ALAN McCloskey, who already coaches three Scots playing on the European Tour, is quietly confident the Saltman brothers, Elliot and Lloyd, can bolster that representation after seeing improved performances by the pair since the Bothwell Castle-based PGA professional started working with them.
Four years after gaining European Tour cards at the same time via the Qualifying School in Spain, the Archerfield duo set out on Friday in the second stage of that marathon test along with a posse of fellow Scots. Elliot is in the field at El Saler in Valencia, while Lloyd lines up at Panoramica in Castellon.
Ten rounds stand between the pair and a return to the top tier of European golf but both seem to have been galvanised since linking up with McCloskey, who, in Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren, has two players in the world’s top 100 and also works with Scott Jamieson.
Elliot, for instance, won the PGA EuroPro Tour’s season-ending event in Egypt last week, picking up £15,000 to top the money-list on the third-tier circuit ahead of 12 Englishmen. In so doing, the 32-year-old has already secured a step up to the Challenge Tour next season.
That triumph was preceded by one on the Jamega Tour at Woodcote Park in Surrey as well as back-to-back victories at Macdonald Cardrona and Glenbervie in the Edinburgh & East of Scotland Alliance, where Lloyd has achieved the same feat in events at Royal Musselburgh and Duddingston over the past fortnight.
McCloskey said: “Elliot has been coming to see me for about two months now and has made very good progress. His goal a couple of months ago was to finish in the top five on the EuroPro Tour, so it is excellent that he managed to top the money-list after winning in Egypt.
“Elliot has a lot to offer and I remember telling him that when we first sat down for a blether. He has the raw ingredients and was just a bit rough around the edges. He has a lot of power. He has a good ball flight. All he needed was a bit refinement.
“His scoring has got a lot better in the last month or so. He played well in a mini-Tour event down in England and had also won a couple of events in the East Alliance, so I quite fancied that he would have a big chance out in Egypt.
“As well as his game, we have also worked on his mental side because playing at the lower levels when you’ve been on the main Tour can take its toll mentally. I know players always believe their luck can change quickly, but the other side of the coin is that your confidence gets dented.
“Elliot has been bouncing about on the EuroPro Tour for longer than he’d care to remember and it’s great that he knows that he’s managed to get off that next season by having already secured a Challenge Tour card. Now he’s got a chance to better that and, although the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School is now almost as tough as the final stage, it wouldn’t surprise me if Elliot went all the way again, as he did once before.”
In his time on the European Tour, Elliot’s best finish was 12th in the Wales Open and he ended up 198th in the Race to Dubai the following season. Coming a lot closer to hanging on to his card, Lloyd finished 133rd on the money-list, having been fourth in the Madeira Islands Open and ninth in the SA Open.
It’s been a disappointing three seasons for the ex-Walker Cup man since, however, and, with the tenth anniversary of him being leading amateur in the Open Championship at St Andrews looming, he has turned to McCloskey as well.
“Lloyd has been working hard on his technique as he needed a bit more work than he initially believed,” added the man who has helped Gallacher climb into the world’s top 50 and also played a big part in Warren recording his third European Tour triumph earlier this year.
“His good is plenty good enough. The problem for Lloyd is that his bad shot was too bad. In simple language, we are trying to get his duff a bit straighter.
“His scoring has also picked up a bit in the last few weeks, which is encouraging. Lloyd has never really been consistent but he’s taken what I’ve said on the chin and has the motivation. He’s pushing hard to get himself moving back in the right direction again.”
At 29, Lloyd is younger than any of the eight Scots currently holding playing rights for the European Tour next season, namely Gallacher (40), Warren (33), Jamieson (30), Paul Lawrie (45), Richie Ramsay (31), Chris Doak (36), David Drysdale (39) and Craig Lee (37).
“What we want to see is more Scots on the main Tour. The more the better,” said McCloskey, a golfing encyclopedia on legs.
“Ideally, we’d like to see more young guys out there. But, if a few of the older ones like Elliot and Lloyd can get their act together and get out there again, then, hopefully, that will push the younger ones on.”