Step foward Russell Chrystie, a 28-year-old from Crawley who, by his own admission, felt in a state of “depression” a few weeks back and is still weighing up whether or not to continue pursuing a playing career but is suddenly feeling golf is good again.
Helped by a 10-under-par 61 over the New Course, he won the 36-hole St Andrews Classic, the latest event on Paul Lawrie’s Tartan Pro Tour, on Tuesday then, the following day, he’d been added to the field for next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“It’s a nice bonus,” admitted Christie of securing an invitation that will see him tee up in the $5 million pro-am, which takes place at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, in what could be its strongest-ever field.
World No 2 Rory McIlroy and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick are headlining a cast that also includes Shane Lowry, Billy Horschel, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed.
“I was waiting on emails to confirm whether I was in or not,” added a chirpy Chrystie. “It was looking doubtful, but I guess that Tuesday helped my case.”
Chrystie gave up a well-paid job - “I was managing 40 drivers and had a salary that someone at 20-year-old probably couldn’t even dream about” - to carve out a career in golf.
He worked as a caddie at Queenwood in England, Old Collier in Florida then, after moving to Fife with his girlfriend, for the Links Trust in St Andrews, building up a network of contacts and backers along the way that provided the platform for a shot at playing himself.
“This year has been a strange one for me as I hadn’t hit a shot or played a tournament in five weeks before my win,” admitted Chrystie. “A lot of different opportunites have come up recently and I’ve been trying to think about exploring them potentially because this game is so hard that I have let it get to me.
“I spent the first couple of weeks of my break almost in a state of depression, really. I was lazing around and couldn’t find any motivation. I was eating unhealthily and ended up really slacking.
“But, after being away with my girlfriend, I came back feeling refreshed. If I am being honest, I am still quesiniong whether I want to do this and if I actually enjoy it. But this (his win) is awesome as it only helps to make me believe I can shoot the scores I thought I had in me.”
As he’s competing in the Dunhill Links, the next event on the Tartan Pro Tour, set up by Lawie two years ago to provide more playing opportunities for Scottish-based professionals, will be taking place at Ladybank.
“It’s for the players and there’s no question that Paul has done an amazing job,” observed Chrystie. “He must have thought I was nuts, but I remember being at a EuroPro Tour event and I legged it over so that I could thank him for what he was doing because it’s been a great thing.“