WHEN England won their only global cricket trophy, the World T20 of 2010, Craig Kieswetter was man of the match.
So there’s little wonder that, when he embarked on his second career in pro sport, he felt like he was “taking the p***” and really ought to knuckle down and find a proper job instead.
For most men, having your face rearranged by a 90mph bouncer — as Kieswetter did when batting for Somerset against Northants in 2014 — would never be seen as a chance for a new sporting adventure.
Keep up to date with ALL the GOLF news
But after retiring at 27, having conceded permanent problems with his eyesight would never allow him to play internationally again, the former wicketkeeper-batsman is now three tournaments into his life as a pro golfer.
Just by winning a card on the third-tier MENA Tour in Asia and North Africa, Kieswetter, 29, says he has fulfilled his initial golfing ambition — after a journey which started with a trip to see legendary coach David Leadbetter.
Over breakfast near his home in the capital, the South African-born Londoner said: “As a cricketer, I was a good amateur golfer, playing off two or three.
“But it was never my idea to go pro. After retiring from cricket I went back to see family in Cape Town and was feeling a bit lost, not knowing what to do.
“For 26 years all I’d wanted to do was be a pro cricketer. My old man said, ‘You love golf, go to the States, travel around Florida and have fun’.
“There, I had a few lessons with Leadbetter, who was pretty much the first proper golf coach with Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Justin Rose and so many top players.
“He’s Zimbabwean-English and loves cricket so we had a lot of common ground and hit it off. He asked, ‘Are you looking to progress in golf?’ and I said, ‘Not really’.
“But he said, ‘There is so much potential to turn you into a professional golfer’. I said, ‘That’s cool’ but thought, ‘This guy’s clearly trying to blow smoke up my a**e’.
“But my mum, dad and brother said, ‘If he’s saying that, then give it a go’.
“I was just thinking, ‘Look, I’ve had one career in professional sport, two would be taking the p***. I have got to start living a normal life and earn an honest income’.”
But after performing well in amateur tournaments, then making top-ten finishes as an amateur in professional events, Kieswetter went through qualifying school to earn his MENA Tour card.
Since then, he has made the cut twice in three tournaments ahead of competing in Thailand next month.
Kieswetter, whose home club is Wisley in Surrey, said: “Getting on the European Tour is a long way away. It’s taken me 18 months to get a tour card but who knows? I’d love to do that.
“I am living my second dream and I want to make the most of it.
“I’m a little behind most players in golfing experience but leagues ahead in dealing with the pressure of professional sport. I had to make a birdie on the 18th to make a cut in Morocco and did it. It helped I am aware of how my body reacts to the pressure.
“Now I must learn to play tournament golf consistently — it’s like playing a Test match, gradually building an innings to score a century.”
Kieswetter started playing golf as a kid, combining it with cricket, athletics and hockey — all of which he played to State level in South Africa.
He kept up the golf during his cricketing days, regularly having a whack with Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and bowling coach David Saker on England tours.
And when he enjoyed his finest hour in the Caribbean under Collingwood’s captaincy at the World T20, that tour consisted largely of “practice, then beach, then golf, then rum”.
But when he quit cricket after what had seemed a reasonably successful comeback from that David Willey bouncer, Kieswetter admits to a certain bitterness which has, however, faded with time.
He is open and engaging when we talk, while admitting that he didn’t always show the same traits when dealing with the media as a cricketer.
He said: “I was bitter with the hierarchy and the system.
“I felt I was pigeon-holed as a one-day player and also as a ‘South African’ and that got on my nerves.
“I wasn’t like most of the other South African-born guys, I’d spent pretty much half of my childhood in the UK but I was thrown into the same category as the other guys.
“Then for two or three years, I felt I was banging down the door of the Test team and wasn’t getting a chance. I was bitter but I grew up and got over it and now look back on my cricket career with pride.”
