DUNCAN Stewart is hoping a decision to reactivate his innovative shares scheme will provide the motivation to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 campaign by holding a full European Tour card this time next year.
The 30-year-old also believes his bid to achieve that target can be helped by a decision to join Chris Doak in becoming attached to Turnhouse, where Stewart has followed in the spikemarks of his fellow Grantown-on-Spey golfer, Bobby Cruickshank, by having a connection with the capital club.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Cruickshank twice finished runner-up in the US Open, including a tie with Bobby Jones in 1923, and, though Stewart has his work cut out to reach those dizzy heights, he believes putting himself under a bit more pressure again by trying to deliver for people who have the faith to invest in him can bring better results this season.
In 2012, when he recorded back-to-back wins on the PGA EuroPro Tour to finish second on its money-list and earn a Challenge Tour card, he had a shares scheme in operation, with Paul Lawrie among those to cough up cash to support the Highlander. It was repeated the next season as Stewart, helped by finishing joint-second in the Kazakhstan Open, ended up 20th on the Challenge Tour rankings, but for last year the scheme wasn’t really necessary after he received backing through both Team Scottish Hydro and Scottish Golf Support Ltd.
“After evaluating my 2014 season I would say it was a great experience where I learned a lot both on and off the course,” said Stewart, who, having been caught in the trap of trying to divide his time between the European Tour and the Challenge Tour, ended up finishing 234th in the Race to Dubai.
“On the course, I realised that if I stick to my game plan and my strengths I can compete at the top level. Off the course, I realised that the share scheme I had done in 2012-13 was far more than of financial benefit.
“The support I have been receiving from Scottish Team Hydro and the Scottish Golf/Sportscotland funding has been invaluable and I would not be in the position I am without them. I am therefore hopeful that this support will continue in 2015.
“However, I also missed the interaction I previously had with the individual shareholders. Every week there were emails and texts of encouragement which I believe helped my confidence. Golf is very much an individual sport but can be extremely difficult to succeed in without sponsors and support, both financial and motivational. The share scheme gave me the feeling that I was not just playing for myself, but I was out there playing for all the shareholders, too. As much as I wanted to succeed for myself I wanted to succeed for them and repay everyone for believing in my ability. I think this gave me more self-belief and confidence which are a key ingredient for succeeding in golf.
“As a result, I’ve decided I’m going to reactivate the share scheme for this season. It’s going to be exactly the same as in 2013 where there will be 300 shares available at £100 each with 50 per cent of my winnings going back to the shares fund.
“When I sold shares in 2012-13 each shareholder made 25 per cent and 8 per cent profit respectively.”
Through social media, interest has already been expressed in the new scheme from the other side of the Atlantic, with Russell Knox, the Inverness man who plays on the PGA Tour, having appeared to support a Tweet indicating he’d put £1,000 in the pot to help his former Jacksonville University team-mate.
“Russell did retweet it but I have not heard personally from him as yet if he is buying some shares,” said Stewart, who is now working with Alan McCloskey and is off to Portugal next week to play on the Jamega Tour. “It was actually the Cleveland/Srixon rep who looked after us when we were in college and still looks after Russell today who said Russell will have ten shares. He is a bit of a prankster, but you never know. Russ might buy one or two.
“The amount of people who bought shares in 2012 and 2013 was incredible, not only in my local community but further afield such as Qatar, USA, England, Ireland, and all over Scotland. I believe that if people chose to back me again this year, I will achieve great things. My aim is to have full playing rights on the European Tour by 2016.”
Having finished 43rd at the Qualifying School in November, Stewart expects to get around half a dozen starts on the main circuit this year and when that happens at the same time as Doak is playing, it means Turnhouse will be represented by two players. Doak has been based there since he moved to Livingston and now Stewart has become attached, too, after he set up home in Edinburgh.
Lindsay Gordon, the Turnhouse secretary, said the club is delighted to have Stewart flying its flag as well this season, especially due to the link with Grantown-on-Spey through the celebrated Cruickshank.
“I missed a chance when meeting Duncan to tell him about Bobby, our most famous former member,” said Gordon of the man who arrived at Turnhouse as an amateur but, after turning professional and crossing the Atlantic, twice finished runner-up in the US Open – first to Jones then, in 1932, to Gene Sarazen.
“Duncan is a welcome addition to the Turnhouse ranks and, together with Chris Doak, are flagship ambassadors for the club,” added Gordon. “We wish them every success.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS