Dean Robertson proud to see Stirling scholars teeing up big title triumphs

While Dean Robertson may have tasted success as a player in both the amateur and professional ranks, his biggest pleasure in life is seeing University of Stirling golf scholars blossoming in the game.

Louise Duncan poses with the trophy following her win in the final of the R&A Womens Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie). Picture: Charles McQuillan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.
Louise Duncan poses with the trophy following her win in the final of the R&A Womens Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie). Picture: Charles McQuillan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

It was a proud moment for instance, when Scot Jack McDonald and Northern Irishman Cormac Sharvin played together on a winning Great Britain & Ireland team in the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham.

There have been numerous other team triumphs that have brought Robertson satisfaction in his role as the university’s high performance golf coach, but a recent spell of Stirling success has just about taken his breath away.

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Graduate Chloe Goadby started the ball rolling when she won the Scottish Women’s Championship at Gullane before current programme member Louise Duncan became the first Scot in 24 years to triumph in the Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie).

Laird Shepherd poses with the trophy after his victory in the final of the R&A Amateur Championship at Nairn. Picture: David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

Then, in an extraordinary success, Laird Shepherd, Goadby’s fellow graduate boyfriend, fought back from eight down at one point in the 36-hole final to become the newly-crowned Amateur champion at Nairn on Saturday.

Robertson’s enthusiasm for his role and golf in general has rubbed off on all three and the 1999 Italian Open champion is hoping the conveyor belt of talent can keep coming.

“I feel immensely proud when you get kids who buy into what you are doing because they get it and they embrace it,” he told The Scotsman. “You are watching these young players mature as adults and they are making friends for life and having experiences as they do it. It’s just magic.

“For me, to do what I do truly is a vocation. I’ve been 11 years now, but it almost feels like starting over with Covid. It’s only been the last five years that I’ve been involved with the women as the first few years was working with the men only and the women’s programme was separate.

Chloe Goadby shows off the silverware after winnng the Scottish Women's Championship at Gullane. Picture: Scottish Golf.

“When I was asked to look after the women’s programme, it was a no-brainer. We just created a mixed programme and it’s great and it benefits the women massively as you can take them out of their comfort zone and they just love it.

“We go to nearby courses and some days I’ll throw the women’s off the men’s championship tees and say, ‘it’s head-to-head with no shots’. They’ll turn to me and say ‘you can’t do that’ and I just say, ‘I’m afraid to say, that ‘s what we are doing’.

Seven boys and seven girls are in the scholarship programme at Stirling, where both Catriona Matthew and Richie Ramsay used stints to carve out successful professional careers. Outwith the main programme, there is also a “massive fraternity of golfers” that are low handicappers.

“Since March 2020, it’s been a challenge for everyone,” said Robertson of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We went remote initially in lockdown and strength and conditioning played a massive part in that.

Dean Robertson, Stirling University's high performance golf coach, talks to a group of potential scholars at the campus earlier this week.

“Just as a duty of care to the players, we wanted to stay connected to them and get them through it. By and large, we managed to do that and I am really proud of what we did in terms of supporting all the students at Stirling.

“When they came back in September, everybody was like, ‘great, we are going to get back into it’, but that was never going to materialise as we didn’t really have any schedule.

“We had one one-day event and that was curtailed because of Covid. But, as soon as the competitions were cancelled, we created a project called ‘Ballspeed’ to give us a real focus and so many bought into it and none more so than Louise.

“We kept that going through the winter and the early part of this year. On campus, we could still conduct training outdoors and Louise was one of those who really embraced that.

“Into April, when lockdown allowed us to be back in the gym, we created a month-long training camp and that took us over to Archerfield, where we had Gary Nicol as a guest coach and Bobby Rushford and John Mathers, both of whom work with me year round at the uni.

“As does strength and conditioning coach Josh Walsh and we ended it off with a week in Dornoch for a training camp. We had a 72-hole mock tournament for the boys and the girls and the ones who were able to attend that have absolutely flourished.”

Robertson, who caddied for Duncan in the 36-hole final as the West Kilbride player triumphed in her native Ayrshire, is now hoping she has helped inspire the next generation of Stirling golf scholars.

“Working with Karyn Dallas (the former Scottish women’s coach who is now based at Forfar Golf Club) we have a group of young girls coming on campus this week to give them an experience of what life would be like,” he said.

“Louise wll be one of the players there talking to them and passing on information. Lorna McClymont will be another, as will Penny Brown and Rachel Foster.”

In a mentoring role for Scottish Golf, Matthew, the current European Solheim Cup captain, passed on valuable advice to Goadby ahead of her title triumph in East Lothian, much to the delight of Robertson.

“Just brilliant,” he said of that. “Catriona called me up when she was taking on the mentoring role and she wanted to find out about the girls. Who are they? What are they like?

“That’s brilliant. That’s the details you need and to have somebody of that stature in the game taking the time to go into that detail is what it is all about.

“Hopefully the girls will make the most of that and will be forthcoming in asking questions, be inquisitive and want to learn.”

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