DEAN Robertson probably thought his jet-setting days had come to an end when the former Italian Open champion called time on his own playing career.
In his mentoring role at Stirling University, however, his feet have barely touched the ground in recent weeks.
First he was in Abu Dhabi to oversee a winter training camp for the likes of Jack McDonald, last season’s Scottish Golfer of the Year, and reigning Scottish Boys’ champion Craig Howie. “Any Tour player would have loved that opportunity – it was fantastic,” said Robertson.
From there, it was over to California, where a five-strong Stirling team – McDonald and Howie joined forces with 2011 Battle Trophy winner Zander Culverwell, Swiss international Matthias Eggenberger and young Irishman Cormac Sharvin – competed for the first time in the Prestige at PGA West College Invitational tournament.
They finished 13th out of 15 teams in San Diego but it was against some of the top colleges in America – Washington and Southern California shared top spot ahead of UCLA and Texas Tech – and, according to Robertson, the long trip proved a valuable learning experience for his players.
None more so than McDonald, the young Ayrshireman who underlined his huge potential with two outstanding performances last season – first when he reached the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon, then when he made the cut in the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where he played with Ernie Els in the final round a week before the South African won his second Open.
In California, McDonald carded rounds of 72, 71 and 73 to finish joint-17th in a field of 88 players, and Robertson said: “Jack gained a lot of confidence from the event but, at the same time, he knows there is still a lot of work to be done. It is okay being a big fish in Scotland but it’s a different challenge to become successful globally and the trip to America will have helped keep his feet on the ground.”
Robertson, who is Stirling’s high performance golf coach, added: “He gave up length to some of those who bomb it a bit, but he has a top-class short game. Therefore, he is going to have to develop his game like Luke Donald and make the most of his distance control and his scoring game. At the same time, he is also going to have to build up his strength as it’s a lot easier hitting 8 or 9-irons on to undulating greens than a 4-iron.”
The trip to California also included a visit to Stanford University, the alma mater of Tiger Woods and where the women’s assistant coach these days is Kathryn Imrie, the Monifieth woman who won on the LPGA Tour before becoming involved in her current career.
“The practice facilities at Stanford are the best I’ve come across anywhere in the world,” admitted the well-travelled Robertson. “It’s also got its own golf course that is in that top 100 in the US. Myself and [sports performance manager] Raleigh Gowrie met the sporting director and struck up a good rapport.”
Indeed, Robertson is hoping to get round tight NCAA regulations to host an event similar to the Prestige in Scotland next year. “We are looking at the possibility of exploring a possible loophole so that we can stage the Links Invitational Collegiate Championship in 2014,” he said.