Scotland’s leading amateur golfers will have the chance to gain valuable European Challenge Tour experience thanks to a new support package designed to smooth the transition of young players to the professional ranks.
Scottish Golf has joined forces with Edinburgh-based management company Bounce Sport to build a tailored competition programme for the nation’s top amateurs, who will receive at least four starts on the Challenge Tour this season, supporting those players who intend to turn professional at the end of 2016.
The move follows new regulations that allow amateur golfers to earn points on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman Order of Merit and potentially secure playing rights when they move into the paid ranks, while a number of the country’s female players will also benefit from starts on the Ladies European Tour and LET Access Series.
Walker Cup and European Amateur Team-winning duo Grant Forrest (Craigielaw) and Ewen Ferguson (Bearsden) will compete in four Challenge Tour events this season, while Drumoig’s Australian Amateur champion Connor Syme, South African Amateur winner Craig Ross (Kirkhill) and Glencruitten’s Robert MacIntyre, the Scottish Amateur champion, will also be given starts.
Under the new Challenge Tour criteria, amateurs who play a minimum of four tournaments will be given a ranking from which they are entitled to earn a full category the following season, providing they turn professional in time to take up membership.
Bounce Sport, who represent Stephen Gallacher among other clients, will manage the players during the Challenge Tour events, working closely with Scottish Golf’s performance team who will continue to oversee the players’ preparation for major events on the amateur calendar throughout the season, including coaching, sports science and physiotherapy.
Richie Ramsay, a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour, welcomed the support and said: “I was fortunate to gain experience playing on the Challenge Tour as an amateur and securing these starts will be of great benefit to those players aiming to turn pro.
“The standard of golf is so high and the competition is fierce, so it will allow the players to benchmark themselves and see exactly where they need to be. It’s important that you feel comfortable playing at that level, so the experience they get as amateurs will stand them in good stead and undoubtedly help that transition period.”
Earlier this season, Scottish Golf National Women’s squad player Hannah McCook (Grantown-on-Spey) was given the chance to compete in the World Ladies Championship in China on the Ladies European Tour, while she and team-mate Gabrielle Macdonald (Craigielaw) are being supported to the play in this week’s Terre Blanche Ladies Open in France on the LET Access Series.
Steve Paulding, Scottish Golf Performance Director, said: “It’s vital that we do more to support the transition between leading amateur and Tour professional for those men and women who have the potential to succeed. We are therefore delighted to announce this new support package which we can hopefully build on in the future.
“Bounce Sport has vast experience in this area so they are a great fit for us. We have been working hard with them and other partners to allow us to use Challenge Tour starts more strategically, which will give our players exposure to a high level of competition and help them assess their readiness to compete as a professional golfer.”
Iain Stoddart, Founding Partner of Bounce Sport, added: “We are delighted to take up what we see as a responsibility for these players as they transition from amateur to professional, and work with them as they look to climb the ladder in world golf.
“There are so many things to take care of in preparation for the day you walk out the front door for the first time as a professional golfer and we will use the time between now and then to work hard with Scottish Golf, and relevant partners, to ensure they are set up properly for that day and beyond.
“In the meantime, they can use the 2016 season and the Challenge Tour opportunities, at the very least, to begin to gain experience, understand and be exposed to the realities of becoming a touring professional.”