The first ever Belgian to represent Europe in the competition, 29-year-old Colsaerts is realising a childhood dream that was first stoked by watching the events unfold from Kiawah Island at the 1991 Ryder Cup. He was a nine-year-old wannabe golfer in a country where the sport had not remotely entered the national consciousness and is only now coming to terms with the fact it has a Ryder Cup golfer amongst its population.
“I was watching Kiawah, and even though I was nine, I felt that it was a pretty big thing. And only growing up after, I realised that I wanted to be part of it,” Colsaerts said yesterday as he sat proudly in his blue team uniform at the Medinah Country Club.
Fast forward to 2008 and 2009 and the Ryder Cup dream had seemed even further away as Colsaerts struggled on the European Challenge Tour, the potential that had made him the second youngest player at age 18 to come through Q School being frittered away in golf’s second division.
It was a very definite low point said Colsaerts: “Just watching tournament golf on TV and thinking you shouldn’t be on the other side of the screen. It’s pretty difficult when you’re a player.
“Just looking at stuff that other people were doing that I’ve beaten regularly before, it’s pretty sad. You know, when you’re a player and you know you’ve got this in you, and you get to see it from the outside in, just as much as Ryder Cup, you’re playing on The European Tour or playing majors, 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 in anything that’s going to get you there, it’s difficult to accept.
“But like I said, everybody has different paths and everyone has different careers. You’re going through this growing as a man sort of thing and you realise 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, and after, that you become a man sort of thing.”
Colsaerts began his fightback in 2009, taking himself down to Australia for a winter’s training that immediately paid dividends, finishing the season third in the Challenge Tour rankings and leaping from outside the top 1000 of the world rankings to 127th. An even bigger breakthrough came with a maiden European Tour victory at the 2011 Volvo China Open and this year he booked his trip to the Ryder Cup by winning the Volvo World Match Play in May, although he needed a wild card from captain José Maria Olazabal to get him over the line.
“Well, this is quite an achievement,” Colsaerts said of making the team. “When you look back and you see where I was three years ago, I’m just the perfect example that if you want something really bad and you put your work into it, if you’ve got the heart and the passion, anything is achievable.
“It’s funny, because I thought about it, I don’t know if it was last night or this morning; it’s almost like I feel like I’ve come back from the dead, which is a bit of a weapon.
“We all go through different phases in our lives, especially when you’re an athlete. You don’t really have a lot of examples that everything goes according to plan. I’m certainly not one of them, but I’m kind of proud of my story.”