Martin Dempster: Richie Ramsay’s mental strength

A FORTNIGHT ago, I had the pleasure of joining Richie Ramsay on a panel for a Q&A event at Kingsfield Golf Centre on the outskirts of Linlithgow. It was the second time in the space of a few months that we’d sat in front of the membership of the excellent family golf facility, the line-up being completed on this occasion by former Scotland manager Craig Brown, ex-Hearts boss Jim Jefferies and Scotland’s newly-crowned Coach of the Year, Alan McCloskey.

Richie Ramsay celebrates after holing a putt in the final round of the Trophee Hassan II. Picture:Getty

Without question, it was Brown who provided the main entertainment as he regaled the audience with tale after tale from both his playing and managerial career. Yet, as had been the case at the first such event, on the eve of last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, I sat there listening to Ramsay and was hugely impressed with everything he had to say.

Now 31 and in his seventh season on the circuit, the Aberdonian speaks with great authority about the European Tour, both in terms of what it takes to get there in the first place and, perhaps more importantly, knowing what is required to stay there for a tangible length of time. What struck me most from both Q&As, though, was Ramsay’s attitude about himself because it is certainly different to the one that was responsible for beating himself up on occasions in the past and, perhaps, getting in his own way at times.

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Don’t get me wrong. His hunger and desire to squeeze every ounce out of himself has not changed one bit. It never will, either, because the former US Amateur champion is as dogged and determined as they come in the Royal & Ancient game.

What is different is that Ramsay now plays golf with a bit more perspective, having come across people, the likes of injured soldiers visiting Kingsfield, where the Edinburgh-based player practises, and realised he was perhaps being too hard on himself.

As Ramsay won the Hassan Trophy II in Morocco on Sunday, there was one of those so-called lightbulb moments for me. He’d just run up a potentially-disastrous triple-bogey 6 at the previous hole to squander a three-shot lead in the final round. But, after sinking a testing par putt at the ninth, a wide smile appeared on his face.

It was a signal that, rather than being a simmering volcano, Ramsay had an inner calmness as he headed to the back nine, which he duly covered in three-under-par to claim his third European Tour triumph – the same title tally as both Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren.

“One win is great as your first win is always special,” said Ramsay. “Two is probably a validation as it’s then not a coincidence. Three gets you to a point where, without doing anything else, you could stand back and think: ‘I’m not just an everyday golfer’ because you have accomplished a career goal by winning multiple titles.”

He’s jumped 51 spots to 77th in the latest world rankings, which now feature four Scots in the top 80 with Gallacher 39th, Warren 51st and Russell Knox 76th. “Richie can definitely become a top-50 player,” insisted Ian Rae, his long-time coach. “He has been very close a few times and I think he’s ready to move to the next level and stay there.”

Ramsay might have been among the world’s elite already but for a spate of unfortunate injuries. He’s learning to take preventative measures, though. Sky Sports commentator Rob Lee, for instance, noticed how he’d seen the Scot at breakfast in Agadir on Sunday morning with what he described as a “roll of carpet” lodged between his back and the seat.

“He is working harder than ever and has been trying hard to make sure the injuries stay away,” added Rae. “His gym work is an important area to keep him fit and injury-free.

He has a trainer and a good physio and they’re key to being injury-free. His win on Sunday shows everyone how important it is to have faith in your own game.”

Three titles should certainly not be scoffed at, but Ramsay could just be getting started as Scottish golf finds itself on the verge of an exciting phase. Ramsay, Gallacher and Warren have all recorded European Tour wins inside the last 14 months, while it would be no surprise to see a PGA Tour title fall to Knox before too long.

“There’s a couple of titles I really want,” admitted Ramsay of his goals. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, but I’d love to be in contention in certain events because I know that how I was down the stretch on Sunday was really impressive. If I could put myself in the mix in those events and have same attitude and focus, then only good things can happen from that.”