John Brooks has always felt at ease on the golf course, provided he is not playing with anybody else. As an openly gay man and one-time elite amateur golfer, Brooks has always been forced to balance his sexuality with the conservative culture of the sport he loves. For most of his life, that meant suppressing himself, and breathing a sight of relief when the round was over and nobody had asked probing questions about his personal life.

On this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki,” I chatted with Brooks about why he keeps returning to a culture that’s been so cruel to him. After a disastrous time at the College of Charleston, where Brooks’ mental state crumbled along with his play, he stopped playing golf entirely for two years. But a couple of years after graduation, he picked up his clubs again, and wound up playing the best golf of his life. Brooks participated in two U.S. Mid-Amateurs and one U.S. Amateur Public Links. The highlight came when he played in the St. Andrews Links Trophy, an amateur international event.

Now in his early 40s, Brooks is a full-time gallery owner and has largely stepped away from the green. But he says he intends to always keep golf in his life, recognizing it is an integral part of his being, despite the complication relationship between the two.

“I think I would say, my love is more for the sport than the culture,” Brooks said. “When you start doing something at a very young age, whether it’s any kind of sport or activity, it becomes so deeply engrained in you. It becomes such a part of your identity. I have moved in and out of the game through my adult life, and have at times thought, ‘You know, I don’t need golf. I can let it go, and I will fill that void with something else.’ I have discovered that just isn’t possible for me. Even if I decide to move away from the game completely, which is kind of where I am right now, there’s still a hole.”

Brooks wrote a first-person essay in Golf Digest earlier this month about his experiences.

Click here to check out this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki Podcast”. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.