Duncan Stewart has credited Scottish Golf Support Limited for helping him almost reach the European Tour last season – and hopes again being part of the four-player programme in 2014 can lead to another year of success.
SGSL, the partnership backed by the Scottish Government to help the country’s young professionals progress in their respective careers, has announced its support to a quartet of players for the year ahead: Stewart and his fellow Challenge Tour compatriot David Law, plus Ladies European Tour duo Pamela Pretswell and Sally Watson.
Launched in 2010, SGSL was given a £1million investment by sportscotland to be used over at least five years to assist Scotland’s most promising young professionals in the transition from the amateur ranks, harnessing the combined expertise of sportscotland, the Scottish Golf Union, Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association, and the Professional Golfers’ Association.
Each of the four players selected will receive £23,000 in direct funding support this season. The funding can be used for winter training costs, competition expenses, coaching and other specialist support provision, based on each individual’s requirements. In return, the players will support SGU, SLGA and ClubGolf activities, such as squad sessions and junior golf clinics.
Players also have access to the full range of service provision from the sportscotland institute of sport including; medical, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning and psychology.
Stewart, like Pretswell, were both recipients of funding and support in 2013, with the Grantown on Spey player enjoying a fine rookie season on the Challenge Tour circuit. Stewart claimed four top ten finishes, including a share of second spot at the Kazakhstan Open, en route to a 20th place placing in the end-of-season rankings – just five spots from securing a European Tour card.
"It wasn't just the financial side that made a difference - it was having access to the institute’s resources." - Duncan Stewart
Having sold shares in himself - with ex-Open champion Paul Lawrie among those backing him - to fund his graduation from the EuroPro Tour in 2012, Stewart felt the support package he received from SGSL, including both direct financial support and world-class coaching and sport science support from the sportscotland institute of sport, was pivotal to his success.
“I’m delighted to receive Scottish Golf Support Ltd funding again this year,” said 29-year-old Stewart. “There is no doubt in my mind it played a huge role in my success last season. It wasn't just the financial side that made a difference - it was having access to the institute’s resources.
“I don't think it was just a coincidence that my season took off after I started working with Kris Dun (sport psychologist) and Dr Malcolm Fairweather (head of science and innovation). I’m looking forward to working with them again this year and hopefully it will be another successful year.”
Two-time Scottish Amateur champion Law, 22, hopes to benefit from the funding as he seeks to thrive in his first season on the Challenge Tour. The Aberdonian, who came through the SGU ranks and is mentored by Lawrie, gained full paying rights via his efforts on the Pro Golf Tour in Europe last season, including a second professional victory.
“Scott Henry and Duncan Stewart have told me how much they have benefitted from the programme, so I'm looking forward to all the support and my first season on the Challenge Tour,” added Law.
Pretswell and Watson are also looking to further flourish this season after their efforts in 2013. Bothwell Castle’s Pretswell topped the LET Access Series Order of Merit in 2012 to achieve her Ladies European Tour card, finishing 60th in the merit standings last year, including a share of fourth spot at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.
Pretswell, 24, said: “The support I have received from Scottish Golf Support Ltd has just been incredible and I can't thank the board enough for their continued support. The financial support is fantastic, especially as the LET has now become a more global tour with a large part of the season now being played in places such as Australia, China and South Africa.
“The additional support services available, such as sports psychology and physiotherapy, are so beneficial and ensure we are supported in every aspect of our training, preparation and recovery. Scottish Golf Support Ltd has, without a doubt, played a major role and been extremely helpful in helping me make the transition from amateur to LET Access player to LET professional. I found my feet last season and my main goal is finish in the top 30 on the Order of Merit this season.”
Stanford University graduate Watson, meanwhile, has embarked on her debut LET season, after coming through the LET Tour School in December. The Edinburgh-born 22-year-old, above, has set her sights on winning the Rookie of the Year award. “I have no doubt that the support provided (by the SGSL) gives me the greatest opportunity of accomplishing this,” she added.
SGSL will continue to engage the services of former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart and Pete Cowen, the highly respected coach of a number of leading players, to support the quartet, as well as other younger players at SGU and SLGA level.
Ongoing institute support is also being given to Kylie Walker, who has had the maximum of three years funding from SGSL, and two-time Scottish Boys champion Scott Henry, who lost his European Tour card last season but won almost 200,000 euros.
Louise Martin, CBE, chair of sportscotland, said: “It’s fantastic to hear the value the players place on the support from SGSL – both financial and in terms of services from the sportscotland institute of sport. Our aim was always to ensure that a tailored package of support was created for each of the players to give them the best opportunity to make the very tough transition from amateur to professional.”
The four golfers selected for 2014 each meet the minimum requirements of having full playing rights on the European Challenge Tour or Ladies European Tour, being in the early stages of playing professional golf and shown a willingness to engage with and maximise the support being offered.
Duncan Stewart: Doubling up on support
As well as receiving SGSL backing this year, Duncan Stewart - along with Pamela Pretswell - will also benefit from the support of Team Scottish Hydro in 2014. For more information, click here.