AS A former British track team cycling manager, Steve Paulding has had to put up with cheap jibes along the lines of “how it’s time for him to get on his bike” almost from the day he became involved with Scottish golf.
Three years into his position as the performance manager, many – myself included – still can’t fully get their head around how someone whose expertise was working with people pumping pedals is necessarily the right person to bring out the best in a golfer.
The two sports surely bear little in relation and, quite frankly, it probably rubs golfing people up the wrong way when Sir Chris Hoy – no disrespect to him – is regularly held up as an example of what a Scottish sportsman can achieve by being dedicated to their sport.
Paul Lawrie, in particular, should be the name being mentioned all the time by Paulding and his fellow performance people at the moment, the Aberdonian having managed to become a major winner after turning professional when his handicap was five before capping a remarkable resurgence in his career by becoming a Ryder Cup winner, too.
Anyway, while the jury may still be out as regards Paulding’s own performance – and he himself admits results have not been what he’s been looking for. In fairness, he came in at a time when Scotland had just won the world and European titles and it doesn’t get any better than that. He has just shot up considerably in my estimation.
Over the past two winters, Scotland’s leading amateurs have virtually been treated as golfing Royals, enjoying training trips to the Middle East and South Africa and having a support system in place that the vast majority of Tour professionals can only dream of.
With Michael Stewart, David Law and Brian Soutar all having chalked up victories in South Africa, it would be wrong to suggest those trips were worthless exercises and, indeed, they are set to be repeated again over the coming few weeks.
What will be different, though, is that the players involved will be left in no doubt that performances closer to home later in the season will be much more important, both for them and Scottish golf as a whole, than any more success in the Rainbow Nation, for example.
Reading between the lines, it appears that Paulding and Stephen Docherty, the SGU’s performance director, were appalled at just how much some performances dropped from the early part of this year to the peak of the domestic season.
Yes, of course, Scotland did win the Home Internationals for the first time in six years – and, despite what some people think, I reckon that should always be important, just as winning the Six Nations title is in rugby – but the gloss was then taken off that in the Eisenhower Trophy.
Just four years after being crowned as world champions in Australia, we’d slipped to 44th in that event, finishing behind golfing outposts such as Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the Russian Federation in Turkey.
I’m not saying the three players in that team are the ones being targetted – and one of them, Paul Shields, is currently pondering a switch to the paid ranks anyway – but, as Paulding admitted as he unveiled a squad re-structuring in St Andrews last week, the time has come to get tough.
In short, the Scottish Golf Union expect players picked for squads to at least match the effort put in by others to give them a chance to realise their dreams, having been afforded a wonderful opportunity in the first place by having some God-given talent.
Rory McIlroy had that seeping through his bones the first time he picked up a golf club. Yet, that doesn’t mean to say he didn’t work hard to ensure it didn’t go to waste. Even now, sitting as the world No 1 and with two majors under his belt, he is dedicated to his sport.
From what Paulding was saying last week, there appear to have been players in the Scottish system in recent seasons who haven’t shown the dedication required in order to have a chance. Not necessarily becoming another McIlroy, but just to compete on the world stage.
With the advent of a stricter regime, slackers won’t be tolerated. Individuals not prepared to put in the work, technical and physical, that is required to see Scotland restore some pride following the Eisenhower Trophy flop will be dropped from the squad system and replaced.
“As a nation, we are good at coming up with excuses,” observed the aforementioned Docherty. He’s bang on about that. The reason some people harp on about Scottish golfers not being good putters is that so many of them use that as an excuse for shortcomings. Get out there and do something about it.
It rankles with some people that the SGU provides the coaching and playing opportunities it does for players. For instance, they’d rather see the money spent on supporting clubs, especially in these troubled times.
The organisation has a duty, however, to bring through the best young talent and, if it is going to take some backsides being kicked to help them fulfil their potential, then so be it.
Trump shouldn’t rush second course
IT MAKES no sense whatsoever for Donald Trump to be pushing ahead with plans to build a second course on his resort outside Aberdeen at this precise moment in time.
According to a report at the weekend, the Trump organisation is aiming to go ahead with the additional 18-hole course due to “huge” demand from golfers who have visited the
resort on Menie Estate since the first course opened in July.
There has certainly been a great deal of interest in the first course, which, incidentally, is currently getting a rest over the winter, but it seems ridiculous to suggest it’s overflowing to the extent that a second course is already required. Like all new championship courses, there is a novelty factor surrounding Trump International Golf Links at the moment and, as a great test of golf in a dramatic landscape, it can surely be guaranteed a frequent flow of visitors in years to come.
Trump’s plan, of course, is to create a resort similar to
the likes of Gleneagles and Turnberry and to achieve that he is probably going to need to come up with another quality course.
It surely makes sense, though, to allow what’s there already to fully bed-in and be tested under tournament conditions before he moves on to phase two in the golf side of his project.