Martin Dempster: Triple boost but review still needed

Sport, eh? Only it could see you going from the depths of despair one week to feeling bullish and optimistic the next. The events of the past few days haven't changed a single thing as far as the review into Scottish golf called for in this column a week ago. In fact, a healthy debate '¨created by that merely emphasised a need for it due to opinions being divided about whether the loss of a decade's worth of talent was caused by promising young players being offered too much support or not enough.
Scotland's Catriona Matthew, the 2019 European Solheim Cup captain. Picture: GettyScotland's Catriona Matthew, the 2019 European Solheim Cup captain. Picture: Getty
Scotland's Catriona Matthew, the 2019 European Solheim Cup captain. Picture: Getty

However, credit where credit is due, so step forward Catriona Matthew, Marc Warren and Connor Syme for giving the game in this country some boosts it badly needed, a point illustrated, in case you don’t believe me, by a highlights package at last week’s Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards in Edinburgh not including a single golf clip.

Okay, it may not have been a surprise that Matthew, having been the obvious candidate, has been appointed as Europe’s captain for the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles. For once, though, let’s see the whole country applaud the North Berwick woman because, quite frankly, her efforts as a player on the world stage over the past 20 years have never been fully appreciated. It’s a crying shame, in fact, that you almost feel that you have to head over to the United States to find people who truly appreciate the impact “Beany” has had on the game, having held her own at the top level over a prolonged period of time and, through her exploits in nine playing appearances, earning legendary Solheim Cup status.

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So, please let’s not underestimate how much Matthew deserves this honour and, when the time comes, get right behind her as she bids to complete a hat-trick of successes for Europe in the biennial event on Scottish soil following earlier home team triumphs at Dalmahoy in 1992 and Loch Lomond eight years later.

Moving on to Warren, how good was it to see him back to his best as he finished runner-up to Dane Lucas Bjerregaard in the Portugal Masters in Villamoura on Sunday? The 36-year-old has been struggling with a shoulder injury for most of this season and only started to play pain-free in the past few weeks. This encouraging effort had been coming and it has enabled Warren to take a giant stride towards retaining his European Tour card.

Let’s hope it’s onwards and upwards for the East Kilbride man because he swings the club beautifully, putts brilliantly most of the time and, as Paul Lawrie pointed out when talking about his compatriot, has a natural talent that gives you a belief that he can pull off something really big.

Put it this way, Scottish golf needs Warren to be closer to the world’s top 50 than slipping out of the top 500, as was the case until this effort – the 13th consecutive season he’s recorded a top ten on the European circuit – saw him climb to 295th. With events like the British Masters, Dunhill Links and Italian Open upcoming, there’s no reason why Warren can’t turn his season around spectacularly by making it all the way to the Tour Championship in Dubai.

As for Syme, what a wonderful performance he produced on his professional debut, delivering the best effort by a Scot setting out in the paid ranks since Gordon Brand Jnr finished third in the 1982 Tunisian Open by tying for 12th in Portugal. Every aspect of Syme’s first week in his new job – both on and off the course – augured well for what lies ahead for the 22-year-old Fifer.

First and foremost, he looked at home straight away in his new workplace. Four sub-par rounds in the 60s was a brilliant way to mark a first outing less than a week after joining the paid ranks, as was keeping a bogey off his card for the last 49 holes. In short, it was the sort of performance you’d expect to see from a seasoned performer on the European Tour and all credit to Syme for that. Also for the way he performed in front of the TV cameras for interviews, something that doesn’t always come as easily as people might expect.

It had seemed at one point earlier in the year that he’d be staying amateur for another season, but now was definitely the right time to make the switch given the confidence he’d gained from feats such as upstaging more experienced players to share top spot in one of the qualifiers for the Open Championship and beating Maverick McNealy, the world No 2 at the time, en route to the quarter-finals in 
the US Amateur Championship.The key now for Syme, who has signed for Modest! Golf, the management company set up by One Direction band member Niall Horan, is to secure a Tour card, preferably for the main European circuit but, failing that, the Challenge Tour, for next season. He’s due to play in the second stage of the Qualifying School in Spain at the start of November and, based on this performance, he won’t be fazed by that route, though his expected appearance in next week’s Dunhill Links Championship on home soil will provide an opportunity to secure that card in real style.

Yes, Scottish golf badly needed the lifts provided by Matthew, Warren and Syme over the past few days and here’s hoping it’s the start of an upturn in fortunes.