Commentary: Colsaerts' cautionary tale

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium celebrates winning the 2011 Volvo China Open Golf Tournament in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Sunday, April 24, 2011.

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium celebrates winning the 2011 Volvo China Open Golf Tournament in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Sunday, April 24, 2011.

Nicolas Colsaerts is living proof that golf is a cruel game. The Belgian may be celebrating winning his first European Tour title after victory in the Volvo China Open, but his road to success has been rocky to say the least.

The Belgian became only the second from his homeland to win on the European Tour, 37 years after Phillipe Touissant won the 1974 Benson & Hedges International Open.

Many think Colsaerts should have joined Touissant in the winner’s circle sooner.

Me included.

I watched Colsaerts win his European Tour card at the 2000 European Tour Qualifying School at San Roque Golf Club in Southern Spain. South Africa’s Desvonde Botes took the top card that year, but Colsaerts was by far the better story even though he earned the fifth card.

The Belgian was 18-years-old back in 2000, the second-youngest player to gain his tour card. Colsaerts hit it a mile, didn’t seem to have a care in the world and played the game as if he was meant to be a superstar.

It seemed only a matter of time until he won. A long time, as it turned out. The China Open marked Colsaerts’ 181st European Tour event.

In the 10 years since Colsaerts dazzled in Spain, he made another five trips to Q-School. All unsuccessful. He finally gained a foothold on the European Tour after graduating from the 2009 European Challenge Tour. Colsaerts finished 67 on last year’s money list and led the tour in driving distance.

“A lot of people were expecting big things of me and for me to win tournaments a long time before,” Colsaerts said. “I lost my card, I got on tour pretty young, and I didn’t know how to handle myself. The lowest point was 2008, and I had to get my life back together.

“I was doing basically every wrong thing you could possibly think of. One day I woke up though – I went to Australia for four months, and it changed me forever. It’s been a hell of a journey looking back, from when I was 18 and got on tour. I didn’t really have any idea of the level and how high you had to raise your game to play on tour. I never lost faith of getting to where I am, and I’m glad I did it this way.”

Colsaerts should be a salutary lesson to any teenager who thinks he is going to take the professional game by storm. Not many can emulate Rory McIlroy and succeed. For every McIlroy there are at least 10 Nicholas Colsaerts who take years to find their feet – and another 90 who never do.

Most would do well to stay in the amateur game longer, perhaps play college golf and mature a bit before they jump to the professional ranks.

As the Colsaerts story proves, professional golf is a tough place in which to grow up.

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