Martin Dempster: Time SGU sampled Stirling formula

Jack McDonald has blossomed under Dean Robertson`s coaching at Stirling. Picture: Jane Barlow
Jack McDonald has blossomed under Dean Robertson`s coaching at Stirling. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE Raymond Trophy sitting back in Scottish hands for the first time in six years – a wonderful effort by a home side led by Scott Knowles – wasn’t the only welcome sight during last week’s Home Internationals at Glasgow Gailes.

Just as encouraging for the future of the amateur game in Scotland – the professional scene, too, for that matter – was the last-day image of Hamish Grey, the Scottish Golf Union chief executive, appearing to be in conversation on the Ayrshire course with Dean Robertson.

Paul Lawrie is just one of a host of top golfers to be involved in various initiatives

Paul Lawrie is just one of a host of top golfers to be involved in various initiatives

It’s been widely perceived over the past few years that Robertson, a former Scottish Amateur champion who won the Italian Open during a spell on the European Tour and is now the golf performance coach at Stirling University, has been kept at an arm’s length by Grey.

While the SGU – rightly so – has trumpeted its success in getting Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie, Andrew Coltart, Stephen Gallacher and Martin Laird involved in various initiatives, there’s been a sense that you should only be mentioning Robertson’s name in hushed tones at events run by the national body.

Why? Probably because, in the eyes of some at least, the former Walker Cup player is seen as a threat to certain people currently employed by the SGU, having proved himself as an outstanding mentor to the likes of Graeme Robertson and Jack McDonald at Stirling.

I might be wrong about this, but I detected a feeling of glee among certain SGU officials when Greig Marchbank from Dumfries & County toppled McDonald, one of the pre-tournament favourites, in the recent Scottish Amateur Championship at Royal Dornoch.

Why should that be? Because Marchbank, this year’s Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play champion, is a full-blooded SGU product whereas McDonald, who, admittedly came through the same ranks initially, now has Robertson guiding him. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But there’s something else that happened with McDonald, a nice young lad from Ayrshire, earlier this year which made me think there’s a power struggle going on that certainly isn’t healthy for our game.

During the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where McDonald underlined his potential by becoming the first home-based amateur to make the cut in a decade, I heard murmurings that certain people weren’t too happy that he was wearing Stirling University clothing instead of SGU-branded gear.

If things can get really get as petty as that, then heaven help us. But, at long last, it seems as though headway is being made in trying to tap in to why Robertson, a man who has more passion for the Royal & Ancient game than anyone I’ve ever come across, is taking an already successful golf programme at Stirling to a new and exciting level.

I understand a meeting took place at Glasgow Gailes between Robertson, his boss Raleigh Gowrie, the sports performance manager at Stirling, Scottish Golf performance manager Steve Paudling and Stephen Docherty, the SGU’s non-executive performance director.

Almost certainly, Docherty will have been the man driving that at the SGU’s end, the former Scottish Boy and Youth international having brought a fresh perspective to the role, as he showed right from the start by getting Coltart, another man with so much to offer, involved as a mentor.

Let’s hope those discussions in Ayrshire were productive, though I’m certainly not saying that because I think the current SGU coaching and development structure needs to be scrapped and started all over again.

As the long-time national coach, Ian Rae has gained the utmost respect of the vast majority of the players he has worked with, exemplified by the fact a number of European Tour golfers, including Richie Ramsay, George Murray and Steven O’Hara, still have him as their swing guru.

Colin Brooks, Neil Marr and George Boswell, to name just three of the SGU Academy coaches, are also doing a splendid job nurturing young talent around the country, and, as the aforementioned Home International title triumph demonstrated, Scotland can still hold its own at the top level in amateur golf.

Where we’ve been lacking in recent years, certainly in comparison to Ireland and England, is turning talented amateurs into stars on the professional stage, though, as someone rightly pointed out the other day, Scottish representation on the top Tours around the world isn’t exactly shabby.

If Robertson has a knack of getting the best out of players – and his work with the likes of both his namesake and McDonald certainly seems to suggest that’s the case – then let’s get him on board and, once and for all, have everyone with Scottish golf at heart singing from the same hymn sheet.

Winning war on slow play

HATS off to the R&A for leading the fight in the war against slow play, the St Andrews-based organisation having followed up its opening salvo in the Amateur Championship earlier in the year by handing out more penalties during last week’s Boys’ Championship at Notts and Coxmoor.

In the stroke-play qualifying, two players – Spaniard Jon Rahm and Cameron Long, a young Englishman from Drayton Park in Oxfordshire – were both hit with one-stroke penalties after failing to adhere to the pace of play guidelines in place at R&A events.

Then, in the match-play phase, Frenchman Pierre Mazier was penalised by the loss of a hole after rules officials also clocked him taking too long, though he overcame that setback to still win his match.

If I’m correct in thinking that Jim McArthur, the R&A’s championship committee chairman, is behind the crackdown, then well done to him as action like this, quite frankly, has been long overdue.

Youngsters, in particular, need to be educated about pace of play and it was refreshing last week to hear 19-year-old Nathan Kimsey, the player penalised in the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon, admitting he certainly didn’t bear any grudges over the action taken against him.

Andrew Willey was the last to be collared for slow play at The Open, the Englishman copping a one-shot penalty at Troon eight years ago. With the bit between their teeth, though, don’t be surprised if the R&A come down hard on more culprits at Muirfield next summer.