Martin Dempster: Ryan Lumsden’s lift for Scottish sport amidst doom and gloom

Ryan Lumsden is making an impact both on and off the golf course in his spell at Northwestern University in Chicago. Picture: Rob Carr/Getty
Ryan Lumsden is making an impact both on and off the golf course in his spell at Northwestern University in Chicago. Picture: Rob Carr/Getty
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At a time when Scottish sport appears to have been engulfed by a wave of doom and gloom due to our national football team suffering a real kick in the Kazaks, then making hard work of beating the lowest-ranked European country, let’s applaud one of our golfers, Ryan Lumsden, for showing that the Saltire still has reason to be 
flying proudly.

On the day Alex McLeish’s men were suffering that horrific 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in their opening 2020 European Championship qualifying match, it emerged that Lumsden, who is in his senior year at Northwestern University in Illinois, had been nominated for this year’s Byron Nelson Award by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA).

So what?, I hear you ask. Well, for starters, it’s an honour in itself for any golfer to be in the running for an accolade that bears the name of one of the legends of the game, a five-time major winner and sixth on the all-time PGA Tour list with 52 title triumphs.

Lumsden, who reached the final of the Scottish Amateur Championship at Prestwick in 2017, eventually losing to Sam Locke, can be extremely proud of getting himself nominated along with fellow seniors Braden Bailey (Baylor), Nick Ludka (Kalamazoo), Collin Morikawa (Cal) and Brandon Wu (Stanford).

Even more so when you take into account the fact that it’s not just golfing achievements which are considered by the selection committee when it comes to this particular award – and that’s why Lumsden did, indeed, deliver a boost, albeit a small one, in the wake of that shocking football result last Thursday.

Yes, golfing prowess is a factor and Lumsden, who was born in London and is a member at Royal Wimbledon but jumped at the chance to represent Scotland through his Edinburgh-born grandparents, has certainly ticked that box during his spell at Northwestern. He holds the third-best career stroke average in the programme’s history, with former world No 1 Luke Donald being one of those to have performed better. He’s racked up a string of top-five finishes on the ultra-competitive US college circuit, including a brace of wins in the Marquette Intercollegiate. Last year, he qualified for the US Open at Shinnecock Hills and was also named a GCAA All-America Scholar.

If he can keep progressing, then he could well be about to follow in the footsteps of both Russell Knox and Martin Laird by carving out a career on the PGA Tour once he graduates or, alternatively, copy Calum Hill by trying to use the Challenge Tour on this side of the Atlantic as a route to get on the European Tour.

In the meantime, Lumsden can take huge satisfaction from the fact that, as well as proving to be a talented young golfer, he is also making an impact in life off the golf course. The Byron Nelson Award also recognises “character and integrity while in college”, with particular consideration being given to a nominee’s “good citizenship”, something that Nelson himself was renowned for.

“Ryan’s commitment to giving back to the local community here in Evanston has been outlined this year by him volunteering at the local middle school to help with their PE classes,” said David Inglis, a fellow Scot who, in his role as the golf coach at Northwestern, has effectively become Lumsden’s mentor and, while unashamedly biased, believes he is a worthy nominee.

“This award is given every year to the most outstanding college senior taking into consideration his golf career, academic achievements, community service and his citizenship, and, plain and simple, Ryan is a class act,” added the former British Boys champion.

“He has really developed into a great golfer but also an outstanding young man. He’s worked hard in university to be an academic All-American, one of the top-ranked players in the world and will leave Northwestern with one of the best careers we’ve ever had.”