CROMWELL, Conn. – Sometimes Chelsea Hoffmann wakes up and thinks she’s on a houseboat, to the metronomic sound of waves crashing on the shore.
She and her husband, Morgan, and their service dog, a Doberman named Yama, are sleeping in their 35-foot Sunseeker RV this week, and it’s parked in their friends’ backyard in Old Saybrook. Friends, meaning the parents of Hoffmann’s caddy, Sam “Ghost” Spector.
“It’s beautiful,” Morgan said after shooting a two-under 68 in the first round of the Travelers Championship, his last start in a medical spread, where he needs a solo fourth or better. “You wake up and you look around and it’s just water. The birds are singing. It’s very peaceful.”
Hoffmann, you may recall, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2016 and left the TOUR three years later.
Frustrated with the limitations of Western medicine, he began a healing journey that included psychedelics, yoga, surfing, veganism, breathwork, and a grape cleanse. He has gone from Nepal for ayahuasca (hallucinogenic medicine) to buy a house in Costa Rica for its healthy Blue Zone attributes.
He’s not the same guy who reached No. 1 in the world as an amateur, was an All-American at Oklahoma State and played the TOUR full-time from 2013-2017.
And yet …
“I’m not ready to just be a weekend golfer,” he said over a milkshake outside the clubhouse earlier this week. “I’ve added a clubhead speed of 7 mph. It’s exciting, because when I left the TOUR, I was at 104 with the rider, which is not ideal. I’ve seen the biggest jump in the last month and a half, in the gym, lifting hard, eating a lot, getting my confidence back.”
The milkshake, by the way, is about the only thing Hoffmann gets to eat from the players’ dinner. He limits his menu to raw foods until dinner, when he allows cooked vegetables like spaghetti squash, lentils, spinach, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. He and Chelsea prepare meals in the trailer home, where they were Wednesday night, checking on the definition of Morgan’s right pectoral muscle.
That muscle began to atrophy as early as his junior year at Oklahoma State, and he spent much of his former TOUR career searching high and low for a diagnosis. He was poked and prodded and tested. The doctors formulated hypotheses, they were wrong, they disappeared. For years, they had no answers.
Once they did, and he was diagnosed with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, Hoffmann was told there wasn’t much he could do. He disagreed and embarked on a holistic journey in which he barely touched a club. That he has returned to compete against the best in the world has been an inspiration.
“He’s getting notes from players and caddies in his locker,” Chelsea said. “Because everyone is on their own healing journey.”
The most sensational part of Hoffmann’s journey, the one that almost jumped off the pages of a golf summary profile, was the hallucinogenic ayahuasca treatment. He remembered a “geometric butterfly” and a moth feeding him a vine, soil, trees, and berries, after which the vine was ripped off, an elephant appeared, and black smoke began to pour out of his mouth.
“I felt like the disease was coming out of me,” he said.
Hoffmann has always been a scholar. He is a pilot (but he sold his plane) and has interests in a clothing company, Greyson. He wore a groovy print golf shirt and pink pants for the first round at the Travelers on Thursday, his blonde locks loose in a bun that jutted out from the back of his black cap, the crown of which featured his foundation logo. .
“I flipped a bit this morning and I was late,” Chelsea said, “but I saw him from afar and thought, it must be him!”
He laughed as he watched the action at TPC River Highlands with a handful of Hoffmann’s friends, including one of his associates at Greyson. Hoffmann is also involved in a company that aims to make it easier for health insurance to cover non-traditional medicine. In the long term, he and Chelsea plan to open a solar-powered healing center in their adopted home in Costa Rica. They recently closed on land. “I’ve never seen someone with more interests than him,” he said.
In a way, Hoffmann is like every other professional on the TOUR. When he’s not in Costa Rica, he lives in Jupiter, Florida, where he plays at Bear’s Club and hangs out with his friends Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas. The house does not belong to Hoffmann but to his mother, Lorraine, who is a stewardess and is rarely home. She is expected to be on site later this week, cheering him on.
Being in Jupiter has its perks, one of which is that Hoffmann has been working at Coastal Performance in Palm Beach Gardens. He’s not the same guy who missed the cut by one at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head in April, his first TOUR appearance since fall 2019. He’s bigger and stronger, part of a concerted effort to catch up with its former competitors.
“They just opened a new gym,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s got three different hitting bays, a TrackMan, a green that can be adjusted for slope, a putting lab, and a gym with a big grassy area that’s great for agility. Medicine ball throws. jumping Heavy lifts, deadlifts, kettlebell work, Turkish lifts, heavy carry for full body stability, rolling.
“Warm-ups are tough,” he added, “and the finisher is usually like the fan bike, the ropes, or pushing a sled. I’ve gained like 20 pounds of muscle in the last three months.”
He also made an internal transformation, something that Chelsea noticed in Hilton Head.
“He thought he needed to birdie his last hole and bogeyed it,” he said. “It was frustrating, and there was a point where he would have ruined his entire week. But he was ready to do other things and be around other people almost immediately.”
Instead of pouting, they took the Sunseeker to Colorado for an intensive hike and it snowed.
Three weeks after RBC Heritage, Hoffmann shot 73-80 at the Wells Fargo Championship in Maryland. That didn’t come close to making the cut, but the week, while a disaster, provided him with even more insight.
“I was still short,” he said, “and with the rain and the cold it was even shorter. He was hitting 3-irons on those greens. That was a huge motivator for me to step up in the gym.”
Chelsea is pregnant, at the end of October. It will be a free birth, in the couple’s house on top of a mountain in Costa Rica, without the usual medical assistance. Boy? Girl? It will be a surprise. Her house is being renovated and they will return in July. That could also be a surprise, a pleasant one, with any luck. Morgan’s pectoral muscle is coming back. Her game is coming back.
If he gets really hot on Friday and keeps it up through the weekend, he could play for more TOUR starts, or some sponsor waivers. It could end up again on the Korn Ferry Tour. But you will cross that bridge when you get to it; for now, it’s about embracing the present moment as you find your way back to some version of your old life.
She wants to take the lessons she learned on her healing journey to others, and that includes her former TOUR colleagues. He is especially intrigued by the treatment of supposedly incurable diseases. It remains to be seen where exactly competitive golf fits into his life, but in a perfect world he will help finance the healing center on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.
His two-under start at the Travelers was a decent start. He will have to move on.
“It could have been really good,” he said. “I feel very comfortable in this course.”