And, with the Scottish Golf Awards no longer taking place, it seems like an appropriate time to be picking out the people in particular but also in other categories for doing themselves and also the home of golf proud this year.
Even though Grant Forrest and Calum Hill landed maiden wins on the European Tour, our shining light on the world stage was Bob MacIntyre. After topping a group that included Dustin Johnson, the world No 1 at the time, in the WGC Match Play in Texas, the Oban man finished 12th on his Masters debut to book a return trip to Augusta National in 2022 then secured a second successive top-10 finish in The Open by tying for eighth at Royal St George’s. MacIntyre also became the first Scot since 2012 to finish in the top 10 in the Race to Dubai.
Louise Duncan had already ensured that 2021 would be a year to remember when she won the Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie), the West Kilbride player becoming the first Scot to achieve that feat since 1997. The 21-year-old, though, turned it into something really special by producing a sensational performance to finish joint-10th in her major debut in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie. On the back of her eye-catching efforts this year, Duncan has the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, US Women’s Open and another AIG Women’s Open, this one at Muirfield, to look forward to in 2022.
Hannah Darling’s win in the Girls’ Amateur Championship at Fulford made her a contender and she then wasted no time making her mark on the US college circuit at the start of a spell at the University of South Carolina. But it was truly an outstanding year for Blairgowrie 14-year Connor Graham, who racked up win after win and also became the youngest player to reach the semi-finals in the Scottish Amateur Championship. It was the icing on the cake when he recently became the first Scot to win the Junior Boys European Open in Spain.
This one also goes to Bob MacIntyre for the drive he produced against Adam Long at the 18th hole at Austin Country Club in the WGC Match Play. Needing something special to advance from the group stage, the Scot knocked his tee shot at the 371-yard hole to no more than two feet as Dustin Johnson was sizing up a birdie putt against Kevin Na that he had hoped would take him through as opposed to MacIntyre.
Some people might have had doubts about Catriona Matthew as a captain due to her quiet nature, but how wrong have they been proved? Having already led Europe to a Solheim Cup victory at Gleneagles in 2019, the North Berwick woman became the first person to achieve that feat back-to-back with a brilliant follow-up success against the Americans at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. The fact few Europeans fans were in attendance due to Covid travel restrictions at the time made this one of Matthew’s finest hours in the sport.
Former European Tour player Dean Robertson continues to do a fantastic job as Stirling University’s high performance golf coach and he was on Louise Duncan’s bag for both the Women’s Amateur Championship and the AIG Women’s Open. He has a real knack of getting the best out of talented young players and, though Duncan was hitting the shots, she’d be the first to admit that Robertson played a huge part in the two biggest weeks of her career to date.
Tyrrell Hatton has recorded four victories worth more than £4.5 million since the Englishman linked up with his experienced Scottish caddie, Mick Donaghy. Hatton has taken his game to a new level since linking up with Glaswegian Donnelly for the first time in the British Masters at Hillside in May 2019. They joined forces to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, a success that helped earn Hatton one of the automatic Ryder Cup spots at Whistling Straits.
Carnoustie just gets better and better as a tournament venue and the Angus venue was resplendent for the AIG Women’s Open. With around 8000 fans per day in attendance and the event having received a timely boost as the R&A announced that the prize-money was increasing by $1.3 million to $5.8 million, it was a cracking event from start to finish. Louise Duncan played her part by thrilling the home fans while winner Anna Nordqvist was cheered on by a band of fans led by her Scottish husband, Kevin McAlpine.
A year after expressing fears that it “might not exist” beyond a closure of courses due to the Covid pandemic, Brora Golf Club celebrated its 130th year by completing four years of work to buy the land it occupies from Sutherland Estates. The move, which gives the club greater financial security, was achieved with the help of the Trustees of Kilbraur Windfarm though a grant of £25,000, recognising the role the club plays in bringing tourists to the village as well as being one of the largest employers.
Paul Lawrie set up the Tartan Pro Tour in 2020 to provide playing opportunities for Scottish-based professionals at a time when the third-tier circuits in Europe had been halted by the Covid pandemic. The 2021 schedule was bigger and better, with events being held at some of the top courses in Scotland. Lawrie’s support of Scottish players over the years should never be underestimated and it’s exciting to see what he has in store for next year and beyond.