Lloyd Saltman and Michael Stewart both excited to return to winning ways
Lloyd Saltman and Michael Stewart were both tipped to go all the way to the top of the ladder on the back of glittering amateur careers yet, at 36 and 31 respectively, they are currently chiselling away at the coalface at the third tier in the professional ranks.
Saltman, who played on the same Walker Cup team as Rory McIlroy at Royal County Down in 2007, had a season on the European Tour a decade ago before seeing his career grind to a halt while Stewart has effectively been treading water for most of his professional life.
In both cases, it’s been an example of how difficult it actually is for the majority of players to be successful at the top level when they take that step, but, a few days apart, Saltman and Stewart have just given themselves welcome confidence boosts.
Helped by a brilliant nine-under-par 62 at his current base, Saltman won The Renaissance Club Classic on Paul Lawrie’s circuit for home-based players before Stewart then claimed victory in the Royal Aberdeen Granite City Classic.
Neither is getting carried away by their success, but, nonetheless, it was pleasing to hear a tone of excitement in their voices again as two of the nicest individuals you are likely to come across reflected on a return to winning ways.
“I’ve been playing really well the last two or three months and everything clicked at The Renaissance Club,” said Saltman, who won the Brabazon Trophy, Lytham Trophy and St Andrews Links Trophy in his amateur days, as well as claiming the Silver Medal for leading amateur in the 2005 Open at St Andrews, where he finished 15th behind Tiger Woods.
“I worked with my brother Elliot (the pair played in the 2009 Open at Turnberry when he was also a professional golfer), who has a tiling business, last year from September to basically April and, having not played at all in that time, it made me realise how much I still wanted to be a tour player.
“I felt I could get back on tour and win, so I spoke to my other brother Zack, who gave me his opinion, which I liked, and I have really enjoyed what we’ve been working on. It’s a great relationship and the team work has been very rewarding.“
No-one needs to tell Saltman that he looked destined for success at the highest level, but, like Stewart, he is able to reflect on the reasons why things haven’t panned out how lots of people had expected with refreshing honesty.
“Both myself and Mikey, someone I’ve known for a long time, were both very confident when we were playing well as amateurs and I think we both thought that after playing in the Walker Cup we’d go to Q School and go on from there. But this game is hard and, as we’ve discovered, it doesn’t necessarily work out like that,” he added.
“It took me a little while to find my feet as a pro and eventually I did get my tour card. Even though I played quite well, I just didn’t capitalise at the right time and, after losing my main tour card, I found myself playing some events here and some events there and got caught up playing in the wrong place.
“Then you find yourself searching for answers, going down the route of working with this coach and that coach. You think you are doing the right thing at the time, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t work and you lose confidence and don’t play well and, suddenly, it’s a different game.
“I was delighted to see Mikey win as well on the Tartan Pro Tour as he’s been working hard and I could see him regaining some confidence. Hopefully it’s a catapult for both of us to keep kicking on and trying to get back to where we could be.
“In my case, it’s about proving to yourself again that you are good enough. I’m improving again. I’m becoming a better golfer again, which is what really we are all trying to do. Q School would be the goal in a year’s time to try and get straight back on to the main tour.”
Though Stewart doesn’t regard himself as being in the same league as Saltman in terms of raw talent, the Ayrshireman was certainly highly-rated as he won the Scottish Boys, Scottish Amateur and South African Amateur, also playing on a triumphant Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.
“I have actually been playing really good since June and almost got over the line at Clevedon on the EuroPro Tour,” said Stewart. “The last few weeks on Paul Lawrie’s Tartan Pro Tour I had been there or thereabouts and it was nice to get the job done at Royal Aberdeen, which holds some nice and cool memories for me.
“I had begun 2019 so well, having started working with Alan McCloskey just prior to that. I then lost a little bit of form, unfortunately, and I sat down with Alan, who said to me that we were going to have to approach things in a totally different way in terms of what we were trying to achieve with the golf swing.
“It’s been a long time, but I feel it has started to turn around. I started doing some work as well with a guy called Jamie Donaldson, who does the AimPoint method with putting and that’s been like night and day.
“I am very content with my game, both technically and mentally. I just need to keep progressing. One of the things I regret is that trying to change far too much too quickly.
“It’s taken me a long time to get to the stage where I feel a lot more stable from a technical point of view. There was a time where I could have been the toughest guy out there mentally, but I knew I just had to get better technically.
“The goal is still to go through the ranks and not just play on the European Tour but be a success on the European Tour. I don’t see why I still can’t do that.”
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