It was one of those days – they are definitely becoming more frequent – when the amount of activity on the Scottish golf front left this correspondent struggling to catch breath. In the middle of a conference call with Russell Knox set up by Aberdeen Asset Management ahead of his Masters debut next week, two emails landed to bring news of exciting developments.
One revealed that Jack McDonald is turning professional next week, having signed for Andrew “Chubby” Chandler at International Sports Management (ISM), while the other was to say that Grant Forrest and Ewen Ferguson had aligned themselves with Edinburgh-based Bounce Sport ahead of their expected switch to the paid ranks later this year.
Before then, the pair will be given support by Bounce Sport, which has European Tour trio Stephen Gallacher, Craig Lee and Andrew McArthur on their client list, when they play in four Challenge Tour events this season to help prepare them for the transition.
McDonald’s switch, which will kick in next week when he plays in the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School final at Frilford Heath, is something of a surprise at this juncture, especially after he didn’t go to the European Tour equivalent at the end of last year after being on the same winning Walker Cup team as Ferguson and Forrest at Royal Lytham last September. However, the 23-year-old applied mathematics graduate from Kilmarnock (Barassie) is taking the plunge now, having signed up when he met Chandler face to- face in Glasgow yesterday.
McDonald is the first young Scot to be signed by ISM in more than four years – Michael Stewart, who is no longer a client, was the last – though Scott Jamieson moved to the company two years ago, joining Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood as well as Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick and Ben An.
“I’ve done a lot in the amateur game now,” said McDonald of a list of achievements which include winning the Scottish Boys Stroke-Play at 16 and being Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year in 2012. “I think I’m ready to make the transition and that my game is there so I’m looking to just keep improving. There are plenty of great names that have thrived at ISM and the opportunity is there. You can’t ask for any more than that and I’ll definitely benefit from working with Chubby and the team.”
For Ferguson (Bearsden) and Forrest (Craigielaw), the immediate plan is different. While they’ve joined Bounce Sport, the pair are staying amateur for the time being but are set to gain valuable experience through Scottish Golf letting players take up the opportunity to get Challenge Tour starts and use them to secure a ranking on the European Tour’s development circuit.
“It’s vital that we do more to support the transition between leading amateur and Tour professional,” said Scottish Golf Performance Director Steve Paulding in announcing an initiative by which Connor Syme (Drumoig), Craig Ross (Kirkhill) and Bob MacIntyre (Glencruitten) will also get a taste of Challenge Tour competition this year.
“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.”