The tremendous success big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts has enjoyed on The European Tour this season has perhaps taken a few observers by surprise, but one man who saw it coming was his friend and compatriot Pierre Relecom.
During their formative years the pair would often practise together at Royal Waterloo, their home club on the outskirts of the Belgian capital Brussels, and from a very early age it soon became clear to the younger man that Colsaerts was blessed with a precocious talent.
Sure enough Colsaerts burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 18 year old in 2000, when he became the second youngest player to negotiate all three stages of the Qualifying School and get a shot at The European Tour.
When his form and fortunes fluctuated over the subsequent years it became a source of mystery to Relecom, who would cast admiring glances in Colsaerts’ direction whenever the two men found themselves next to one another on the practice range.
Colsaerts’ naturally sunny off-course disposition was understandably affected by his struggles on Tour, but the turning point came with a trip to Australia in the winter of 2008, as Relecom noted.
He said: “Three years ago Nicolas was really struggling and was quite low, which was unusual for him because he’s normally so happy. But then he went over to Australia in the winter, got his game and his mind together, and when he came back he seemed like a different player and a different person, because he’s blossomed so much since then. But it was just a change in his mentality, because I’ve always known what a great player he was.
“If you see him on the range or during a practice round, he’s without doubt one of the best ball-strikers in the world. He hits it such a long way off the tee but he also hits it so pure, and now his iron play is just as solid. It’s almost a surprise when he misses a fairway or a green these days, because his game is just so good. So I wasn’t surprised when he won in China – not at all. It was great for him and great for golf in Belgium. What he’s done over the past few years has been really inspiring, and hopefully we can get a few more of us onto The European Tour now.”
Relecom’s more immediate goal is to ensure a full season on the Challenge Tour next term, having finished outside the top 100 of the Rankings last year due to the limited starts afforded to him by his lowly category.
Two months ago, however, the 25 year old won the third tier Allianz Tour’s Qualifying School, which has both increased his playing opportunities and improved his prospects of following Colsaerts’ lead.
He said: “With four Allianz tournaments on the Challenge Tour this season, my win at the Qualifying School guaranteed me four more appearances. Unfortunately I missed the cut by one shot in my first three events on the Challenge Tour, but the standard on the Tour is so strong now that if you are not at the top of your game, it’s very difficult to make the weekend. But I’ve played well here this week [at the Telenet Trophy], and my [third round] 66 here will give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, and hopefully my results on the Challenge Tour will now improve.”
As for Colsaerts, who donated the yellow jacket he was given after his victory at the Volvo China Open to the club, the pair’s paths have not crossed since he became a European Tour champion last month.
But Relecom is relishing the chance to congratulate his friend in person the next time he returns to his old stomping ground.
He said: “We’re both travelling a lot so it makes it difficult to speak to each other, but we keep in touch as much as we can through text and Facebook. I’m not sure when he’s coming home, but I’m sure I’ll see him back at the club soon. Because we know so many people at the club it can be quite difficult to find the time to practise, so most of the time he comes in the late afternoon or evening, when there aren’t so many people around!”