John Catlin liked what he saw after hitting 3-wood from 268 on No. 18
(European Tour photo)
John Catlin's road to success hasn't been as quick as young stars like Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, or Matthew Wolff.
But don't be surprised if Catlin, 29, finds his way into the mix with them soon.
Just three weeks removed from holding off major winner Martin Kaymer to win the Andalucia Masters at the famed Valderrama in Spain, Catlin came from behind in Northern Ireland, posting a final round 64 to win the Irish Open.
Catlin, from the Sacramento, Calif. area, played golf for University of New Mexico. He won back-to-back Northern California match play titles (2010 and 2011), and did the same at the Memorial Amateur in 2011 and 2012.
In 2012 Catlin cracked the top-100 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings, recording top-10 finishes at the Southern and Sunnehanna Amateurs. He began his professional career on the Canadian Tour, and quickly graduated to the Asian Tour. He won three times there in 2018, including a win at the Thailand Open.
Although Catlin earned European Tour status via his success on the Asian Tour, he had to scrape and claw to get into fields any way possible, including sponsors' exemptions. Before his first victory at Valderrama, Catlin got stung by COVID-19 rules, being withdrawn from the English championship after getting nabbed eating at a restaurant with his caddie.
You never know how these things are going to work out.
Catlin took it in stride, winning wire-to-wire at Spain's Valderrama when Martin Kaymer bogeyed the 72nd hole, failing to force a playoff.
Like PGA Champion Collin Morikawa, Catlin is a member of AmateurGolf.com who also competed on the AmateurGolf.com Tour. For most golfers looking to forge a career in the game, Catlin's path through golf's international tours is likely a more realistic approach than the one taken by Morikawa, Wolff, or Hovland. All of those players were already household names before turning pro, signing endorsement deals and getting sponsor's exemptions.
Catlin, on the other hand, had to work his way up to bigger purses and travel thousands of miles to remote parts of the world to do it.
This week brought him to Northern Ireland's Galgorm Resort & Spa, where the Irish Open was moved due to 14-day Covid quarantine protocols in Ireland. The pasture-lined fairways at Galgorm brought some attention to a local farmer, who perched himself along the fence in a lounge chair to watch the action, surrounded by his herd. A photo of that scene went viral on social media.
I always enjoy watching the European Tour. It's fun waking up on a Sunday morning and catching the final few holes, at venues that are often surrounded by mountains, forests, or castles. Weather -- it's always a factor.
After frost delays pushed play into the late afternoon twilight, players could see their breath. The ball wasn't traveling as far, and putts had to be hit harder.
Watching Catlin flush a 3-wood into the center of the final green from 268 yards and two-putt for victory, I couldn't help but wonder. 'Has playing against players from all different cultures, on all types of courses, rounded Catlin into the kind of player who could one day compete at the majors?'
He certainly thinks so.
"I've always wanted to play in the majors," said Catlin, who will leave Northern Ireland ranked No. 84 in the world. "That's the only level of golf I haven't played at. Hopefully I can win one of those as well."
When he does, Catlin will become the third AmateurGolf.com alumni to do so, following Patrick Reed (Masters) and Collin Morikawa (PGA).