Just because you were a good player, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be a good presenter or commentator in your given sport. Nick Dougherty enjoyed a playing career that most golfers could only dream of, but when form deserted him on the course, he was able to become one of the best and most recognisable broadcasters off it. To have just one of those careers is impressive, but despite all of his accomplishments, the 39-year-old’s journey hasn’t been an easy one.
Dougherty was a stand-out amateur and a protege of Sir Nick Faldo. He won the 1999 World Boys Championship and three Faldo Junior Series events and was part of the victorious Walker Cup team in 2001. So it was with great fanfare and expectation that he turned pro just a few weeks/ months after that event. He was the next big thing in British golf.
Everything was rosy early on as he was named Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on the European Tour in 2002. His progress was derailed by glandular fever the next season, but he got his first pro win in the 2005 Caltex Open at the age of just 22, taking down European golf legends Colin Montgomerie and Thomas Bjorn in the process.
He was beginning to fulfil his vast potential, and a couple of years later he was teeing it up alongside Tiger Woods in round three of the 2007 US Open, where he was in contention.
“My biggest achievement, and something I’d love to do again, was playing with Tiger at the US Open,” Dougherty reflects. “It was a great week for me as well because I’d led the US Open after the first day. To see him in his prime, in the tournaments he really wanted to win, the Majors, was a truly remarkable experience. It was awesome. He was phenomenal that day.”
Dougherty would ultimately finish tied for 7th, his best result in the 14 Majors he played. It was another step in the right direction, and he got another win at the Dunhill Links four months later. Early the next year, he made his debut at Augusta National, where he enjoyed the most special experience of his playing career.
“The Masters is the one that stands out as most special for me, purely because I did it once. But also, Augusta is like Disney World when you’re a child. For a golf fan, it’s the Holy Grail. When you walk over the hill for the first time and look down at Amen Corner, you think ‘wow’. It’s incredible,” he says.
“Also, my mum and dad came to that one. My dad didn’t generally watch me play because he found it hard to not get too involved – typical, like a very driven father who wants the best for their child. But being a Scouser from the wrong side of the tracks, he fought for everything in his life, so he was quite bullish with me. So we tended to stay apart as I got on tour and he left me to it because he couldn’t handle it, living and dying on every shot, which I can relate to now as a parent.
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