Martin Dempster: The Scottish Golf Awards

Stephen Gallacher acknowledges the home crowd during the Ryder Cup singles. Picture: Jane Barlow
Stephen Gallacher acknowledges the home crowd during the Ryder Cup singles. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT USED to be held in the dining room at Glasgow Golf Club and was attended by just a small band of Scottish Golf Union officials, a handful of players and a gaggle of golf scribes. Just one award, for the Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year, was handed out and early winners included Andrew Coltart, Dean Robertson, Gordon Sherry and Barclay Howard.

The event’s profile started to be raised during a stint at the Macdonald Inchyra Grange Hotel in Polmont but, even then, it was nothing like the glitzy bash set to be held in the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Friday night. The Scottish Golf Awards, you see, now comes with bells and whistles, with more than 600 people set to join in a celebration of the top achievements in the sport last year by the country’s leading golfers.

It has a star-studded guest list, with Catriona Matthew and Stephen Gallacher, the respective Scottish No 1s, being joined in the capital by Sam Torrance, Bernard Gallacher, Richie Ramsay, Kylie Walker, Sally Watson, Carly Booth, Scott Jamieson and Chris Doak. There will also be a host of other sporting celebrities, including Gordon Strachan, Alan Stubbs, Jim Jefferies, Gregor Townsend, Josh Taylor, Callum Davidson and David Murdoch.

Ten awards will be handed out, many of which are based strictly on performances in the amater game. It’s no secret, for instance, that the Amateur Golfer of the Year prize will be picked up by Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil. A worthy winner, too, given that he claimed the Amateur Championship, topped the SGU Order of Merit and also ended last year as Scotland’s highest-ranked amateur.

It will only be on the night that we find out some of the others, though, and here’s my tuppenceworth on who are likely to be the main winners:

Player of the Year

The fact ten candidates were shortlisted for this category shows that it was an excellent year for Scottish golfers and strong cases can be made for Neil (as the first Scot to win the amateur game’s blue riband event for a decade as well as flying the flag in the Junior Ryder Cup at his home club), Kylie Walker (for her two victories on the Ladies European Tour, both in play-offs and one that saw her beat Charley Hull) and Colin Montgomerie (as he recorded two senior major victories and also topped European over-50s money-list).

However, it would be a travesty if this award isn’t picked up by Stephen Gallacher because 2014 was a year when he did more than anyone else when it came to being at the forefront of the sport. In truth, the fact he became the first player in the 25-year history of the Dubai Desert Classic to win it back-to-back might have been enough on its own. But add in the Herculean effort he put in, clinching a wild card spot with a sensational performance under intense pressure, to make Europe’s team for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and he certainly deserves the accolade.

Shot of the Year

Based on the fact Phil Mickelson picked up this prize in 2013 for a title-winning chip in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, I’m going for another non-Scot to win it again. After all, if Jamie Donaldson’s majestic approach to the 15th to secure a Ryder Cup victory is good enough to be the European Tour’s Shot of the Year, then it certainly deserves the same recognition in the country where that blow was struck.

Inspiration Award

Scotland is very lucky that it has the likes of Paul Lawrie, in particular, and Stephen Gallacher giving so much back to the game through their respective foundations. When it comes to inspiration, however, no-one has done more in that respect, surely, than Catriona Matthew.

The fact that there will be eight Scottish players (and that doesn’t include Matthew) competing this season on the Ladies European Tour is largely down to the North Berwick woman.

She has fuelled the dreams of every single young female golfer in Scotland through being a major winner, a consistent performer on the world stage and, let’s not forget, a seven-times Solheim Cup player.

Coach of the Year

A new award named in the memory of Bob Torrance – it will be presented by his son, Sam – this will become as keenly contested in years to come as the player prizes. Scotland, after all, has an abundance of excellent golf coaches following in the footsteps of the legendary Torrance and, of course, Adam Hunter. It will be astonishing if Kevin Craggs, who works with Catriona Matthew and Kylie Walker as well as Vikki Laing and Mel Reid, doesn’t pick up this prize in the next year or two but, on this occasion, I think it has to go to Alan McCloskey. The Bothwell Castle PGA pro has two players – Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren – in or close to the world’s top 50 and goes about his business in a way that the name of the man on the award would certainly approve of.

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