ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – There’s nothing like doing a proper job to inspire a sports person to rededicate themselves to their profession.
Ask Andrew Coltart.
Coltart is back playing in the British Open after fulfilling a different role the previous two Opens.
Coltart got the top of the leaderboard when he moved to 6 under par after a birdie at the 18th hole. That put him in joint first place early in Round 1, along with John Daly and Rory McIlroy, before McIlroy distanced himself with a new course-record 63.
Coltart says putting in long days outside the ropes at the last two British Opens probably accounted for his sterling play.
This time last year, Coltart was working in the media centr as a commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live. He spent the first round at Turnberry following Tom Watson. It was his second year in a row working the championship for radio.
The Scot was working at Turnberry last year to make some much-needed cash. He wasn’t making much money on the golf course at the time. Besides working for the BBC, Coltart did some commentating sessions for Sky Sports last year.
Coltart has struggled with his game in recent years. He is trying to rediscover the game that made him a two-time European Tour winner and earned him a spot on the 1999 European Ryder Cup team.
The Ryder Cup player had to go back to the European Tour Q-School last year to regain his card. He only qualified for St Andrews through International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale.
Working outside the ropes rather than playing inside them was hard for a man who had played in 11 British Opens between 1991-2002. The ’93 Open at Royal St. George’s was the only one he missed in that stretch.
“It really inspires you again,” Coltart said. “You’re on the other side of the ropes and you’re watching the golf from a different perspective. You want to be there. It’s inspirational watching these guys play in these majors. It helped me to get back out here.”
After 13 seasons between 1994 and 2006 when he was only outside the top 100 of the European Tour money list once, Coltart has tumbled off the European radar. He’s been no better than 122nd on the money list the last three seasons.
No wonder the 40-year-old was trying to forge a career in broadcasting. “I was wondering what was out there, how much longer I could go on,” he admits. “And struggling. It was pretty difficult. The family were making sacrifices. I wasn’t getting a chance to spend time with the family. It was pretty demoralizing.
“Your self-esteem was quite low and you were wondering what you were going to do. You were starting to ask questions.”
One good round in the British Open doesn’t answer those questions. After all, Coltart is 151st on the European Order of Merit after 16 events this season with just 68,252 euros in earnings. He’ll probably need to earn somewhere in the region of 275,000 euros to retain his tour card.
Coltart probably won’t win this year’s Open, but another three good rounds would put a halt to thoughts of heading down a new career path.