TWO members of the team that put Scotland on top of the golfing world by winning the Eisenhower Trophy in Australia five years ago have put their playing careers on hold to become talent scouts for American colleges.
Hot on the heels of Murrayshall’s Gavin Dear starting up his own company, Golf Scholars, Callum Macaulay, the 2008 Scottish Amateur champion from Tulliallan, has just taken up a new role with Glasgow-based FirstPoint USA.
Macaulay’s shock move has come only 12 months after he secured a place back on the European Tour, where he came close to winning the Madeira Islands Open in his fourth event as a rookie in 2009.
In contrast to that encouraging start to his professional career, the 29-year-old made just five cuts in 20 outings this year and, having since failed to win back his card at the Qualifying School, Macaulay feels sickened by golf. He’s not saying it’s the end of his career. Indeed, there’s a chance that he could receive a timely boost by earning a place next season back on Team Scottish Hydro, having been one of its original benefactors along with Dear, Craig Lee, Chris Doak and Jamie McLeary.
With bills to pay, however, Macaulay needs an income and, having used Glasgow-based FirstPoint USA himself when he went to the University of Mississippi, he is ready to pass on his knowledge to the next wave of talented young golfers.
“I was at the complete burnout stage – I’d gone through so much on and off the course that I couldn’t handle much more,” he told The Scotsman. “Contrary to what many people think, professional golf is not a life of continuous income. We still have bills dropping through the door and the way I was playing was not helping that cause. I got off to a bad start last year and it snowballed from there. I was conscious I was starting to run out of money and there’s no doubt that affects your golf.”
Playing without any pressure whatsoever, Macaulay claimed the Scottish title at Carnoustie in 2008 then joined forces with Dear and Wallace Booth to record Scotland’s first win in the World Amateur Team Championship, lifting the Eisenhower Trophy.
Macaulay then came through all three stages of the Qualifying School to earn his European Tour card and was a whisker away from securing a two-year exemption when a closing 64 saw him finish second behind Argentina’s Tano Goya in Madeira.
“I had a good first year on Tour but then things started to slowly deteriorate,” he reflected. “It just shows you how golf can turn you around. One minute you’re on cloud nine then, after a couple of rounds, you are struggling with confidence.
“I used to look at Oliver Wilson, Nick Dougherty and Kenny Ferrie and wonder how guys like them could be struggling. Now I have complete sympathy for them.
“I’m not saying this is the end for me, but I’ve not even opened my golf bag since I came home from Tour School – it’s still sitting in the garage.
“I’m going through a phase where I don’t want to play or practice and I’ve never had that before. Who knows how long it will last? The Challenge Tour is the only option I have next season, but it will come down to money and how I feel whether I play there.”
In the meantime, Macaulay is happy to retain a connection with golf through his role with FirstPoint USA, which specialises in sports scholarships and helped Macaulay himself make the right choice when his gaze was attracted across the Atlantic more than a decade ago.
“I’ve been brought in to scout the next wave of talent,” he revealed. “The CEO is Andrew Kean, whom I’ve been good friends with for a while and he’s given me the opportunity to see how it goes.
“I went through First Point USA when I went out to the US in 2002 and I wouldn’t have achieved half what I did in the game if it hadn’t been for that. The US is undoubtedly the best route to go and I’ve got a lot of knowledge and experience, having been part of the amateur scene for a few years and also travelling all over the world.
“There is a massive demand from college coaches, not just in golf but lots of other sports, too. And why wouldn’t you want to be in either Mississippi or Florida at this time of the year?
“I went to the University of Mississippi. I was playing off three when I went out there and was off plus three of plus four by the time I finished. Each summer I came home I felt I was able to compete better in the big events.
“This is a new challenge for me and, although it has nothing to do with playing, it is good that is still has golf as an ingredient. Life goes on and there is no point in me moping and feeling sorry for myself.”