The State of Scottish Golf
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TWO of the brightest young prospects in Lothians golf are preparing to rub shoulders with a Royal and golfing royalty.
JIM THOMSON today admitted that his first appearance at a Scottish Golf Union annual meeting in his new role as Lothians president could prove to be an explosive affair.
As a Scots lawyer by profession, a category one golfer for over thirty years who has played on more than 800 courses worldwide, the author of The Walker Cup, Golf's Finest Contest and a quarterly newsletter called The Amateur Golfer, and someone who has lived in Asia for the past twelve years, I feel reasonably well informed about the game worldwide and in a position to make some observations about Scottish amateur golf.
SINCE the formula for training champions is, at best, an inexact science, perhaps the most telling compliment which can be made about the state of Scottish golf in 2006 is the heightened level of awareness at the heart of the game which recognises the need to implement effective change.
A PAST Open winner and Ryder Cup player able to count over £5million in career prize money - he's already garlanded with an MBE for his services to golf - Paul Lawrie is an unusual champion in as much as he takes the same satisfaction from helping others as he does from his own successes. In a selfish game, the Aberdonian is an unselfish man.
SCOTLAND can revive its reputation as a power in golf if it seizes the opportunity presented by hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup match at Gleneagles as a catalyst for change, according to Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the Professional Golfers Association and a member of the Ryder Cup board.
THE manufacture of golf equipment may have withered away in Scotland, but there is no shortage of productivity when it comes to the other vital component of the game - the course.
ALTHOUGH 2006 was no more of a vintage year on the course for Scotland's women professionals than the men - Catriona Matthew, who is pregnant, slipped to 43rd in the world rankings; Janice Moodie, who gave birth to Craig last week, is 112th; and Mhairi McKay is 232nd - the emergence of a group of gifted teenage amateurs gave cause for optimism about the next generation of elite Scottish female golfers.
FOR much of the 20th century, the Scottish golf economy was driven by both club and ball making in Fife and East Lothian.
IN THE aftermath of a golden summer for the unpaid ranks, when Richie Ramsay became the first Scot since the 19th century to win the US Amateur championship and Scotland retained the Home International crown for the first time in a quarter of a century, Scottish amateur golf could have been forgiven for contemplating shortcomings on the professional scene with smug indifference.
EVEN by Scotland's high standards of welcoming the world's best players, the celebration of the game due to unfold next summer in a series of championships worth more than £80million to the Scottish economy at Loch Lomond, Carnoustie, Muirfield and St Andrews promises to be spectacular. "I've got to admit," reflected George O'Grady, the executive director of the European Tour, "this is a very special country for golf."
FEWER people than in past generations, according to anecdotal evidence, are joining golf clubs in Scotland and those who do pay an annual subscription are 65 times more likely to be middle-aged men than teenage girls.
IN THE lee of Arthur's Seat, Prestonfield is one of Edinburgh's most established and scenic golf clubs. It's the golfing home in the heart of the capital for nearly 1,000 members. Yet, even with the advantage of a central location just a mile and a half from Princes Street, Prestonfield has experienced many of the membership problems common to a large number of the 670 clubs in Scotland.
AS SPORT'S only international governing body with its headquarters in Scotland, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews enjoys a unique position for a Scottish institution of influencing events and nurturing projects in the rest of the world.
EAGER to strengthen ties in future years with China, the country which has the world's fastest growing major economy and is set to change the face of tourism, as well as much else, First Minister Jack McConnell didn't hesitate to play what he regarded as Scotland's trump card when he visited Beijing and Shanghai in the autumn of 2004. He talked about golf.
IN SWEDEN, the first time a club was swung at a ball in earnest happened in 1830 when Scottish fishermen, taking a breather from catching salmon in the River Atran, played golf on the linksland in Halland.