NICK DOUGHERTY was once playing with Tiger Woods and tipped as the next big thing in British golf.
But the tragic and sudden loss of his mother coupled with a downturn in form started a sad and painful demise as fear took over.
GettyNick Dougherty is known as the face of Sky Sports golf[/caption]
He had a great start to life as a professional golferAction Images
GettyDougherty married wife Di on New Year’s Eve in 2010[/caption]
However, he reignited a career in golf by succeeding David Livingstone as the main presenter for Sky Sports.
And Dougherty also tied the knot, marrying Sky Sports News presenter and former amateur golfer Di Stewart – the ex-girlfriend of Jonny Wilkinson.
Dougherty, 41, will front this week’s coverage of The Open for Sky – drawing on his intricate knowledge of the technical aspect of the game as well as his experience in front of the camera.
He has become a regular fixture for British golf fans over the years, especially around the four majors.
But, in one sense, it is bittersweet – for Dougherty could have still been competing for the trophies instead of fronting the TV coverage.
As an exciting junior and a protege of Nick Faldo, he won the World Boys Championship and was part of the Walker Cup-winning team.
And he made a smooth transition into the professional game in 2001, quickly gaining a place on the European Tour and being named Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.
A bout of glandular fever halted his progress but he earned his first pro victory in 2005 and broke into the world’s top 100.
Two years later, Dougherty led the US Open after the first round where he was a playing partner of Woods and went on to finish seventh, his best major result.
But the Masters 2008 proved a crucial turning point.
Dougherty said: “My biggest achievement, and something I’d love to do again, was playing with Tiger at the US Open. He was phenomenal that day.
“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.
“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 he came to that one and we had some lovely moments. The reason I say it was so special was I gave my mum and dad a hug on the back of the 18th on Sunday and that was the last time I hugged my mum.
“The next week I was in contention at Harbour Town and she had a heart attack. The next minute we’re there at the bedside turning the machine off and she passes away.
“It’s something quite ironic for a golfing family to have had this wonderful moment where she got to see a coming together with me and my dad, after all the butting of heads we’d had, on the grandest of stages.”
‘FEAR, ABSOLUTE FEAR’
Dougherty’s career spiralled downwards, not helped by developing a nasty slice, prompting him to miss regular cuts.
He told Golf Monthly about the “fear, absolute fear” as golf became “all-consuming” until he eventually lost his European Tour card in 2011 after one cut from 32 events.
Dougherty added: “It was awful, and the bit that was really hard was everyone treating me like I was sick. I just wanted people to leave me alone. It got really dark.”
Doughtery retired in 2016 and is now relishing his role as Sky Sports’ main man, thriving on a different kind of pressure in the broadcasting world – although there remains that nagging element doubt because of the “scars of life”.
Away from the course, Dougherty and Stewart married on New Year’s Eve in 2010.
Prince Harry, Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall were among the high-profile guests at St Andrew’s University chapel.
They have two children – son Max, ten, and seven-year-old daughter Bridget.
Di is still involved in sports broadcasting and presenting – recently commentating at Wimbledon before heading to Hoylake for The Open.
Getty Images – GettyDougherty’s career spiralled downwards after the death of his mum[/caption]
Getty Images – GettyDi was also an excellent golfer growing up[/caption]
Dougherty won three pro events including the BMW International Open in 2009Action Images – Reuters
GettyDi is a presenter for Sky Sports and does other broadcasting and presenting[/caption]