Well everyone else has picked their best golfers of 2009, so why not a few names that represent a different level of the sport than simply the highest money earners or the winners of the most prestigious champions. Golf On The Edge represents the unsung heroes, so here are a few players who have been outstanding in 2009 for different reasons than the normal ones.
Pablo Martin – it was only in the last few weeks of the season that the Spaniard scraped into a position on the Race To Dubai to secure his Tour Card. He ended the 2009 season 118th – only 120 got their Cards. Yet in the very first event of the new season – the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa last week – Martin won. So, from almost hating 2009 in October because he was in danger of dropping onto the Challenge Tour at best, he ended it with his first pro victory on the European Tour. Those kinds of turnarounds need to be acknowledged.
Jamie Elson – a player of such promise and potential when this decade began – a Challenge Tour title in only his third event in 2003 led to a European Tour Card a year later, but then a wrist injury led to a dramatic loss of form. From 2006 to 2009, Jamie was relegated to either minor Tours or to no golfing at all. His future looked totally barren and his chances of ever returning to the main Tour looked bleak at best. That shows just how much it meant to him when his remarkable First-to-Final Stage Qualifying School performance in this autumn brought him back on Tour. A true feel-good story. No wonder there was a tear in his eye when he talked to me in Catalunya.
Andrew Coltart – there’s always a couple of players whose seasons are almost destroyed by finishing just outside the top 115 in the money list. Andrew missed out by two places in the 2009 season and it would mean a third consecutive trip to the Qualifying School. But, instead of feeling sorry for himself, the Scot just got on with it at the School this autumn and scored a fabulous four- under-par 68 on the very last day to burst into the top 30 and get his Card. The top players can pull out their best rounds just when they need them and Andrew still has that ability. That was a very gutsy performance and this Scot is ready to return to the winner’s circle.
Edoardo Molinari – three wins on the Challenge Tour and a mass of money, a fantastic win in Asia at the end of the year plus becoming the World Cup title holder with his brother Francesco last month – who else in Europe has really had more to smile about in 2009 than the likeable Italian? Watch out for him on the main Tour this year, for sure.
Andrew Raitt – now, this guy has not been on the main Tour scene for a couple of years. In fact, it is not since the 2007 season that Andy had a Tour Card, the same year that he featured in my first Golf On The Edge book. But when someone like Andy (his potential was likened to that of Nick Faldo in his early days) has to step away from the game – as he did in 2008 – then it’s a particular joy to see him return to some kind of form – as he did this year. Andy won the PGA South Region golfer of the year title of 2009 after saying 12 months earlier that he never wanted to play professionally ever again. There’s still some decent golf left in Andy Raitt and he’ll blossom at Wentworth next year because his South Region win provides access to the PGA Championship.
Ross Biddiscombe’s books Golf On The Edge are available at golfontheedge.co.uk