Martin Dempster: Difficult times call for radical change

These really are depressing times for Scottish golf, the latest in a series of hammer blows for the sport in its birthplace having been delivered in an annual report that revealed more registered golfers have been lost in this country than anywhere else '¨in Europe.

Richie Ramsay shows off the Hassan Trophy after winning the event in Morocco  but that was back in March 2015.
Richie Ramsay shows off the Hassan Trophy after winning the event in Morocco  but that was back in March 2015.

Admittedly, the same survey acknowledged that participation in golf here remains strong, highlighting the new nomadic element in the game, yet there can be no denying that such a statistic is nothing short of embarrassing for this nation.

That, alas, is becoming a worrying trend and, bearing in mind please that, over the years, this correspondent has never been shy to trumpet tartan triumphs and, at the same time, has savoured Scottish success with immense pride, here are a few facts for anyone who thinks differently:

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l Scotland’s last victory in a regular European Tour event was in March 2015, when Richie Ramsay claimed the Hassan Trophy in Morocco. In fairness, the same player has been the leading light on that circuit this season.

l Catriona Matthew, finally starting to see her career slow down, is Scotland’s top-ranked female professional in 110th spot, with Pamela
Pretswell next highest at 325th, while Jessica Meek is our leading player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings at 170.

l A scene of rich pickings over the years, the Challenge Tour has failed to deliver a Scottish title triumph so far this season, though, again in fairness, Bradley Neil is definitely making headway and Grant Forrest has shown promise in his first full season in the professional ranks.

l The various third-tier circuits around Europe, notably the PGA EuroPro Tour, have not delivered a single Scottish victory this year. Having been fruitful in the past, it has to be worrying to see success dry up at that level.

l Scotland picked up the wooden spoon in this year’s Men’s Home Internationals at Moortown after losing all three matches, an awful performance that merits a proper post-mortem by Scottish Golf.

l Attendances at events such as the Scottish Men’s and Women’s Scottish Opens at Dundonald Links and, in particular, the Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns were poor, bearing in mind that all three boasted world-class fields.

If that snapshot of the current state of Scottish golf doesn’t make you feel depressed, then you clearly have your head buried in the sand and that, I’m afraid, won’t help create a culture change that is definitely required to help shape a brighter future for the sport in this 

Our players, both male and female, all work hard and, as professionals, set out with the same desire as their counterparts from countries around the world to climb all the way to the top of the ladder. But it has become abundantly clear, more so with each passing year, that something is wrong in Scottish golf at the moment and it simply has to be fixed.

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We’ve reached the stage where it is time to get to the bottom of why a decade’s worth of promising young talent – such as Lloyd Saltman, James Byrne, Callum Macaulay, Michael Stewart and Wallace Booth – failed to fulfil their potential.

As a result, the average age of Scotland’s current group of European Tour card holders is 36, an astonishing statistic and one we certainly can’t be proud of at a time when other countries are churning out young players who are capable of hitting the ground running.

We need someone to take the bull by the horns, someone to put his or her head above the parapet to call for a proper review of Scottish golf and make sure it is turned inside out to ensure the next generation of professionals, such as Connor Syme, Robert MacIntyre, Sam Locke, Hannah Darling and Anna McKay, can indeed go all the way to the top of that ladder.

Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher are both doing a terrific job already of trying to create a brighter future for the sport through their splendid junior foundations while Gallacher and Catriona Matthew – Andrew Coltart was, too, for a spell – are on Scottish Golf’s performance committee.

All of that can only be helpful, as can the recent introduction of our leading amateurs being afforded Challenge Tour playing 

One question that would need to be asked, though, as part of that review would be about Dean 
Robertson. Yes, he also now sits on that performance committee, but, as a country, are we really making the most of someone who has steered Stirling University to success after success – a European title double was landed just last week – during his time at the helm of its golf programme? I think not and it really is time something was done 
about that.