A PROGRAMME aimed at supporting Scotland’s most promising golfers as they move from the amateur game into the professional ranks is on course to be expanded on the back of its success so far.
Launched in 2010, Scottish Golf Support Ltd (SGSL) was given £1 million investment by sportscotland over five years to assist players with the transition and, after supporting four players in its first two years, the total has been increased to six this season.
Scott Henry, a European Tour rookie this year, and Challenge Tour trio Wallace Booth, Ross Kellett and Duncan Stewart will each receive around £23,000 in funding support as they bid to keep progressing in the men’s game, while Kylie Walker and Pamela Pretswell will receive the same amount as they compete on the Ladies European Tour.
With Henry and Callum Macaulay, two of the recipients last year, both having benefitted from the support to earn places at the top table in European golf this season, the programme is ticking all the boxes and discussions will start later this year about the possibility of the programme being continued beyond the initial five-year term.
“We think it is going in the right direction,” said Louise Martin CBE, chairwoman of sportscotland, as she welcomed newcomers Kellett and Pretswell to the programme at Bothwell Castle Golf Club yesterday. “The programme is not about being spoon-fed all the time and one of the key things is that the golfers have bought into it. It’s not just about money. They benefit from other support services as well from the sportscotland institute of sport, including medicine and science, and also receive mentoring from the likes of Andrew Coltart, Catriona Matthew and Pete Cowen.
“We are delighted to have been able to increase the number receiving this support to six this year and, hopefully, it will be six-plus at the end of the year. The programme is in place for five years at the moment, but we will be looking at its future at the end of the year. It is working for us and I would hate to see it stop, especially as young players coming through want to be on the programme.”
To be eligible for the support, players must either hold the minimum of a Challenge Tour card or a Ladies European Tour card. “I think that requirement is a good thing,” said Kellett, who secured his spot on the second-tier circuit this year off last season’s Alps Tour. “There are so many guys on satellite Tours now and I was driven on last year by knowing that this support was available if I did well.”
Pretswell, a member of last year’s winning Curtis Cup team at Nairn before she went on to top the LET’s development circuit, described the SGSL support as “bridging a gap”. Speaking at her home club, she added: “While I was gutted at the time, I’m glad I didn’t get my Tour card at the first attempt as it’s the best thing that has happened to me.”
When the programme was launched by First Minister Alex Salmond three years ago, Scottish golf was in the midst of a slump but, in the men’s game, four Scots are currently in the world’s top 100, while Matthew is on course to make a seventh Solheim Cup appearance later this year.
“After being in the doldrums three or four years ago, Scottish golf is right up there again thanks to the efforts of players like Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher and it shows what can be done with a bit of resource,” said Scottish Golf performance manager Steve Paulding.