Black Friday Sale: Get 75% off a digital subscription
The Baltimore Sun

The cautionary tale of golf star Dustin Johnson


he experts — and addicts alike — will tell you: You spend your entire life chasing the high you feel the first time you do cocaine (or heroin, etc.). As the PSA goes: Don't Do Drugs (Kids)!

In 1969 Sinatra sang, "regrets, I've had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exception. … The record shows I took the blows — and did it my way!"

In 1983 Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel slung (a verse), "ticket to ride, white line highway; tell all your friends, they can go my way. Pay our toll, sell your soul; pound for pound costs more than gold. The longer you stay, the more you pay. My white lines go a long way. Either up your nose or through your vein; with nothing to gain except killin' your brain." The song, titled White Lines, was an ode to cocaine. [Under quasi-political pressure, the label added a bracketed "Don't do it" to the song's title in an effort to appease and assuage opposition; pretending, by prefix and pretext, to be spitting a message about the dangers of cocaine, not the rappers' love affair with blow.]

In 1986 Len Bias (in)famously died of an apparent cocaine overdose. The NBA was robbed of … well, we will never know if he could have been better than Jordan; having LeBron's body 20 years earlier.

Friday, the PGA Tour reportedly suspended Dustin Johnson for six months following his third failed drug test; two for cocaine, one for the ganj.

Let the record show, though "I took the blows" I never took the blow; never did coke; never did drugs. [There was one time in college where I Bill Clinton-ed a puff of weed; pretending to inhale it when I should have just passed and passed it.]

And though, "regrets I've had a few" myself — and please pardon the double negative that follows — not having experimented with, tried, and/or certainly not having become addicted to drugs is not one of them. I feel bad for people who suffer from addiction. The affliction of addiction is very real and crippling.

Whether it was his first time or not, the game of basketball was robbed of … well, again, we will never know. But Bias certainly seemed to be destined for NBA super-stardom.

Where would Josh Hamilton be in baseball's record books, but for drugs? Hamilton's addiction started innocently enough. But, in his words, by the time he found himself near rock bottom — in a trailer in the woods, no running water, no electricity, doing drugs with strangers — the "drugs had destroyed my body and my mind and my spirit. I could no longer experience happiness or surprise. I couldn't remember the last time I felt spontaneous joy. Why was I even alive?"

Chris Herren, he whose name sadly and somewhat ironically became synonymous and almost homophonic with his drug du jour, heroin, is another cautionary tale.

Johnson was one of the PGA's most promising young stars. His reputation as a true athlete — possessing the sort of athleticism better-associated with the athletic prowess of NBA and/or NFL athletes — was well-documented. Johnson, as the story goes, is the sort of athlete who can dunk a basketball barefoot, which, at 6-foot-3 is pretty impressive. He once, another story goes, borrowed another player's wedge and holed-out a chip — left handed. He plays the game right handed.

I grew up in Westminster. Boredom is the most oft-cited reason why kids here — and in most suburbs — do drugs. [Maybe with the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat kids today, regardless of geography, having the world at their fingertips 24/7/365 can, at least in the prevention of traditional boredom, have one positive consequence: Fewer kids experimenting with, and getting addicted to, drugs.] Westminster had it's own well-documented heroin epidemic. Sadly, heroin took the lives of some great local kids.

In case you were curious — like I was — about the line of traffic backed-up to get into BH Health Services on Main Street in Westminster, which is located, somewhat ironically so, in what used to be a High's convenience store: BH, which seems to be one of Westminster's most booming new/small businesses, is a methadone clinic. That's just sad.

I've never understood the draw of drugs. But, Johnson's suspension is the most recent reason — and provides a timely opportunity — to try to impress upon today's kids, including but not limited to today's young athletes, the message that unfortunately seems, more often than not, to fall on deaf ears: Don't Do Drugs (Kids)! [Reread that for emphasis!]

Matt Laczkowski is a former Division I athlete and coach who writes a weekly column from Westminster. Reach him at

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun