Nicolas Colsaerts: The Born Again Belgian
As well known in European golfing circles for his prodigious length as his laissez-faire mentality and demeanour, “back from the dead” Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts was in fine form ahead of his Ryder Cup debut at Medinah Country Club.
It has indeed been a remarkable tale of rags to riches for the 29 year old, who just three years ago was ranked a lowly 1,305th in the Official World Golf Ranking, gripped in a struggle to even claim his European Tour playing rights, but this week Colsaerts will realise his childhood dream of representing Europe in the biennial clash in Illinois.
“This is quite an achievement for me,” Colsaerts reflected ahead of the second day of practice on the outskirts of Chicago. “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 badly 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 last night and I almost 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 that often.
“I'm certainly not one of them, but I'm kind of proud of my story.”
Having hailed from a family ripe with sporting pedigree – his great grandfather represented Belgium in the Olympics while his father was a top level hockey player – Colsaerts’ path to a sporting career was always written and in this, the 39th edition of the transatlantic competition, he will become the first from his country to play for Team Europe after claiming one of José María Olazábal’s Captain’s Picks following the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last month.
“Golf is pretty small back home, it's a pretty small community,” he admitted. “You know, for starters, it's almost like everybody knows each other in Belgium, so you can imagine how much it's a tight-knit community it is.
“Since the announcement of my captain's pick, it has been very well received. We got covered in a lot of newspapers and some of the TV channels back home bought the rights for television.
“So the reaction of not only the golfing community but the sporting community back home has been exceeding all our expectations.”
His first taste of The Ryder Cup came as a nine year old watching the 1991 event from Kiawah Island, an experience that provided the young Colsaerts with a both sense of scale and an introduction to the man that would shape his golfing outlook.
“Idol wise, there was only one guy that I really liked when I was young. It was Fred Couples. And funnily enough, he is an assistant captain this week of course.
“Freddie just always seemed to be a cool cat, and the way he walks and the way he played; I just always loved the laziness about him. I think I walk kind of the same way.”
Colsaerts does indeed have a lot to compare with American Vice Captain Couples in both his big hitting – the Brussels man is statistically the longest driver of any of the 24 players on show in Chicago at an average of over 317 yards – while quotes often littered with “dudes” and “mans” reveal a laid-back disposition that verges on the horizontal.
The qualities he will bring to Team Europe both in his golfing ability and as a personality will not be lost on Captain Olazábal.
“It's really special. As much as I was trying to picture how much it was going to mean to me, it's far more intense already of anything I could think of.
“I've been dreaming of playing in this for probably 20 years, and when you realise you're going to be part of it, it's far bigger than everything I could imagine.
“You really have the sense that everyone is backing you up. You know you're playing for the flag and you know you're playing for the team.”
The opportunity evidently means a great deal to Colsaerts, who spoke at length about his unique journey with both a sense of philosophy and a perspective that has endeared him to both his team-mates, the media and golf fans alike.
“Everybody has different paths and everyone has different careers. You're going through all this and growing as a man 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.”
A journey from boy to man complete, and with his Ryder Cup ambitions materialising before his eyes, the stage is set for Colsaerts to leave his mark upon the contest he has aspired towards for so long.
Born again, born again, watch out America, cool cat Nicolas Colsaerts is born again.