SCOTTISH golfer Elliot Saltman, fresh from securing a place on the European Tour, last night vowed to defend himself against allegations that he cheated during a tournament earlier this season.
• Elliot Saltman earned a European Tour card this week but must now face cheat claims Picture: Getty Images
Having earned a card, along with younger brother Lloyd, for the money-spinning main circuit at the qualifying school final in north-east Spain yesterday, a dark cloud has been left hanging over his head following an incident during the second-tier Challenge Tour's Russian Challenge Cup back in September.
Saltman, 28, was disqualified from the event for incorrectly marking his ball after being reported by his two playing partners, Stuart Davis and Marcus Higley.
Since then, a frenzy of activity on the internet, and talk among players, both on the Challenge Tour and closer to home, has kept the controversy bubbling.
The Archerfield Links golfer is set to have an informal meeting with the tournament players' committee in the coming weeks where he will be allowed to explain his case before any further action, if any, is taken.
It is believed the European Tour were keen to have the matter resolved before the later stages of the qualifying, but this wasn't possible due to some of those involved in the process suffering family grievances. "I've seen the stuff on the internet and I'm disgusted to be honest," admitted Saltman, who played in last year's Open at Turnberry along with his brother.
"It affects not only me but my family. Not one player has come up to me and asked me my side of the story. I don't want to be labelled as a cheat. Nobody wants that reputation. The sooner this gets sorted out the better. I thought it was dead and buried but I am 100 per cent positive that we will get this resolved.
"I have an informal meeting with the Tournament Players' Committee and I will be more than happy to explain my case, whenever that might be."
Davis and Higley reported that Saltman had incorrectly replaced the ball on more than one occasion in the Russian event and, in the heat of the moment, it would appear that the Scot agreed with their claims when approached by Tour officials.
He added: "They said I had marked the ball at the eight o'clock position and replaced it at six o'clock. I have always marked the ball at six o'clock and replaced it correctly.
"I accepted what was said at the time because I was in shock at the time and I didn't want to be labelled a cheat. I am sorry now that I didn't stand up for myself."
If the allegations are proved correct, Saltman is likely to be hit with a fine or a ban, which could not come at a worse time after securing a European Tour card for the first time in his career.
David Garland, director of tour operations on the European Tour, released an official statement yesterday which stated: "Elliot Saltman was disqualified during this year's M2M Russian Challenge Cup which took place in September in Moscow on the European Challenge Tour.
"That disqualification has been debated by the European Tour Tournament Committee and further discussions will take place with the player himself before any further comment is made."
Saltman is likely to be accompanied to the forthcoming meeting by his father Jack, who has managed all three of the brothers - Zack, the youngest of the siblings, is also a professional - since they joined the paid ranks.
Last night he said Elliot had been "flabbergasted" and "taken aback" at the allegations. He added: "Elliot felt he hadn't done anything wrong. He is not a stupid boy. He knows the rules on marking the ball and has always stuck by them.
"He is just trying to get to where he has always wanted to be and that is on the European Tour, which he has done today by getting his card."
The allegations against Saltman will provoke bad memories about the last Scottish golfer to find himself at the centre of cheating claims. David Robertson, a former Scottish Boys' champion from Dunbar, was disqualified during final qualifying for the 1985 Open Championship at Deal in Kent after his playing partners summoned an official in the middle of a round.
He was fined 20,000, though that was never called in, and banned for 20 years from playing as a professional by the European Tour. Robertson, the son of a Dunbar butcher, was later reinstated as an amateur and played in some events in the Lothians before disappearing from the scene altogether.