Irish Open champ Catlin eyeing world’s top-50

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John Catlin. By Getty Images

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Four and a half years ago, John Catlin was contemplating whether professional golf was still for him. Now, he’s a three-time winner on the European Tour and targeting the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Catlin’s route to the winner’s circle on the European Tour has been far from a conventional one.

The American is now known for carving his career out as a multiple winner on the Asian Tour before earning his status out in Europe, but before success came a time when he almost gave up entirely.

Back in 2016, Catlin was trying to split his time playing on both the Canadian and Asian Tours, and his game suffered as a result. It was towards the end of that year, after losing his card in Canada and suffering a disappointing weekend at the 2016 Indonesian Open, that Catlin slipped to 1018th in the Official World Golf Ranking and realised he had a decision to make: keep going, or book a flight back home to America.

“It was at the end of that year that I started wondering if this was for me, or if I really wanted to play professional golf anymore,” he wrote in his Enterprise Rent-A-Car Player Blog in February.

“I had just played in the Indonesian Open, had barely made the cut, and shot a final round 77 to finish bottom of the pack. It was only my second cut in four and a half months on either Tour and I was struggling mentally. There was a tournament the week after on the Asian Development Tour, an hour and a half drive away, and I remember the Tour telling me there was a space on the bus for me to go at 3pm if I wanted to play. At 2.57pm, I was staring on my phone at a ticket to fly home. All I had to do was click agree and purchase. But there was a little voice that said ‘don’t quit, you’re not finished yet’.

“I went, and I won that tournament, and that was when I decided to move to Thailand and really commit to give it everything I’ve got playing in Asia. It’s crazy to look back now and realise that the inner drive I have to fight through it literally stopped me from making a choice that would have altered my life massively.

“But also, I didn’t ever get into golf with a back-up option. I never thought ‘oh I could sell insurance, be a coach, or have something to fall back on’. So, when I was looking at that flight I was thinking ‘what am I going to do when I get back?’. Because of that, I didn’t hit agree, I went to the tournament and I won. I might not have done that if I hadn’t decided I was never going to give up.”

It was then that he committed to playing full time in Asia, and it was a decision that has since seen him win a multitude of times and consistently climb up the Official World Golf Ranking. He won again a year later, and followed it up with three more victories on the Asian Tour in 2018 to earn status on the European Tour.

In 2020, Catlin then broke through on the European Tour for the first time with a composed display at Valderrama, seeing off former World Number One Martin Kaymer in a thrilling battle that went to the very last hole. He credited past experiences of winning as one of the reasons he was able to get it done, and he soon proved it was no mere fluke. Three weeks later, this time in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, he won again.

Catlin struggled to keep that momentum going at the start of 2021, but in Austria, things came together once more for him. Producing an impressive seven under par final round at Diamond Country Club, Catlin earned his place in a play-off with Maximilian Kieffer, whom he defeated on the fifth play-off hole to win his third victory in his last 13 starts.  His latest win saw him rise to a career-high of 78th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and Catlin is now edging closer to his newest goal – the top 50.

“I’d love to crack that top 50 in the world,” he said. “Just get a chance to play in some Major Championships – I’ve actually never played in a Major. I’m thinking this gives me a very good chance to play in the US PGA Championship, that was kind of my goal.

“Hopefully it’s good enough and to get into those events and to have the chance to win a Major, that’s been my goal since I was a kid. Winning is never easy, it doesn’t matter what tour you’re playing on and to have gotten this one is definitely something special.”

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