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Comment: Amateur win mentality hard to find

Daan Huizing has set the standard for budding professionals. Picture: Sandy Young

Daan Huizing has set the standard for budding professionals. Picture: Sandy Young

  • by MARTIN DEMPSTER
 

A FEW years back, I attended a boys’ football club end-of-season event and was shocked by something that appears to have changed since my days kicking a ball around for Eyemouth under-18s and, at the same time, learning about life as well as the so-called beautiful game as part of a St Abbs Thistle team that made the infamous Wimbledon “Crazy Gang” seem more like WRI members.

When it came to the prize-giving, I just couldn’t believe that every single player in the team – I think it was for 11-and-unders – was called up to receive a trophy, which I could only assume was for them simply turning up week in, week out so, in effect, the ones also handed out to the manager’s and players’ player of the year counted for absolutely nothing.

It made me wonder how it could be possible to breed a winning mentality in young Scottish footballers if such a scenario was commonplace and, sadly, I am also starting to have grave concerns about the same thing happening in golf.

As an individual sport, of course, it is different to football because the onus falls on one person to put in the hard work in a bid to achieve career goals. More and more, though, I’m starting to see players believe they are ready to move on to a new level without actually showing they have that fundamental requirement of being a proven winner.

Yes, of course, amateurs need to gain experience as they bid to climb the ladder, but what point is there in someone that hasn’t shown the ability to taste success – not just once but on a regular basis – thinking they can carve out a career for themselves in the paid ranks?

Sadly, it’s the proliferance of third-tier circuits which might actually be harmful to the game in the long-term future, but of more immediate concern in terms of where something has gone wrong in trying to breed that winning mentality is the criteria currently used by the Scottish Golf Union for determining the Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year.

For 2013, it has just been awarded to James Ross and, having watched the Royal Burgess player blossom from the raw teenager that reached the final of the Lothians Championship six years ago into a Scotland international, I’m delighted that he has been rewarded for putting in some serious graft.

At the same time, this honour, which is based on the World Amateur Golf Rankings at a certain cut-off date, came out of the blue as Ross didn’t register a victory this season. He led the stroke-play qualifying for the European Team Championship in Denmark, finished third in the Welsh Stroke-Play and, in general, performed pretty consistently in the main amateur events.

The fact he failed to win, however, yet still climbed above the likes of Graeme Robertson, Jack McDonald and Grant Forrest in the global standings indicates what a poor season it was for Scotland’s leading amateurs, which, of course, was also reflected by them being overlooked for the recent Walker Cup.

While things have improved considerably on the professional front in recent years, we are starting to slip into reverse gear in the amateur ranks. Having just one player – 92nd-ranked Ross – in the world’s top 100 is bitterly disappointing when you consider the huge amount of time and money invested in the amateur game these days.

The will is there to turn things around and get us back trying to win another Eisenhower Trophy, but what is the point of getting someone like Andrew Coltart, with all his knowledge and experience, involved only for his advice to fall on deaf ears, as the former Ryder Cup player revealed recently to The Scotsman?

The bar for aspiring European Tour professionals these days is being set by the likes of Dutchman Daan Huizing, who underlined his class with runaway victories in both the Lytham Trophy and St Andrews Links Trophy and has now just won twice in quick succession on the Challenge Tour.

Scott Henry also had that winning mentality as an amateur, but the fact he’s the youngest – at 26 – of the Scots currently holding a European Tour card is a clear indication that those bidding to follow in his steps have either lost that along the way or never had it in the first place.

The fact a 36-year-old in Paul McKechnie is the leading Scot on this season’s PGA EuroPro Tour money-list and only two players – Scott Crichton and Paul Ferrier – from a sizeable home contingent progressed from last week’s European Tour Qualifying School first stage event at The Roxburghe surely backs up that point.

Woods needs to brush up on the Rules of Golf

HOW well do we know the Rules of Golf? In my case, not very well, it would seem, as I was asked at a recent Sportsman’s Charity golf day – a splendid event at Bruntsfield Links – if it was okay for someone to ask for the flag to be tended from off the green and got it wrong by saying I thought that wouldn’t be permitted.

In my defence, I don’t play the game for a living but Tiger Woods does and for the

world No 1 and a 14-times major winner to have committed three rules violations in

the one season is shameful on his part.

It has led to people starting to ask questions of Woods and wonder if he has become so desperate to beat as many records he possibly can that he will resort to all means – legal or illegal. If Tiger really does believe he is beyond the rules and is daring the game to challenge him, then that is quite astonishing and, in truth, pretty hard to believe.

Yet only has himself to blame for putting himself in a position where, after those breaches in Abu Dhabi, Augusta and, the latest one, Chicago in the BMW Championship, a large proportion of golf fans are questioning his integrity. It simply cannot happen again, and though super slow-motion images do often make someone look banged to rights when, in fact, they perhaps didn’t even know they had done anything wrong, Woods needs to do himself a favour by brushing up on those rules that can be frustrating but, at the same time, have helped make this a great game.

 

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