• Alistair Tait

Johnny Comes Marching Home

Another week, another heart-warming story about why it pays to never give up in this game of golf.

Jonathan Caldwell could have been forgiven for doing that a long time ago.

It’s only been a month since England’s Richard Bland penned a fairy tale story at The Belfry by winning his first European Tour event in his 478th appearance. Caldwell hasn’t come close to that many tournaments. The Northern Irishman won the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika in his 48th start.

He probably figured he’d have made many more European Tour appearances than that when he won his tour card in 2008. Others would have had similar expectations of him too.

It’s hard to fly under the radar when you’re constantly compared to a guy called Rory McIlroy.

Caldwell and McIlroy played foursomes together in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down. After halving with Dustin Johnson and Colt Knost in the first foursomes’ session, they looked odds on to deliver a full point when they took an early four-hole lead on day two against Ricky Fowler and Billy Horschel. The two Ulstermen are probably still scratching their heads wondering how they lost that match 2&1.

Those of us who were there are too. It was an important match in the context of that Walker Cup. Great Britain & Ireland lost by a point. If McIlroy and Caldwell had won that match….

As Rory went on to fame and fortune, University of South Alabama graduate made nine trips to the European Tour Qualifying School. At one point he found himself working in Nevada Bob’s in his hometown of Bangor, Northern Ireland to make ends meet. Needless to say, the €145,160 cheque for winning in Gothenburg will be gratefully deposited into his bank account. Forget the money, though, the W beside his name is what counts after years of banging his head against clubhouse walls. He is the sixth member of that 2007 Walker Cup team to win on Tour following McIlroy, Danny Willett, David Horsey, Rhys Davies and John Parry.

"My immediate feelings are probably a bit of disbelief if I’m to be honest, it’s been a dream of mine for quite a long time obviously,” Caldwell said. “A lot of hard work goes into it, so it hasn’t quite sunk in yet but hopefully more to come. "In 2009 I played my first year, lost my card, played mini tours and Challenge Tour down the years, worked as well in a local golf store so it’s been a long road. But finally I’m here."

Don’t think Rory’s forgotten his former friend. He was quick to tell the assembled press just how happy he was when Caldwell got his card at the 2019 Qualifying School. Pretty sure there might be a wee text heading Caldwell’s way from the former world number one.

The 37-year-old will have received a few well deserved texts from friends and family. Indeed, his first thought on winning was to tell fellow members of Clandeboye Golf Club to “go bonkers” on his bar tab.

Quite right too. Caldwell might never win another European Tour event, but he’s a success story. He’s yet another example that dreams can come true; hard work can pay off in the end.

#JustSaying: “Reach for the furthest thing you can reach, then reach again. Sooner or later the goals that seemed way beyond you are the next natural ones to reach. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.” Calvin Peete

Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour

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