THREE notable wins in three days. Achieved, admittedly, at varying levels, hence the different monetary rewards for the individuals concerned, but take a bow new European Masters champion Richie Ramsay, Sweetspot Classic winner Duncan Stewart and James Byrne, the 2012 Northern Open champion.
Coming hot on the heels of Paul Lawrie celebrating his Ryder Cup return by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, where no fewer than five members of the Tartan Army finished in the top 15, as well as a first title triumph in the men’s Home Internationals in six years, Scottish golf is enjoying one of those heart-warming purple patches.
There will still be people out there, no doubt, looking to put a dampener on things. Some cynics, after all, just can’t seem to help themselves and are always wanting to try and knock people down when they’ve done something that is clearly praiseworthy. “What’s wrong with Scottish golf?” is a question they love to hear being asked. Well, right now that should be turned full circle into “what’s right with Scottish golf?”
Winning on the European Tour these days is harder than it has ever been. Yet, thanks to the splendid efforts of Lawrie and Ramsay, Scotland has just recorded back-to-back successes on that circuit. That feat, incidentally, has only been recorded by one other country – South Africa – this season.
The Springboks, with eight title triumphs, have been by far the most dominant force on the European Tour this year but, add in Lawrie’s victory in the Qatar Masters back in February, and, once again, it’s been a good return so far for the Scots and there are still a dozen tournaments to come.
Lawrie is lying sixth in the Race to Dubai and Ramsay is up to 20th after his polished performance in the Swiss mountains on Sunday. With Stephen Gallacher 36th, David Drysdale 49th and Marc Warren 51st (Martin Laird is 50th but not eligible due to the fact he’s only an affiliate member), Scotland is on course to provide its biggest representation to date in the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
While he may be going through a fallow period at the moment, Laird is the man who sparked Scottish golf’s resurgence when he started to make his presence felt on the other side of the Atlantic, before Lawrie took over the baton at the end of last season. Now Ramsay has got in on the act, too, by chalking up his second European Tour title by following up a breakthrough success in the South African Open just under two years ago.
When Ramsay missed the cut in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham seven weeks ago, it seemed as though another win was a long way off. He was close to “insanity” due to his game being so disappointing and admitted the drive home had seen him replay the nightmare performance over and over in his head.
The one thing he’s proved over and over again, though, is that if there’s a way to improve in this game, he’s more than willing to put in the time and effort. He decamped to his base in Atlanta and used a break in the European Tour schedule to clear his head and re-focus. In his first event back, he tied for sixth behind Lawrie in Perthshire then, seven days later, landed the biggest victory of his career.
Further down the ladder, the respective wins recorded by Stewart and Byrne are equally encouraging. Stewart, a 28-year-old from Grantown-on-Spey, has now chalked up two triumphs on the third-tier PGA EuroPro Tour over the past year or so and is set to earn a deserved step up to the Challenge Tour next year.
While the odd player, the likes of Rory McIlroy, finds his or her feet straight away, in the main professional golf is about learning the trade and Stewart’s career is shaping up nicely, just as it did for Scott Jamieson when he played on the EuroPro Tour before progressing to the Challenge Tour and now the European Tour.
Byrne is hoping to use the Asian Tour as his stepping stone to the big time and the 23-year-old’s confidence will have been boosted significantly after winning the Northern Open – his maiden success in the paid ranks. It was an impressive performance from the Banchory man, who shot three straight 66s to set up the victory. He’s got talent and so, too, does David Law, who put up a stout defence of the title he’d won as an amateur 12 months earlier, a third-round 63 proving once again that he can shoot those low scores you need to taste success at the top level.
In short, there should be no cause whatsoever for anyone to be feeling negative about Scottish golf right now.