HE IS technically the last man standing from Scotland’s world title-winning team, is determined that he will not join the others in having to seek alternative employment and is ready to use Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel as his inspiration in a bid to make up for lost time.
Seven years on from joining forces with Gavin Dear and Callum Macaulay to record one of the greatest victories in the history of Scottish golf – a nine-shot triumph in the Eisenhower Trophy at Royal Adelaide – Wallace Booth finally feels ready to do himself justice in the professional ranks.
He is no longer troubled by a serious shoulder injury that was so problematic it stopped him from hitting any shots whatsoever for ten months and now does gym work that is golf specific rather than for wrestling, the other sport he pursued while growing up on the family farm in Comrie.
Helped by his inclusion for the first time in the Team SSE Scottish Hydro programme, things are looking up for Booth, who turns 30 in July, and driving his Challenge Tour campaign this season is the combination of contrasting fortunes of players involved in that Eisenhower Trophy in 2008.
Whereas Fowler and Horschel, who were in the American team along with Jamie Lovemark beaten into second place, have gone on to make their mark in the professional game as PGA Tour winners, the golfing dream has turned sour for Dear and Macaulay. Both among the Team SSE Scottish Hydro members in 2011, Dear is now back in the amateur ranks while Macaulay, with neither a European Tour nor Challenge Tour card in his hands at the moment, is driving taxis.
“What has happened to Gavin and Callum motivates me because I don’t want people talking about me as well,” said Booth at Kingsfield Golf Centre outside Linlithgow, where he joined five other Challenge Tour players – Jack Doherty, Andrew McArthur, Jamie McLeary, George Murray and Duncan Stewart – as well as two Ladies European Tour players, Pamela Pretswell and Sally Watson, at the unveiling of the 2015 line- up.
“I feel sad for Callum and Gav. obviously – I was out for two years so I don’t know what they went through – but I want to be a success to provide some positivity from that Eisenhower Trophy story. We didn’t just win that either; we dominated it against a team that had two guys - Rickie Fowler (the individual winner) and Billy Horschel – who have gone on to become world beaters and a third – Jamie Lovemark – who is pretty useful as well, having been on and off the PGA Tour. We won it by nine shots and were 14 shots ahead with something like seven holes to play. There was no stress for us that week.”
How fortunes have changed. Booth’s biggest cheque on the Challenge Tour last season was one for less than £6,500. Horschel landed a £7.4 million pay-day for winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup while Fowler also picked up fortune for top-five finishes in all four majors. “Of course it does,” replied Booth to being asked if their efforts provided belief in his own ability. “You see these guys you competed against as an amateur and beat as an amateur – I played with Fowler in the last two rounds of the Eisenhower – and you think if he can do it then I can do it.
“I felt my game was in really good shape in my last couple of years as an amateur and I felt I would be able to push on and have a good stab at moving up the ladder straight away when I turned pro. Unfortunately, I hit a brick wall and lost two years in my golfing life, then another two trying to get it back to where it was. I feel that I am finally starting to progress from where I was as an amateur and it is nice that this is the first year that I can plan my schedule and I know what I am going to be playing in right through to the end of June. That’s a lot better than waiting at the weekend wondering if you are in the following week’s event.”
Booth believes Amateur champion Bradley Neil, who is being courted by Tiger Woods’ management company, faces a “tough” decision about when is the right time to turn professional. “It’s great that you are part of history in the Walker Cup,” said Booth, who played in the 2009 match at Merion. For a younger generation though, it’s probably not as big. When you turn pro, your amateur stuff means nothing. Nobody cares.”