MEDINAH, ILL. (AP) - With a great-grandfather who was a two-sport Olympian and a father who played top-level field hockey, it was hardly a surprise that Nicolas Colsaerts would be an athlete.
But a golfer, now that was a bit of a shock.
Colsaerts, you see, is from Belgium, not exactly the first country that comes to mind when it comes to golf. He is Belgium’s first Ryder Cup player, and one of the small few good enough to make the European Tour.
“Golf is pretty small back home,” Colsaerts said Wednesday. “For starters, it’s almost like everybody knows each other in Belgium. So you can imagine how much it’s a tight (golf community).”
And a very proud one these days.
Colsaerts finally got his first win this year, at the World Match Play Championship in Spain. He was an easy choice for one of captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s picks, a big hitter whose game is perfectly suited for the wide-open course at Medinah Country Club.
“I’ve hit balls next to him _ seems like just about every time we’re at the same event _ and it’s amazing how far he hits it,” Tiger Woods said. “He’s got just a beautiful golf swing. It was just a matter of time before he got things a little bit more consistent and he was going to be at this level.
“And I think he can play at this level for a very long time,” Woods added. “He has the game to do it.”
Colsaerts showed promise as a junior, playing on two Junior Ryder Cup teams, and he turned professional in November 2000 on his 18th birthday. He made it through all three stages of European Q-school, the second-youngest player to earn his card. His first two seasons were rough, but it seemed as if he turned a corner in 2003. He had his first top-10 finish, a tie for fifth at the Trophee Lancome, and was in the top 100 on the money list.
The next three years were respectable enough. Then, the bottom fell out. By 2009, he was at the A-Game International Golf Academy in Brisbane, Australia, in an attempt to salvage his career.
“How about just watching tournament golf on TV and thinking you shouldn’t be on the other side of the screen,” Colsaerts said when asked what the low point was. “When you know you’ve got this in you and you get to see it from the outside … it’s pretty difficult. When you’re 25 and you know you still have a lot of years in front of you and you just don’t really produce anything that’s going to get you there, it’s difficult to accept.
“But everybody has different paths and everyone has different careers,” he added. “You realize you want to be what you always dreamed of, so you’ve got to put your work into it, you’ve got to put your heart into it.”
Colsaerts blazed through the Challenge Tour in 2009, winning two events and finishing in the top 10 eight more teams. He’s had 10 top-10 finishes in 22 starts on the European Tour this year, including a tie for seventh at the British Open.
“I feel like I’ve come back from the dead,” Colsaerts said. “You don’t really have a lot of examples that everything goes according to play, and I’m certainly not one of them. But I’m kind of proud of my story.”