Problems mount for Scottish golf

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Walk the grounds at Augusta National this week and the prospect of hearing a Scottish accent is remarkably high. Inside the ropes it’s a different story.

It is no surprise to note that the depth of young talent coming through on tour from Scotland is not healthy.

There is only one Scot under the age of 30 who holds a full European Tour card. And he’s 29 years old.

The world rankings don’t make much better reading, either, with only one Scot inside the top 100.

This week, only two Scottish players managed to make it to Augusta, and they both missed the cut. One of them, Sandy Lyle, got an invite thanks to winning the tournament 29 years ago. The other, Russell Knox, is from Inverness but was raised a golfer in the United States. And, even then, his Scottish twang is still questionable.

As reported by the Sunday Herald, it is expected that Scottish Golf, the administrative body who oversee the development of our young amateur golfers, could lose a substantial amount of funding as sportscotland look set to introduce funding cuts.

Considering the almost endless PR fluff this country was fed with regards to hosting a Ryder Cup and how much of a ‘legacy’ it would leave, it must be a bitter pill for those in charge at Scottish Golf to have their hard work undone by decisions that are outwith their control yet seriously impact their ability to do their job.

With the resignation of some ‘performance’ figures at Scottish Golf in recent months, the body will likely introduce it’s third overhaul of its performance strategy in six years. Now, with even less money to implement the next plan of action, the job just got even harder to produce golfers that will be able to compete at the very top in world golf.

One former coach at Scottish Golf told me there was a ‘serious concern’ at the depth of the talent pool in Scotland.

At last year’s Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore, an early proving ground for young pros on the Challenge Tour circuit, there were 28 young Scots in the field. Only two made the cut. Of that two, one of them has since quit the game.

With 11 players from England in the field at this year’s Masters – it should have been 12 but Nick Faldo opted not to play – there is no real answer as to why Scotland is so poorly represented on the world stage.

Former amateur star Gordon Sherry, now managing Sandy Lyle, said he was unaware if there was a new breed of Scottish golfer coming through.

Speaking to bunkered.co.uk, he said it was “hard to gauge” but said there was “certainly” talent in the amateur ranks – it’s just that we are maybe lacking some finishing touches during the process of turning professional.

“We have enough talent. We have enough good facilities,” he said. “But are our amateurs prepared for getting on tour? That’s the question. I can’t answer that as I don’t work for Scottish Golf.”

Pressed on whether he thought there was a next generation around the corner, he said he wasn’t so sure.

Sherry said one problem that might be associated with Scottish golfers is their mental fragility.

“That’s what you need to get to the next level,” he said. “Good players seem to be able to adapt to situations on the course. It can’t be that we don’t have the talent. Bob Torrance always questioned the work ethic of Scots. That was his thing. Did we work hard enough? Are we disciplined enough? And we are working on the right things.”

Lyle told me funding “would be a great help” but warned money wasn’t necessarily the answer to our problems. “Those international matches that the amateurs play will still happen,” he said. “Amateur golf at that level should be taken care of (even without funding) and the experience at that level is great.

“I don’t think money is that important. I didn’t come from a lot of money. I had no funding. My dad didn’t work with video cameras. He couldn’t work one anyway.

But we do need some young blood to come through. I feel sorry for the press this week, as there’s one young guy and one oldie.”

Unless something drastic happens, that might not change anytime soon.

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