Martin Dempster: SGU door should be ajar for Forrest

Grant Forrest shocked the SGU by dropping out of the Scottish side for the European Team Championship. Picture: Getty
Grant Forrest shocked the SGU by dropping out of the Scottish side for the European Team Championship. Picture: Getty
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IN NORMAL circumstances, any golfer turning his or her back on Scotland for individual gratification would seriously go down in my estimation.

I’d be calling for them to be excluded from potential future selection for a period of time and then be made to work doubly hard to get back in the frame again.

In the case of Grant Forrest, though, I reckon he deserves another chance, even though his late decision to pull out of the European Team Championship starting today in Denmark infuriated the Scottish Golf Union and, in my humble opinion at least, is something he’s likely to regret in time.

Having spoken to the 20-year-old Craigielaw player myself at 10am on Friday morning without detecting what was on his mind, it came as just as big a shock to me as the SGU performance team when Forrest made the call later that day to say he wouldn’t be taking up his place in a six-man side for one of the biggest events on the amateur calendar.

A strong-looking Scottish team had lost the current national champion, a member of last year’s title-winning side in the Home Internationals and one of three players – Jack McDonald and Graeme Robertson are the others – with an outside chance of making the Walker Cup this year.

Whether the latter is achievable for Forrest now is questionable after his decision to skip the trip to Denmark – where Great Britain & Ireland captain Nigel Edwards will be an interested onlooker – so that he could prepare for a debut appearance in next week’s Open Championship, having earned a spot at Muirfield by winning the qualifier at Dunbar last Tuesday.

If the world’s oldest major had been anywhere else but East Lothian this year, Forrest wouldn’t even have contemplated the step he took in the wake of that praiseworthy achievement. That way, there wouldn’t have been any temptation to try and steal a march on the six amateur rivals he’ll face at the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in the battle for the Silver Medal.

We are talking here, however, about a young man who not only cut his golfing teeth in the area but has also lived there all his life. Until last week, the family home was in Archerfield Estate, just over the dyke from Muirfield, and, even now, they’ve only moved to North Berwick.

For a local lad to get the opportunity to play in a first major right on his doorstep, it’s only natural that Forrest is excited. It’s also understandable that he wants to give a good account of himself. Faced with having to wait until next Monday to play his first practice round if he’d gone to Denmark, Forrest was worried he’d be under-prepared.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is the emotional backdrop to Forrest’s decision. Almost exactly a year ago, his father, Graeme, lost his battle with cancer and, in a way, him qualifying for The Open has made the anniversary of that sad event even more difficult for both the player and his mother, Audrey. When he steps on to that first tee on Thursday week and hears Ivor Robson announce his name, Forrest will struggle to hold back the tears knowing how proud his dad would have been to witness the occasion.

“I didn’t want to let the Scottish Golf Union down, but you can’t please everyone all the time and, in the end, I made a decision I think is the right one for me on this occasion,” said Forrest, who explained that he hadn’t yet informed anyone of that when we’d chatted on Friday and, therefore, wanted to go through the proper channels before the decision was made public.

Of course it left the SGU “disappointed”. It had already convinced Forrest to turn down an invitation on offer to him to play in this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart – a reward for his Scottish Amateur Championship at Royal Dornoch last summer – to make himself available for the European Team event.

But, having come through its ranks and served his country well in the past, it’s to be hoped that this matter isn’t held against the young man, either in the remaining time he has as an amateur or when he eventually turns professional.

No sense in playing this name game

IT’S time for committees to cut out the nonsense of tweaking golf club names for no apparent reason.

At last year’s Home Internationals, for instance, the Scottish golf writing corps was politely requested by a representative of the Ayrshire club that Glasgow Gailes should henceforth be referred to as “Glasgow Gailes Links”.

That almost made Jock MacVicar, our doyen and a long-time member there, choke as he took a mouthful of the club’s renowned poached egg in mince.

I think Murcar, host venue for this week’s European Boys’ Team Championship, set that particular trend but goodness knows where the latest one has come from.

According to the draw for last week’s Open qualifiers, one was held at “The Musselburgh”, which, to most people, is plain and simple Musselburgh Golf Club and, in and around Edinburgh at least, is widely referred to as “Monktonhall”.

Apparently, Nairn, scene of Walker Cup and Curtis Cup triumphs for GB&I in the past 15 years, has now been re-branded as “The Nairn” as well.

I might be missing something here, but what is the point of such an exercise?