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  • Alistair Tait

The road less travelled to golf success

What was it Robert Frost said about taking the road less travelled making all the difference? American John Catlin has done just that and has three European Tour victories to his name.

The latest came after a playoff win over Maximilian Kieffer in the Austrian Golf Open, Catlin’s third victory in 13 European Tour starts. He’s only played 45 in total, 43 of them since he joined the European Tour full time in 2019.

Catlin arrived in Austria 124th on the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s hoping the win, which earned him a cheque for €147,370 and moved him to 24th on the Race to Dubai, will get him far enough up the world order to play in next month’s PGA Championship.

"I’d love to crack that top 50 in the world and play in a major championship,” Catlin said. “I’ve never actually played in one. I think this gives me a good chance to play in the PGA Championship; that was my goal. Hopefully it’s good enough. To get in those events and have a chance to win a major, that’s been my goal since I was a kid. It would be nice to have that opportunity.”

Catlin has stepped out of his comfort zone to try to reach his ultimate goal of playing the PGA Tour. He carried his sticks around Asia before he settled into the European circuit. Three Asian Tour wins in 2018 earned him a European Tour card. He’s clearly made the most of it.

The Sacramento, California native is one of several Americans along with Kurt Kitayama, David Lipsky and Julien Suri following in the recent footsteps of Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein by using the European Tour to hone their skills for the PGA Tour.

Why more don’t do it is a mystery.

The Korn Ferry Tour is a great PGA Tour feeder circuit. It’s extremely competitive. Even a cursory look down its money list tells you there are plenty of guys who’ve already played on the PGA Tour looking to get back there, along with a slew of former college players destined to make a name for themselves. Will Zalatoris’s Korn Ferry time was much talked about as he finished second to Hideki Matsuyama in the Masters.

However, the European Tour has huge benefits over the Korn Ferry Tour. The chance to experience more of the world shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, and is almost too good an opportunity to miss: different cultures, different currencies, foods, languages, and different courses and conditions to what Catlin and co are used to back home.

The University of New Mexico graduate has become a more rounded, more worldly individual as a result, as he recently indicated to Global Golf Post’s Joy Chakravarty:

“We Americans tend to be poor travellers,” Catlin said. “We get too comfortable in our own country because everything seems to be easier.
“Being away from home and doing all the travel is a sacrifice that you’ve got to make. You learn so much about your game and about yourself. The last couple of years in Europe, I have learned a lot playing in absolutely contrasting weather conditions and playing golf courses of completely different styles.
“I think following a path like this will also teach you things about yourself. It has for me. Work ethic when things get tough and I was barely hanging on financially was a big part of that, but I think it also reinforced that never say die attitude I have.
“Playing in Asia and Europe has been the best move. I’d recommend it to any young golfer.”

Playing the European Tour has helped Koepka win four major championships, and it’s certainly working well for Austria’s new national champion.

#JustSaying: “I didn’t travel a lot when I was a kid so it’s pretty exciting adapting to different courses, different grasses, getting used to different cultures, food and different nationalities. I think it will help me as a golfer and a person.” Kurt Kitayama

Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour

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According to Catlin, it's cheaper to play Euro & Asian tour than KFT, and better chance to accrue world ranking points....

Apr 26, 2021
Replying to

Agree with the ranking & points angle... IF they can get the starts. I personally know of others who wanted to follow the trail Uihlein & Koepka blazed... but without a Chubby greasing the skids (& ET Q-school conflicts if they washed out here), it was a no go.

I'm totally ignorant on how an American can get Asian starts these days. But I do remember the likes of Payne Stewart, Pavin, Maggert and Lehman easily being able to go to Asia to play back in the "olden days" before the Hogan/KFT tour became the thing. I have little doubt their Asian experience helped prepare Maggart and Lehman dominate their Hogan Tour seasons those first 2 years.


Apr 20, 2021

Agree Europe (or Asia) would be a great place for more Americans to go to get starts and hone their skills if they wash out of KFT q-school and are left with no status over here... (like all the names you missioned)...

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