SWAPPING St Andrews for Cambodia may seem a strange career move, but Alan Martin is relishing the challenge of helping golf grow in a country that currently has around the same number of courses as the seven under the Links Trust umbrella in the Fife town.
Martin, who hails from Eyemouth and served his time as a PGA trainee under Jacky Montgomery at Dunbar before spending the last five years as the head assistant pro at The Duke’s Course, is bound for the Angkor Golf Resort in the tourism hot-spot of Siem Reap.
He has landed the post of head professional and believes the experience he has gained in Scotland over the last decade, coupled with additional knowledge picked up from a fair bit of travelling, will stand him in good stead at a venue that has a Nick Faldo-designed championship course as its centrepiece.
“I know it’s not your obvious choice to take a head pro position or to even play golf in Cambodia, but the resort serviced 18,000 rounds in 2014 and Siem Reap is a huge tourist destination, having attracted 4.2 million visitors in 2013,” he said.
“The Faldo Design Championship course is very impressive and when I visited the resort for the first time, it felt right… a similar feeling to when I applied for the job in St Andrews.”
Cambodia currently has eight courses, three of which are in Siem Reap while the other five are in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital. “I was looking for a new adventure for the early part of this year and, through a contact I made during the 2014 season in St Andrews, I landed a one-month teaching position at Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This alone was a fantastic experience,” added Martin, who takes up his new post on 1 June.
“While I was there, the head pro job at Angkor Golf Resort was advertised. I applied and made contact with the director of golf David Baron, also British PGA, and I arranged to go for a visit as it was only a two-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. You could say it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“Angkor Golf Resort is new and fresh. I am excited to get started and looking forward to implementing my ideas and knowledge. South East Asia is a booming golf destination and a large part of the remit will be developing a new purpose-built golf academy and growing the game from grassroots in addition to further developing the golf operation and service standards.
“There is a large expat community in Siem Reap and, though the year-round sunshine is an obvious attraction, the main excitement for me is going somewhere fairly new where golf is booming and I can put my own stamp on things.”
As well as Dunbar and The Duke’s, it could also include a hint of both the American Club and Whistling Straits, Martin having spent time at both venues last year as part of an exchange programme operated by the Kohler Company, his employers in St Andrews.