Ian Rae, the national coach, believes a ‘Team Scotland’ concept could help the home of golf get a better success rate with players making the transition from amateur to professional.
For the second year running, the European Tour Qualifying School proved a barren hunting ground for Scots, leaving recently-turned 32-year-old Scott Jamieson as the country’s youngest card holder on that circuit in 2016.
Rae, who has worked with Scotland’s leading amateurs since being appointed as the first national coach back in 2000, is baffled as to why players like James Byrne and Michael Stewart have struggled to find their feet in the paid ranks. However, he’d like to see a system introduced that provides better support when players do make that step and believes something similar to the ‘Team Ireland’ set-up could be the answer.
It was established in 1999 to assist Irish professionals, both male and female, in the early stages of their careers and helped Shane Lowry, having already won his home Open as an amateur in 2009, become a WGC champion earlier this year. The total budget for Team Ireland Golf in 2015 was €200,000, the pot being made up of €170,000 from the Irish Sports Council and €30,000 from tourism body Fáilte Ireland.
“I’m not sure why we don’t have the transition into the professional game quite right at the moment because we have had so many great amateurs with awesome success around the world,” said Rae, who is currently in Abu Dhabi on a training trip with a mixed Scottish Golf squad. “But I would like to see more support for the younger professionals. This wouldn’t mean just money but people around them who know how to develop them into top-class professionals.
“This would mean people out at events, training camps etc working with the players in all aspects of their development so the support doesn’t stop when they turn pro. It should continue as they go through the professional development so they can get to the European Tour at the correct age for them. I’m not sure why Mickey or James hasn’t done better, but I do know they continue to try and both want to succeed.”
Rae addd: “A ‘Team Scotland’ concept would work well. The players would be able to play with a solid plan in place all the way to the top and not feel any different form amateur to professional. Maybe with players choosing different routes of management, support etc rather than have a ‘Team Scotland’ route and support all the way.
“There are so many good players coming out of Scotland and we have to help them all the way through good structure, management and support just like a lot of sports that don’t differ from amateur to professional.”
Rae praised recent WGC winner Russell Knox for using a disappointing week playing for Scotland in the 2006 European Youths’ Team Championship in Spain as a “let’s get better” trigger while he highlighted the “hard work and determination” of Richie Ramsay, who claimed his third European Tour title earlier this year, as the key to success.
“I have worked with Richie since he came back from college in the States which was around 2001 and I’ve seen him develop into a great player,” he said. “Richie wants to improve every year and won’t except mediocre performances so he will always want to find a way to get better.
“I think this is the same as many of the top players and I see this in Marc Warren, Stevie Gallacher, Scott Jamieson etc. Richie has learned and worked on how he reacts to good and poor performances so the mental side of the game is as important as the technical and physical.”