Colsaerts spearheading the rise of Belgian golf

5/25/2013 10:39:00 AM
Nicolas Colsaerts   (EuropeanTour)
Nicolas Colsaerts (EuropeanTour)
Nicolas Colsaerts is the embodiment of everything the Telenet Trophy represents – local players developing through the Royal Belgian Golf Federation (RBGF) and the Challenge Tour before going on to make an indelible mark on The European Tour and The Ryder Cup.

This week’s Telenet Trophy takes place at the Royal Waterloo Golf Club course which the two-time European Tour winner now calls his home club, and the President of the club, Philippe Relecom, also happens to be the President of the RGBF.

Colsaerts is now the pride of Belgian golf after putting the European nation on the map with a stunning performance in the opening day of The 2012 Ryder Cup in Medinah, playing what became a crucial part in one of the tournament’s great comebacks.

Relecom, whose son Pierre is a seasoned Challenge Tour pro, is delighted that his federation’s project has a figurehead and hopes Colsaerts will be a catalyst to bring the game to the wider population in Belgium.

“I never think a player is a ‘product’ of anything,” said Relecom. “He does it all by himself - a Federation or group never plays for a player - but you need a good structure. His success has been unbelievable.

“The important thing for us with this event is to give the opportunity to our amateur and pros to play at home on nice courses and to receive exchanged invitations for other Challenge Tour events.

“In Belgium we are trying to develop golf but we have only 55,000 players playing the game so it’s difficult. The problem in Belgium is that it’s not as geared towards sports like England or Australia or America.

“We’re trying to grow up as a golf nation and I would say we’re having more and more success, the fields in the Telenet Trophy are getting stronger and stronger.

“We need to have more and more youngsters playing golf and invest in the future. Then we will get more talented players like Nicolas.”

Belgian football is an example of the success of grassroots structures in sport, with several Belgian players playing in the biggest leagues in Europe and forming one of the strongest national teams the country has ever seen.

Relecom believes there is plenty of room for the game of golf in the lives of kids and thinks this could go hand-in-hand with football.

“Football is more popular here, you see football fields everywhere,” he said. “Youngsters here play football maybe three of four hours a week so there is a gap there which we could use to get the kids that are playing football to play golf too.

“We need to have more municipal courses, we don’t have enough public courses so for me the future is about getting more of them.

“We need to convince those people through the summer to get them practicing golf, at pitch-and-putts like in Ireland or Scotland. We need to get them immediately in a structure with professionals and lessons so that they are growing up with the game and then going to bigger clubs to develop.

“If you get more people educated about golf and more serious about golf they will improve. This will make the country more sports-minded, where they are spending money and time on golf, and this is the big goal in Belgium.”