By Jim Black
Not even a course-record 62 last week at Downfield was enough to persuade Alastair Forsyth that he is ready to re-enter the European Tour rat race.
Having turned 40 in February, the 6ft 3in Glaswegian is content for the time being at least to lead a double life as an occasional Tartan Tour player and a fledgling coach at Mearns Castle Golf Academy on the outskirts of his native city.
There was a time when Forsyth had loftier ambitions and the results to back them up. A two-time winner on the European Tour, he was seldom out of place competing at the top level.
But six years after his second victory in the 2008 Madeira Islands Open, Forsyth, whose maiden success came in the 2002 Malaysian Open four years after turning pro, felt that he’d had enough scratching around trying to make a living.
A fourth consecutive visit to Qualifying School in November 2013 had yielded the 27th and final card and Forsyth was ready to go again on the circuit.
But 12 months later, as he reflected on finishing 157th after 24 events in the Race to Dubai, he decided that he’d had enough of splashing the cash to finance a globetrotting lifestyle, the constant travel and hotel rooms and being away from wife Allison and daughter Charlotte.
So, after a great deal of soul-searching, he took the momentous decision to follow a different career path, one that was far less expensive and time-consuming.
“I met up with Steve McAllister, whom I’ve known for a long time, near the end of 2014 before deciding not to go to Tour School,” he recalls.
“Over half-a-dozen coffees and a two-hour chat, Steve emphasised the need for me to be absolutely sure in my own mind that I was doing the right thing because it represented a huge decision.
“He had been in a similar position and had also won twice on the European Tour, but, after returning to Q School a few times, he took the decision to stop and do other things.
“He is a very level-headed individual and after talking to him and one or two others, I had a gut feeling that I knew what I wanted to do.
“I had definitely got to that stage. I had watched some guys transition to the Senior Tour after struggling for ten years on the main circuit and they were still struggling and I thought, really, that’s not me.
“Obviously these individuals are devoted to the game but I don’t know how they manage to make a living.
“I had given myself three, maybe four years where I tried to get back to the level I had once been at and it wasn’t happening.
“I’d been doing the same thing for a long time and I wasn’t enjoying it any more. The travel, the hotels, the expense and being separated from your family has got to be worthwhile and the day came two years ago that I wasn’t prepared to continue along that path.
“Now I am much happier being a coach 50 per cent of the time and a player the other 50. I’m enjoying working with absolute beginners through to professionals, but I’m also still enjoying the competitive side.”
Forsyth has also negotiated the first year of his PGA course and, after passing all his exams, is resigned to another two years of hard work and expense.
“It’s time-consuming and at £4,000 a year, it isn’t cheap but to be able to play on the Tartan Tour and also teach it has to be done,” he says. “So I’m prepared to take a bit of pain for three years.”
While he is careful to avoid saying “never again”, Forsyth stressed that he isn’t suffering from any form of withdrawal symptoms now that he has given up his life on the road.
“I’m not saying 100 per cent that I’ll never try the European Tour again,” he stresses.
“If I was clearing up on the Tartan Tour every week I’d seriously consider going back, but until that happens I’m quite happy with what I’m doing.”
There’s no doubt that his blemish-free 11-under-par 62 at Downfield that earned him a five-shot victory in the RRS Discovery Pro-Am and a cheque for £950 whetted the appetite to a certain extent and confirmed that he’s still got it.
But he insists: “If I was playing like that every other day possibly. But it was one of those days when everything in my game came together and dovetailed perfectly.
“I have been playing quite nicely for a wee while and giving myself lots of chances. But it was the first time I’d played the course so maybe I’m better off not knowing where the trouble lies.
“Downfield is tree-lined, a bit like Wentworth, and I managed to put myself on the fairway all day and my putter was also really hot.
“But I didn’t see it coming. I’d finished fifth in the 36-hole Dumfries Pro-Am the previous weekend feeling that I should have done better and not made daft mistakes and missed putts.
“But it wasn’t the end of the world and I didn’t hit a single shot between Sunday and teeing up on Thursday morning because of other commitments.
“I have played a wee bit on and off on the Tartan Tour this year, though, and I find it quite enjoyable; a lot more relaxed and friendly and involving more chat than you are used to walking down the fairway compared to the European Tour. So while it’s competitive, it’s also a bit more chilled out.
“And I know if I play well I’ve got a chance of winning and if I perform half-decent, I can still be there or there about, which is nice.
“Obviously we are playing at a different level, but there are probably a top five who are very good and feature all the time and a top ten who are very capable and feature most of the time.
“There are two or three players who are probably good enough to have a go on the main tour, but as far as my own aspirations are concerned, I would have to be doing things like shooting 62 a lot more often to have a realistic shout.
“Meantime, I’m quite happy and enjoying what I’m doing at Mearns Castle and striving to build on that. Teaching gives me a different sort of buzz and my practice nowadays is actually playing golf.
“I don’t get the chance to practise very much in the normal sense, but the more I play the sharper I feel and the fewer daft mistakes I make.”
Forsyth admits that he enjoyed a brief comeback at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in July in what was his biggest event since 2014.
But he adds: “I was a bit disappointed with my scoring on the first day when I shot 83 in very windy conditions.
“I was playing OK going into the tournament and I did quite nicely on the Friday even though my 71 didn’t really count by then.
“But it was nice to be there and it was good fun to catch up with a few old faces.
“However, I said when I stopped playing full-time that unless I got my game to a level where I feel I would need it to be, which would have to be consistent, I won’t be rushing back to the European Tour.”