After suffering his horrific injury — which required plastic surgery and left him with restricted vision in his right eye — Kieswetter could, though, still have continued playing County Championship cricket.
But he said: “I signed for the Warriors, the Port Elizabeth T20 franchise and realised my sight wasn’t right.
“In the day I was fine as long as the sight screens were OK but as soon as it got to dusk, I couldn’t see the ball in the glare of the lights.
“That inevitably brought more doubt into my mind. I realised my one-day career was done.
“I could have carried on, had a county career, averaged 40 and been vice-captain of Somerset but that wasn’t what drove me. I said something about ‘mediocre cricketers’ that got taken out of context at the time. I didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way.
Skirty old man
BBC’s golf commentator Peter Alliss slammed for ‘disgraceful’ comments about length of Masters winner Sergio Garcia’s fiancee’s skirt
som like it hot
Who is Laci Kay Somers? Tiger Woods’ rumoured girlfriend, Playboy model and Instagram star – all you need to know
‘I can tell her anything’
Rory McIlroy reveals how he met fiancee Erica Stoll… and why he dumped Caroline Wozniacki
Eye of the Tiger
Is Tiger Woods dating model and massive golf fan Laci Kay Somers as he prepares for long-awaited Masters return?
Sergio Garcia praises stunning fiancee Angela Akins and Seve Ballesteros for helping him win Masters
Sergio Garcia found love off course with fiancee Angela Akins and now he’s found it on course with Dubai win
Meet golf’s sexiest Wag Kelley Cahill, the girlfriend of rising Spanish starlet Jon Rahm
What are the latest odds on The Masters 2017? All the favourites and outsiders you need to know
Masters: Sergio Garcia wins his first Major after being led by spirit of Seve Ballesteros to see off Justin Rose
DOWN TO A TEE
Who is Eilidh Barbour? BBC sports presenter and new face of the Beeb’s golf coverage – all you need to know
Sergio Garcia FINALLY wins his first Major at 74th attempt as ‘Spirit of Seve’ helps him beat England’s Justin Rose in thrilling Masters play-off
on the green
Why does the Masters winner wear a green jacket and when did famous tradition begin? – all the info
‘It could be my final season’
Peter Alliss admits it could be his last Masters as BBC’s controversial commentator considers retiring, aged 86
Masters of knowledge
Cows used as lawnmowers, grass that’s painted green, a deranged gunman and a suicide… 18 secret Masters facts
Who is Kirsty Gallacher and why isn’t the Sky Sports presenter covering The Masters 2017?
ON THE TEE
Masters 2017 Sunday tee times: Joint leaders Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia head out at 7.45pm in final pair
THEY TAKE THE MICK
Phil Mickelson drops Masters bombshell by accusing players of cheating when they mark ball
Best of the Birdies
Meet the stunning golf Wags who will be cheering on the players during The Masters 2017
“I simply didn’t want to just be a county cricketer and I knew deep down my vision wasn’t good enough to get back in the England team.
“I was still young so it was quite tough. I’d achieved a lot but I’d have loved to have played Test cricket, played in an Ashes.
“Yet I was fortunate to win a World Cup, be man of the match, I had a great ride. And the injury could have been a lot worse.
“We know what happened to Phil Hughes (the Australia batsman who died after being struck by a short-pitched ball) and Mark Boucher (the South African keeper who retired after a serious eye injury). I was able to pull the plug and walk away.” Kieswetter recently attended a Lord’s dinner for every former England player, thrown by his old golfing partner Strauss, who is now national director of cricket.
And he admits he occasionally misses the camaraderie of team sport.
He said: “The hardest part of individual sport is between tournaments.
“After you’ve been used to p***ing around with your mates and playing cards on the bus for so many years, you spend a lot of time on your own.
“But I am preparing every bit as professionally as I did in cricket.
“If I don’t make it any further it will be because I just wasn’t good enough — and I can sleep with that.
“I just couldn’t cope with the idea I could have done something more . . . ”