Colin Montgomerie backs drive for Scots success

COLIN Montgomerie has welcomed developments aimed at helping Scottish golfers perform better at amateur and professional level but insists that can only happen if individuals have belief in themselves when under pressure.

Members of the SGU elite squad are currently halfway through a two-month trip to South Africa in preparation for the new domestic season, having spent a similar time playing and practising at top-class facilities in the Middle East before Christmas.

In the professional ranks, five Challenge Tour players have been hand-picked for the newly-launched 'Team Scottish Hydro' and will get all their tournament-related expenses paid for competing on that circuit this year.

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In another new development, money is also set to be distributed soon to a group of players to help them make the transition from amateur to professional and, at long last, the combination of all three things is creating a support programme on par with many other countries in Europe.

That was acknowledged by Montgomerie when the winning Ryder Cup captain took part in a discussion about Scottish golf along with former Open champion Paul Lawrie and three of the country's up-and-coming amateurs, Pamela Pretswell, Grant Forrest and Bradley Neil.

"The warm-weather training is good because it wasn't available in my day," said Montgomerie at the get-together organised by Aberdeen Asset Management, a company that has probably done more than anyone in the past few years to support the game at all levels in the home of golf.

"It should bring forward Scottish golf in the future, there is no question it has to happen. It is fantastic, but, at the same time, there is nothing wrong with being here.

"It all boils down to being able to handle a situation at the right time. You can't teach that so much and it is a confidence thing as well. If you believe in something you are halfway to achieving it. I always had ambition and drive to succeed.

"It's going to take a few years for the changes and input of companies and the SGU etc into the game to make a difference. We are going through a slight dip, but we are a small nation and we have to get that into perspective."

According to the eight-time European No 1, it's a case of Scottish golf learning to walk again at the highest level before people start talking about the likes of Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher being able to win majors.

"There are only four majors a year and expectation has got away from us. I have been runner-up in five. It's bloody difficult to win a major. We talk about these major champions of the future, but let's get down realistic goals and let's win a number of European titles," he added.

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"If you win three times in a year that's bloody good and you have done very well with the competition that's around you.Yes, we hope for Scottish success but let's walk before we run by winning consistently in Europe first. I finished runner-up in Europe 21 times and hated every one of them because you had an opportunity to win and didn't take it. It's horrible. But it's not just European players on our Tour. It's become a world Tour."

Lawrie admitted Scotland "should be doing better as a nation" but he insisted a poor recent success rate in comparison to England and Ireland had nothing to do with players like him not putting in enough time on the range. Far from it, in fact.

"It's not a case that we aren't working hard. Me, Alastair (Forsyth], Stephen (Gallacher] etc. We definitely have the talent, but just at the minute there is no one apart from Stephen who is doing as well as he should," said the Aberdonian.

"He is the only one playing the kind of golf he should be playing. The rest of us are underachieving. These things go in cycles. In 1999 there was three of us in the Ryder Cup team. Hopefully, we've got another lot coming through who are going to kick on over the next six years and do even better.

"It's not a lack of effort, funding and coaching. You see the amount of money Aberdeen Asset are putting into golf. Right now it's not pretty, but it will get better. I would be amazed if five years from now there wasn't a hell of a different picture."