AS WE inch towards the formation of Scottish Golf Limited, the new governing body for the amateur game in this country, developments are taking place that will play a part in shaping the sport in its birthplace for the foreseeable future.
For instance, applications have just been invited for nine non-executive posts, which, in addition to a chairperson, cover championships, club development, commerce, communications, finance, handicapping and course rating, participation and performance as the SGL looks to cover every base heading into a “new era”.
It’s remarkable to think the Scottish Golf Union once comprised only a secretary – the late Ian Hume when I first started dealing with that organisation – and a championship secretary, who was Graham Ewart, at that time, as well as two office staff when it was based in a building at the bottom of the Royal Burgess car park.
But we should be prepared to accept, I suppose, that times move on and, if the powers-that-be say the new body needs that level of expertise in the boardroom (as well, of course, as a sizeable paid staff carrying out the day-to-day duties), then, for the time being anyway, that’s fine. Let’s see what they can all bring to the table at a time when all aspects of the game have to be scrutinised to see if things can be improved.
As part of the process to bring the SGU and the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association under the same umbrella, the fixture list is also the subject of a “comprehensive review” and it appears that one change is in the offing as a result of that. Instead of being held in May – it was won at Monifieth last week by North Berwick teenager Clara Young – the Scottish Women’s Championship, apparently anyway, is moving to a slot towards the end of June. If so, it’s a welcome change because the event’s value had been diminished in recent years as it didn’t involve many of the leading players at colleges in America.
It’s to be hoped that other changes will be confirmed in due course because the entire Scottish fixture list needs a good shake-up. On the men’s front, the calendar has barely changed during the 25 years I’ve covered the sport at national level and, though it is just as enjoyable to write about Scottish golf and Scottish golfers as it was at the start, it is time for it to be freshened up.
Get the players involved in the aforementioned review because there is an appetite among them to create a better platform for the next generation of Scottish golfers, whether they want to become professionals or try for the pinnacle in the amateur ranks.
Lorne Kelly, Barry Hume, Scott Borrowman, Steven Carmichael, Gavin Dear and Euan McIntosh – all former top Scottish amateurs and, in some cases, players that joined the paid ranks before seeking reinstatement – offered comments on social media after a recent column on the current trend of players rushing to turn professional, and the views of people like them should shape the landscape going forward.
One of them, in fact, has already suggested a new schedule, the basis of which is a revamped men’s order of merit with a “Tour Championship” at the end to “keep players playing at the top of their games for the full season”.
It also includes September as a match-play month, starting with the County Championships leading into the Area Team Championship, then, in turn, the Home Internationals. While Ayrshire were recent winners of the Area Team Championship, what are the odds of anyone other than Jack McDonald from that side being in contention for the Home Internationals under the current scheduling?
The amateur game at the top level can’t be just about trying to prepare players for professional golf. Even though more are making that switch than ever before, the majority of players in order of merit events are “genuine” amateurs and way too many of them no longer find it fun, hence why events that used to have ballots in place now struggle to fill fields.
They badly need something to reinvigorate them, get those juices flowing again, and it will be a chance missed if the emergence of Scottish Golf Limited doesn’t coincide with an exciting new calendar that ticks boxes for more than just the “elite”.
Europe needs Jimenez
RORY McIlroy may be his prized asset but Keith Pelley, the incoming European Tour chief executive, has a 51-year-old in his ranks he will want to squeeze the most out of once the Canadian takes over the reins from George O’Grady.
With all due respect to double Senior PGA champion Colin Montgomerie, it’s Miguel Angel Jimenez I’m referring to because his popularity with galleries seems to be greater than ever.
Making holes-in-one helps, of course, and who hasn’t smiled when seeing the celebration that now follows the Spaniard achieving such a feat? What really makes Jimenez such a hit with the paying public, though, is that he is a character in a sport lacking in that department these days.
He walked off the last green at Wentworth in the final two rounds of the BMW PGA Championship to standing ovations, partly because of his performance but also because he has a knack of being able to entertain people with a reaction or interaction. As luck would have it, Pelley was paying his first visit to a European Tour event since getting the job and the man with a media background will have seen for himself that Jimenez is a valuable commodity in his bid to build on the good work by both O’Grady and Ken Schofield by driving the circuit forward.
It’s the likes of McIlroy, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer that he will need to use most to strengthen existing events and deliver new ones around the globe, but there’s certainly golfing life left in Jimenez, and the longer the European Tour can keep him away from the Champions Tour the better.