Martin Dempster: Eleanor Cannon marks a new start

Businesswoman Eleanor Cannon is the first chair of Scottish Golf Limited as the sport brings together the previous men's and women's organisations. Picture: John Devlin
Businesswoman Eleanor Cannon is the first chair of Scottish Golf Limited as the sport brings together the previous men's and women's organisations. Picture: John Devlin
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AT midnight tomorrow, both the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association and the Scottish Golf Union, founded in 1904 and 1920 respectively, will cease to exist. From Thursday onwards, a new amalgamated organisation, Scottish Golf Limited, will take over as the governing body for amateur golf in this country.

With Eleanor Cannon, who has an impressive CV in the business world and is already sending out positive signals to time-served golf administrators, having been installed as the inaugural chair, an exciting new era is beckoning, one that we should all certainly embrace as Scotland falls into line with most other countries around the world by having a mixed-gender body running the game.

Given that Cannon will be spearheading a board of eight non-executive members who will be working in tandem with an executive team that is experienced in all grass-roots 
matters in Scottish golf, there should be no shortage of thoughts and ideas swilling about as this new chapter is about to be penned and, hopefully, an exciting story unfolds. The destiny of the amateur game – effectively its lifeblood at club level – lies in their hands and the fanfare set to surround the arrival of Scottish Golf Limited will bring an increase in focus for results to be delivered.

It will require innovative ideas, fresh thinking and strong leadership, a box that Cannon looks as though she can tick. By the sounds of things, she also knows her onions when it comes to golf but, at a time when the melting pot needs to be stirred for the sport’s long-term well-being, here are four things this particular observer of the Scottish game would like to see as part of the bold new vision:

1 Scotland leading the way in a revolution against what is the “norm”.

This applies to outdated dress codes and competition formats that a) require too much time and b) are too repetitive. If smart but casual has become accepted in workplaces, then why not a golf club? As for competitions (and I know this is already being drip-fed at some clubs) nine-hole events are badly needed for those with time constraints while more team affairs such as Texas Scrambles can help provide some enjoyment amid the stress, not to mention monotony, of card-and-pencil rounds.

2 A new fixture list to re-invigorate the game at top amateur level.

While no-one can deny that both the SLGA and SGU have done a fantastic job in bringing through young talent on a regular basis – and there’s no reason that won’t continue under the new body – the domestic fixture list, for both men and women, has become stale. It needs a major 
overhaul to make it more exciting again and this is another chance for us to be bold and brave. For instance, let’s see a Scottish Par-3 Championship introduced and some match-play events as opposed to stroke-play tournaments week in, week out.

3 Club members seeing more tangible benefits from their annual affiliation fee.

Having reached out to clubs on the road to amalgamation, it’s time for rank-and-file golfers to finally know their yearly contribution to the governing body is directly beneficial to them in some way. A decision to increase the number of regional club development officers from three to eight, therefore, is a positive step. Here’s an idea, though. Why don’t we utilise our top amateurs a bit better by getting them along to clubs to hold clinics? That way, they’d be giving something back while at, at the same time, becoming more recognised by grass-roots golfers.

4 The heart and soul of Scottish golf being preserved.

It’s a disgrace that the hard-working officials of the men’s and women’s associations around the country never really get any credit for the time they are willing to give up. Instead, some people are intent on belittling them as “blazers”. Tom Craig, the SGU chairman, in particular and Beth Paterson, his SLGA counterpart, worked hard to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet for this amalgamation and those that have been involved in Scottish golf for a long time are as important in the amalgamated body being successful as Cannon or any other newcomers.