Martin Dempster: Only in Scotland would you be criticised for positivity

Connor Syme underlined his talent by carding 29 birdies to win the Turkish Airlines Challenge at the weekend. Picture: Getty.
Connor Syme underlined his talent by carding 29 birdies to win the Turkish Airlines Challenge at the weekend. Picture: Getty.
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Connor Syme’s winning putt in the Turkish Airlines Challenge on Sunday had barely dropped when some of the nonsense that hangs thick in the air in Scottish golf showed its head. “Let’s hope the media just let him do his thing this year instead of piling unnecessary pressure on a young top talent,” wrote one individual on Twitter.

Referring to Syme’s best effort last season in his rookie year on the European Tour, he went on: “A few reporters claimed Connor was the best player Scotland had produced in the last ten years, due to a second-place finish. Not needed, no need for pressure like that. No need to name names.”

I will, though. That was me, though on checking a column from 12 June last year, what I actually said in the wake of Syme’s performance in the Shot Clock Masters in Austria is that “you get the feeling that the journey is only just beginning for arguably the brightest hope to emerge in Scottish golf over the past decade”.

That opinion, of course, wasn’t based on one performance. I deserve a bit more credit than that, surely. I’d watched Syme come through the amateur ranks, always liked his work ethic and attitude, and most certainly wasn’t throwing anything out there 
randomly.

As he showed out in Turkey by making 28 birdies – 29 when you add in the play-off – the Drumoig-based player is indeed a talented young man and equally impressive is the fact he’s not scared to make decisions that are right for him and his long-term career.

It would have been easy for the 25-year-old to have headed for Morocco instead last week to play in the Trophee Hassan II on the European Tour, but his focus for the time being is the Challenge Tour because that is the best option in terms of securing a foothold back on the main circuit next year.

Did Syme lose his place at the top table this season due to having “unnecessary pressure” placed on him by either myself or any of my colleagues in the media? Not at all. He gave an excellent account of himself in that rookie campaign but, as he himself admitted last week, it was a learning experience.

Based on how well he played at Samsun Golf Club on the Black Sea coast, Syme hasn’t been scarred in the slightest by finding the Challenge Tour his main workplace at the moment rather than the European Tour. He’ll be back there before too long, then watch him kick on from there, guided, as always, by his dad and coach, Stuart.

But, turning back to that criticism of the Scottish golf media, it has become apparent to this correspondent in recent years that people in this country no longer have a clue about how the sport continues to be covered here in comparison, for example, our next-door neighbour, England.

Amateur golf no longer gets any mention at all in national newspapers south of the Border. If it had been an English professional winning the Turkish Airlines Challenge, that wouldn’t have merited coverage in any of those titles, either. The player’s local newspaper would probably have picked up on it, but that’s about it.

Thankfully, sports editors in Scotland can still find space for golf stories away from the majors and main tours, even though those are the ones that ultimately generate the most interest in the game and rightly so.

It’s that connection with players as either amateurs or young professionals that makes covering Scottish golf as enjoyable as it is most of the time, with Stephen Gallacher and Paul Lawrie, for example, both being perfect cases in point in my case and players such as Syme, David Law, Grant Forrest, Bob MacIntyre and Liam Johnston now providing the exciting storylines in their 20s.

Over the last few days, I’ve penned pieces on an exciting new group of under-16 boys in Scotland, as well as two rising girl stars, Grace Crawford and Carmen Griffiths, giving a good account of themselves in the Under-16s Amateur Championship at Fulford.

Yet, amid lots of joy being expressed about Syme recording a fifth tartan triumph on the Challenge Tour in less than a year, someone punches you in the gut by criticising you for talking up a Scottish sportsperson. Really?

Ah well, I suppose it is better than being accused of unwarranted “criticism towards Scottish golfers from their own media”, an accusation made last year by an English player on the European Tour.