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Andrew Coltart recalls winning inaugural Qatar Masters in 1998

Andrew Coltart recalls winning inaugural Qatar Masters in 1998

“To go out there and finally say that you're a winner on the DP World Tour, alongside the names of all the great players and some of your idols that have gone before was extra special.”

Ahead of the inaugural Qatar Masters in 1998, Andrew Coltart was already a three-time runner-up on the circuit he grew up dreaming of competing on. But a first win still eluded him.

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Andrew Coltart holds aloft the Mother of Pearl trophy following his victory at the 1998 Qatar Masters

Yet despite still searching for his first success on the then named European Tour, winning was already something the then 27-year-old Coltart, a former Scottish Boys and Scottish Stroke Play champion as an amateur, had experienced on the professional stage.

After turning professional in 1991, his first professional win came on home soil at the non-sanctioned Scottish Professional Championship in 1994.

Later that same year, on the other side of the world, he would celebrate international success with the first of two Australian PGA Championship titles.

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Aged 24, Coltart won the Australian PGA Championship in 2004

His second came three years later in 1997, just months before his ‘breakthrough’ on the DP World Tour, then known as the European Tour, at Doha Golf Club.

“There's no doubt that for a young kid who just wanted to play on the DP World Tour and have a card for 12 months on the Tour, to actually then become a champion was very, very special to me,” he told the DP World Tour.

Recalling his triumph in the Middle East 25 years ago, Coltart had reason for double delight. Ahead of the final round in Qatar, he had been confirmed as the PGA TOUR of Australasia Order of Merit winner for the 1997-98 season.

Two top-15 finishes at the co-sanctioned Johnnie Walker Classic and Heineken Classic in the early weeks of 2008 had helped maintain his standing atop of the Australasian Tour money list.

After a top 20 at the Dubai Desert Classic, Coltart opted to remain in the Persian Gulf and head to a brand-new event on Tour in Qatar rather than return Down Under to compete in the season-ending ANZ Tour Championship.

Buoyed by news of his Australasian Tour order of merit triumph, he overturned a two-shot deficit to 54-hole leader Andrew Sherborne to claim a two-shot victory after a closing 67.

I was probably at the peak of my powers really in those days

“I was coming into the event with a lot of confidence,” he reflected.

“I had won my second Aussie PGA Championship title, just a few months or so previous.

“Then basically on the Sunday morning [of the final round] I had been confirmed as the winner of the Aussie order of merit for 97-98.

“Obviously, things are going well. I'm pretty high. I’ve got a lot of faith in my golfing ability.

“I played lovely in the third round, carding a 65, just didn't really make any mistakes. I was hitting an awful lot of greens in regulation… I was probably at the peak of my powers really in those days.”

With no prior knowledge of the course, another element Coltart recalls from the week is a conversation he had with Tony Johnstone, another future winner in Qatar, during the lead-up to the tournament.

“We were talking about how we were struggling to get used to the greens because there was quite a particular amount of grain on the greens,” he said.

“They were difficult to try and read. They were unusual just in the way that the grain was laid out on the grass.

“But it never sort of bothered me when I came to play even though I didn’t hole a ton of putts despite playing good golf.”

A year later, after a strong DP World Tour season in which he registered six top-ten finishes, the then 29-year-old received a pick from Team Europe Captain Mark James to play in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline.

That was the fulfilment of a long-held ambition, two years after he had missed out on a debut appearance in the biennial contest at Valderrama.

“I desperately tried to qualify for that but didn't make it but it didn't really sort of disappoint me that much because I'd never ever had the hang of Valderrama.

“I don't know how I'd have ever got on there if I'd managed to qualify. It was just a golf course that I didn't get on with.

“We kept on saying from ‘98, the Ryder Cup is a by-product of you going out there and winning tournaments and fundamentally that was what you were striving to do at every event you pitched up at.”

And with this week’s 26th edition of the Qatar Masters representing the final chance for players to earn their Tour cards for the 2024 campaign, a victory could be what is required.

For many others in this week’s field, just making the cut might be enough.

Whatever the permutations for a specific player, Coltart knows the stakes are high having lost his full playing privileges at the end of the ’08 campaign before regaining them at Qualifying School a few weeks later.

“The pressure is intense. It depends what stage you are in your life. I mean, I would actually argue that the pressure is greater for those that have partners and families than it is for the young lads.

“They are just living the dream, having an opportunity to compete because they've got nothing to lose and there's not that added pressure of responsibility of looking after a family.

“That's when it gets really tough when you have no longer any exemptions, you can't fall back on any of that, and it is a pretty horrible place to be in.”

Coltart’s fellow countrymen Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson are both faced with that predicament, both looking inside from the outside of the top 116 cut-off for retention of DP World Tour membership following this week’s final regular counting event.

Yet, based on the history of this tournament, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Scot emerge triumphant.

Last year, when the event was held in March, Ewen Ferguson emulated Coltart and two-time past winner Paul Lawrie in lifting the Mother of Pearl trophy.

“We're getting the chance to see a good young crop of Scottish talent coming through, probably off the back of what Robert McIntyre has achieved,” Coltart said.

“He was in international teams alongside the likes of Grant Forrest, Connor Syme, Ewen Ferguson and Calum Hill. So those players are able to see what he's capable of achieving and they knew that their games were a match to Robert MacIntyre.

“So, he's enabling a wealth of Scottish talent to live up to their expectations and play well and become winners on Tour. Two or three of them already have done so already.

“The great thing about Qatar is that that's kind of windy conditions, which of course a lot of Scottish golfs are familiar with. So, there is a pretty good chance.

“I'm really pleased to see the Qatar Masters continuing to be on the schedule. Over the last couple of years there have been some doubts, but I think it's important and it's certainly been an important stop off in my life.”

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