quest to overcome a diagnosis of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, but, though it’s true that the 32-year-old has circled the globe seeking unconventional treatments to what is said to be an incurable disease, his journey is ongoing.
“Every day is a success,” Hoffmann said Tuesday, his long brown hair pulled into a man bun that poked out of the back of his white cap. In one way, this all felt so familiar to Hoffmann. The sun was shining, the temperature was nudging 80 degrees and the ocean breeze was gently rustling the palm fronds and pine trees.
Twenty years ago, Hoffmann was on nearby Daufuskie Island where he was learning the game at a golf academy run by instructor Gary Gilchrist and he played Harbour Town on weekends.
“Just playing this course is very euphoric for me,” Hoffmann said.
He played a Tuesday practice round with Camilo Villegas and Luke Donald, caught up with friends he hadn’t seen in a while and went about preparing for a tournament, the way he did until doctors told him the atrophy affecting his right pectoral muscle was caused by muscular dystrophy, which eats away at skeletal muscles, and his condition worsened to the point he couldn’t continue on the PGA Tour.
What could have been the end of the road for Hoffmann became the start of a new expedition. He refused to accept the diagnosis from multiple doctors that his condition was incurable.
Because of his own willingness to take a more holistic approach – plant therapy that borders on hallucinogenic and urine therapy he learned in the Nepalese mountains – Hoffmann isn’t fading away. He’s coming back, playing his first event since the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
He wanted to return in Florida earlier this year but wrecked his motorcycle speeding down the rocky road to his remote home in December, breaking a shoulder and two ribs in the process.
“I think that any athlete in this position or anybody with a drive for health would do something similar, as well, and I don’t think I’m special in any way,” Hoffmann said Tuesday at the Harbour Town Golf Links.
“I think I have been put in this moment for a reason, and I just want to help people believe in themselves and get through really anything that they’re going through. Because everyone in this room here has something that they’re going through that most people probably don’t know about. I made a decision to make it public, and just because I had a platform that was capable of making a big difference … I hope that that happens.”
“It’s really special because the experience is so real that I think it’s not just a vision. It’s not your mind; it’s not your body; it’s kind of, I would say, your soul, your spiritual side, somewhere else and showing you different things.” – Morgan Hoffmann
Hoffmann has three events remaining on his major medical extension to earn enough FedEx Cup points to retain his tour privileges this season. He has been in Jupiter, Florida, for a few weeks working on his game, playing with friends including some from his days at Oklahoma State, with an extended stop at Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia before this week.
“He’s someone who makes you remember to look at things in the right way,” Rickie Fowler said. “Things could be a lot worse. You see him battle through the last few years, and to be where he is now, happy, enjoying himself, loving what he gets to do, if that’s being out here week to week, he’s stoked on that. But if this is something that doesn’t work out, he’s happy to enjoy life.”
Until a national magazine story detailed Hoffmann’s life in Costa Rica, there were whispers about where he had gone and what he was doing. Some of it was true. Some of it was exaggerated. All of it is extraordinary.
For a time, he ate 800 grapes a day and nothing else. He has tried urine therapy, which involves drinking his own urine and rubbing it on his body. He has been awakened by plant therapies with mind-expanding qualities.
“It’s really special because the experience is so real that I think it’s not just a vision,” Hoffmann said. “It’s not your mind; it’s not your body; it’s kind of, I would say, your soul, your spiritual side, somewhere else and showing you different things.
“And your intention going into it is really important. Everybody has a different intention, whether it’s to heal something or to get over some trauma, and for me I’ve been shown how to heal so many times just by closing my eyes and like having, whether a voice in my head or, like a visual for me specifically is like an envisioning like a white light all through my body, which I’ve read thousands of times that that’s very common in these type of practices to see that type of white light be very healing.”
That’s not something you hear on the practice range most weeks of the year on the PGA Tour.
Since visiting Nepal four years ago, Hoffmann said his pectoral muscles have slowly begun to grow back. There was a time when Hoffmann had no muscle above his ribs on the right side. Now when he flexes, he can feel his muscle again.
“Pretty cool,” he said.
Hoffmann doesn’t dismiss western medicine but believes there are different ways to healing.
“That’s just my path,” he said.
It leads to the first tee Thursday morning and a step back into the life Hoffmann put on hold while he searched for something else. Whether he has found a cure for his condition or at least a way to hold off its steady and debilitating progress remains to be seen.
What does Hoffmann expect this week in the RBC Heritage?
“Some smiles,” he said. “Some golf on a beautiful course. That’s really about it.”
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