A PROLIFERATION of satellite tours around Europe has not necessarily been good for golf due to the fact it is diluting the level of competition, according to the man tasked with helping Scottish players as they make the transition from amateur to professional.
Below the European and Challenge Tours, there are now a whole host of third-tier circuits, including the PGA EuroPro Tour, the Alps Tour, the Pro Golf Tour (formerly the EPD Tour), the Jamega Tour and Gecko Tour.
Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson, who finished just outside the top 20 on his WGC debut in the Cadillac Championship at Doral in Florida last weekend, cut his competitive teeth on the EuroPro Tour.
So did major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as well as Nicolas Colsaerts, a member of last year’s winning Ryder Cup team.
However, Steve Paulding, Scottish Golf’s performance manager, has claimed that the increase in such circuits has not only left organisers fighting to attract the same sponsors but it is also denying players the level of competition they need to keep climbing the ladder in the professional game.
“Where opportunities can be created for players to compete against each other on world-class courses, I am all for that as it is about trying to get individuals to challenge themselves,” said Paulding.
“But, when you get too many people vying for business and playing in events – ie a EuroPro Tour-type process – then it becomes too cluttered in order to create quality competition.”
Paulding was responding to being asked to provide his thoughts on the new Scottish Ladies Open Tour, a 14-event schedule that tees off at Dalmahoy next month and is being backed by Paul Lawrie through his Golf Centre in Aberdeen.
Its aim is to provide more competitive opportunities for Scotland’s home-based women professionals and also give leading female amateurs the chance to test themselves against players from the paid ranks.
Alan Tait, the former Scottish international who is now director of golf at Dalmahoy, launched a similar circuit, primarily for non-PGA pros and top amateurs, a few years back and it is now under the PGA in Scotland umbrella.
While organisers of the Scottish Ladies Open Tour are mildly disappointed with the amateur entry so far for the first of a series of double-headers – the circuit tees off at Dalmahoy on 18 April then moves to nearby Ratho Park the following day – Paulding reckons that he can see why.
“The issue with amateurs is that they are non-selection events,” he said, although, according to Pamela Pretswell, a member of last year’s winning Curtis Cup team at Nairn and now in her rookie season on the Ladies European Tour, that shouldn’t stop players from taking a golden opportunity to test themselves against more experienced campaigners.
“If this Tour had started up two years ago, I would have jumped at it,” she said. “Therefore, I am disappointed that a lot of our leading amateurs have not taken up the opportunity yet.”
Ross Kellett, now on the Challenge Tour, benefitted from playing against professionals when he was in the amateur ranks and agrees with Pretswell, the duo being among the six players each receiving around £23,000 in funding this season from Scottish Golf Support Ltd.
“It was great for me to play against pros in events like the Aberdeen Asset Northern Open at Meldrum House while I also played as an amateur in the Scottish Challenge at Cardrona,” said Kellett.
“It gave me the chance to see what I had to aspire to and that can only help. So, if players can fit these events into their schedule, then I think they should play in them as it helps bring your game on.”
Lawrie’s backing of the ladies’ circuit is the latest example of the former Open champion trying to give something back to the game and, following the success of his Foundation in the Aberdeen area, Stephen Gallacher’s one in the Lothians is also now going from strength to strength.
“It is fantastic that people like Paul and Stephen are putting so much back into Scottish golf and we are grateful for that,” acknowledged Paulding.
“Others are also giving back in other ways – Andrew Coltart, for example, in his mentoring role – and during the four or so years I’ve been in this job there are a lot more people willing to help out now. Everything is very positive.”