One of the country’s top professionals has called for a coaching review to come out of today’s first Scottish Golf national conference due to a system used in the recent past having “stunted the growth” of some promising players.
More than 500 delegates are congregating at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre to take part in an event aimed at shaping the “future of golf in Scotland” at a time when funding from the Scottish Government for the sport is being slashed and club membership is decreasing.
A wide cross section is set to be in attendance as Scottish Golf, the governing body, seeks to “address some of the key challenges facing the game” while also “encouraging healthy debate to generate fresh thinking and new solutions”.
The future of clubs is likely to be the main focus, but Marc Warren believes attention should also be given to the coaching set-up as he fears that has not been working properly in order to give promising youngsters the best possible chance to progress in the game.
“From the outside looking in, I think we have a lot of good coaches in Scotland and a lot of good, very qualified people who aren’t involved with Scottish Golf,” said the three-time European Tour winner and also a World Cup winner.
“If they are bringing juniors through, I think it is important they are given the funding to support them as long as they want to work with that person and not feel under any pressure to go and spend time with someone else.
“They shouldn’t have to work with specific Scottish Golf coaches. I think that’s maybe something that has happened in the past. If kids are developing and improving, it shouldn’t have to be regimented and by the book as it’s not always the right way.
“It certainly wasn’t for me and I know a lot of people I came through with was in the same boat. Everbody is different in their mindset. For example, I would prepare for events differently to Richie Ramsay.
“If kids have their own coaches and they are happy with them, then they should get the funding to continue that work rather than having to work with someone else. I think that has stunted the growth of some people from what I’ve seen.”
Connor Syme, who recently secured his European Tour card at just 22, is a good example of how a player can progress working with just one person, having been coached throughout his career by his dad Stuart, a PGA professional.
Warren also pointed to world No 16 and Ryder Cup contender Tyrrell Hatton, saying: “His dad coaches him. Yes, he’s lucky that he’s a pro but, say he was Scottish and not under the Scottish Golf umbrella, then he’d not have been receiving funding to teach him earlier in his career.
“It should be more about results than you have to be doing X, Y or Z to get funding. I’m not 100 per cent sure that still goes on, but it certainly did in the past.”
Today had originally been set aside for a special general meeting to vote on a proposed new strategy but, partly due to Scottish Golf’s chief executive Blane Dodds announcing he’s off to take up the same post at Tennis Scotland, a period of consultation has been extended until March.
Eleanor Cannon, Scottish Golf’s chair and currently running the show on the ground until a new chief executive is appointed, said she is anticipating a “very productive event at the EICC” and another leading player hopes the governing body is indeed prepared to listen to delegates.
“I think if you have 500 people who are willing to give up their Saturday to go along and find out what is happening, they are obviously enthusiastic and want what is the best for Scottish Golf,” said Pamela Pretswell Asher, who has been Scottish No 1 on the Ladies European Tour for the last two seasons.
“It is giving people a chance to be heard. Not just heard but listened to and what they are saying taken on board because there is no point having it if you are not going to listen to what your core group are saying.
“This is going to be about the ranks of Scottish golf from club officials and club amateurs to elite amateurs. From feedback about a couple of other events [held by Scottish Golf about its proposed strategy], it seemed to be that they were saying they were listening but weren’t really.