Martin Dempster: Eleanor Cannon went with safe option

Eleanor Cannon. Picture: John Devlin
Eleanor Cannon. Picture: John Devlin
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The new broom that has been sweeping through golf’s corridors of power hasn’t reached Scottish Golf – at least when it comes to the top salaried post. As Keith Pelley and Martin Slumbers settle into their new roles as chief executive of the European Tour and R&A respectively, an old face has been appointed for that job with the unified body now running the amateur game in Scotland.

Hamish Grey would have been the bookies’ favourite for the post, having held the same position with the Scottish Golf Union, which amalgamated with the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association to create the new umbrella organisation. In appointing him, Eleanor Cannon, the Chair of Scottish Golf, and her fellow non-executive board directors have gone with the safe-pair-of-hands option instead of shaking things up with a Pelley-style installation, the Canadian having wasted no time in ruffling a few feathers and also vowing to make the European Tour a “viable alternative” to the PGA Tour.

In truth, it is difficult to come up with an argument against that decision, other than perhaps a new era was the right time for a fresh face driving 
Scottish Golf forward. Grey, after all, has always come across as a decent man and, despite being a Kiwi, there’s been no reason to question his passion for golf in this country since he joined the SGU in 1998.

In the early days, he was 
perhaps guilty of channeling too much attention towards our leading amateurs but clubs and their fight for survival has undoubtedly become his main focus and credit where credit is due.

For me, his one shortcoming has been the lack of an ability to inspire people, whether that has been in and around players or sitting down for a natter with the Scottish 
golf scribes.

“Pathways” has long been his buzzword, to the extent, I’m afraid, that we now switch off when that comes out in conversations. This is a time when Scottish Golf needs to be rolling out some exciting new ideas, not “pathways”, and that’s where Cannon, in particular, and the other directors need to be challenging Grey and his trusty team.

The aforementioned 
Pelley may not be able to deliver everything he wants in full, but he’s generated a buzz and excitement among the European Tour’s players and that, surely, is a pre-requisite for any chief executive of a sporting body. Let’s hope Cannon, who runs an executive coaching business, is encouraging Grey to be a bit more vocal, more effusive, more demonstrative, more hands-on.

Slumbers, for example, didn’t just sit in on the R&A’s recent pace-of-play seminar. He fired questions at the speakers and also chaired a Q&A section.

There are some, of course, who will feel that an opportunity has been missed by not letting that broom sweep through the Scottish Golf headquarters on the outskirts of St Andrews as well.

Unlike either George O’Grady or Peter Dawson, however, Grey, at just 48, is still some way short of retiral age, and rarely has there been cause for a finger of blame to be pointed his way over the past 17 years. Scotland, after all, has enjoyed lots of success in the men’s amateur game in that time, including a first world team title triumph 
and two European team victories, the most recent just this year.

Sure, Scottish Golf Support Ltd, the Government-funded initiative to help players make the transition from amateur to professional, has so far resulted in a disappointing return for around £500,000. However, Grey and the others involved in shaping it surely couldn’t have forseen that setting the bar at Challenge Tour level was going to be too high and that whole project, thankfully, is now under review.

Let’s make that more effective somehow and let’s see Scottish Golf, with Cannon and her directors coming up with the fresh new ideas, and Grey and his team on the ground implementing them and seeing them help create a brighter future for the sport in its birthplace.