When pro golfer Morgan Hoffman was diagnosed, at age 27, with incurable muscular dystrophy in 2016, he left the elite PGA Tour and disappeared into the depths of the Costa Rican jungle.
This week, after five years in the wilderness — literally — where he treated himself by experimenting with eating 800 grapes a day to drinking his own urine, Hoffman, 32, will make his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour. On Thursday, he tees up for the RBC Heritage tournament at Hilton Head, SC.
The once conservative-looking preppy has evolved into a barefoot, shirtless fan of hallucinogens — think Tarzan with a 2-iron.
Hoffman is not your average golfer. Born and raised in New Jersey, he was, before his diagnosis, the game’s next big thing. Tall, slim and handsome, he was a collegiate golf star at Oklahoma State University, where he played alongside PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler.
When he turned professional in 2011, Hoffman quickly found himself pursued by sponsors and equipment manufacturers dangling checks. He signed up with Polo Ralph Lauren, Mastercard, Breitling and Titleist. With all that money in the bank, he also got his pilot’s license, buying a Piper Mirage plane to fly himself to tournaments.
He was also pursued by women — lots of women.
“Each week there would be three or four new girls. I’d get their numbers while I was playing. I’d have my caddie give them balls with my number on it, go out every night,” he recalled in a recent interview with Golf Digest magazine.
At the 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills, Colo. — a typical tournament for him —Hoffman finished strongly, taking third place and a check for $544,000. “I had a BMW i8 that week. They were just givin’ us that s–t,” he said. “We went out to strip clubs; we’d pick up chicks. I had three chicks in that two-seat car. Life has changed.”
That’s an understatement.
It was during his final year at OSU that Hoffman first noticed that something wasn’t quite right with his health. Though he was experiencing no pain and his golf game was in great shape, he noticed a loss of muscle mass in his chest.
Three years went by. By then, he was an established PGA Tour player, but his weakening pectoral muscles were now slowing down his golf swing. One expert speculated it was a trapped nerve. The Cleveland Clinic was stumped, as was the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He had CT scans, electromyography (EMG) and electrocardiograms (EKG), but no answers.
In 2016, Hoffman finally got a diagnosis: facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, an incurable, muscle-wasting disease. The best he could expect, said the doctors, was trying to maintain his mobility for as long as possible.
“I’m like, ‘What do I do?’ He tells me I can do some therapy, but that’s about it,” said Hoffman. “It’s just going to get worse. I’m like, ‘That’s it?’”
In 2018, however, Hoffman took matters into his own hands. Desperate to find a way to manage his illness, he traveled to Nepal and lived off-grid for three months. That’s where he discovered urine therapy, experimenting with deep-cleansing diets where he consumed no water or food for 10 days and, instead, only drank a cup of his own urine twice a day.
From Nepal, Hoffman and his wife, Chelsea, headed to the Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica, a region where people live some of the longest and healthiest lives in the world. There, with the help of local shaman, he underwent a four-day Amazon treatment using ayahuasca, the heady psychoactive brew containing the hallucinogen DMT, an experience that he said opened his eyes to what could be achieved through alternative medicine.
Amid visions of vivid geometric patterns, gentle elephants and giant butterflies, Hoffman felt as though nature being was being “pumped into me like gasoline … It was beautiful,” he said. “It felt like the disease was coming out of me.”
This week, Hoffman was asked about the experience at a press conference at Hilton Head. “A lot of people call some of the things that I’ve embarked upon as hallucinogenic, but the way I see them is so much different,” he said. “I think it’s like a backdoor or side door to different dimensions or different planes. I don’t really have it down yet; I’m still questioning and trying to figure it all out.”
The Hoffmans bought a mountainside house in the jungle in Novara, Costa Rica, with views of the ocean but no doors or glass windows (there are screens to keep insects at bay). His next-door neighbor, the golfer said, is a Spanish kung-fu expert who rides around on a horse, dressed in a robe, with a sword in his hand and a joint in his mouth.
Hoffman’s healing continues; breathwork, meditation, yoga — his days are like one never-ending retreat. He has given up all animal products and often tries raw diets. Once, over a 17-day period, he ate nothing but grapes, consuming more than 800 some days.
Hoffman has also been working on his strength and, for the first time in years, can flex his pectoral muscles. “My right pec was the worst — it kind of got down to my ribs, where all you could see is bone and now when I put my hand here and I flex, I can feel it again,” he said. “It’s very, very exciting.”
His progress has been such that he’s determined to help others benefit from what he has learned on his journey. He now has the Morgan Hoffman Foundation and plans to build his own wellness center in Costa Rica, the working name being Nekawa — “awaken” backward.
Hoffman has three starts left on a medical extension to his PGA Tour card that must be used this year and hope to perform well enough in those events to retain his playing rights for next year. He then intends to commute to a limited number of tournaments from Costa Rica, the idea being that any money earned will help to fund the new center.
“It can be deemed as crazy,” he said this week, “but I think that’s kind of what most people see me as anyway.”