New apprenticship scheme launched by Scottish PGA

AROUND 30 Scottish golf clubs are expected to sign up to a ground-breaking apprenticeship scheme, the aim of which is to give school leavers a taste of the golf industry as they decide on a career path in the sport.

Paul OHara (centre) the Scottish Young Pros champion. Picture: Andy Forman

In a further boost to players opting to go down the PGA training path in the home of golf, a designated assistants’ circuit has been added to the Tartan Tour, which had already been bolstered by new events for men, women and seniors this season.

The PGA programme, which Paul Lawrie and Ian Poulter used to secure a foothold in the game, welcomes an average of 300 new trainees worldwide per year. Around 20 of those are in Scotland and, though the training costs £13,000 over three years, more and more doors are opening to PGA-qualified pros around the world.

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The entry age into that programme is 18, leaving those who leave school at 16 almost in a golfing no-man’s land, though that situation is about to change thanks to the creation of the PGA in Scotland Apprenticeship scheme.

Already in operation in other sports such as rugby, cricket, tennis, judo and canoeing, it will be run in conjunction with the Sports Academy of Scotland as a pilot initiative this year with the aim of it being rolled out in full by the PGA.

“We think there is a gap in the education pathway and this will allow youngsters to test the water first,” said Eric Dawes, director of the Sports Academy of Scotland. “We see this as an exciting opportunity all round and I think we could get swamped as we know the interest is there. We are looking at 20-30 clubs in the country taking on apprentices and running it as a pilot this year then roll it out further.”

Both this scheme and the assistants’ circuit, which consists of five events, are being backed by both Livingston-based W.L. Gore & Associates and Galvin Green, two companies whose combined skills keep golfers around the world dry out on the course.

Both Lawrie and Poulter have joked in the past how they started out “selling Mars bars in the pro shop” but, by the sounds of things, trainees these days play a key role in getting members to dig a lot deeper into their pockets.

“Becoming an associate of the PGA in Scotland is a great opportunity to support the group of people who are important for the future of golf in Scotland and important for us in the sense they are the ones in golf clubs talking to consumers about our products,” said Gore’s John Overdijking.

A new match-play event at Greenburn next month is first up on the assistants’ schedule, which also includes visits to West Lothian, Shotts, Ranfurly Castle and Royal Dornoch through until September. “The assistants’ scene has been neglected for some time so to have these new partners is perfect and it sits so well, too,” said PGA in Scotland secretary Brian Mair. “It is not just about two companies putting their names to something. I think this is just the start of something that will grow and we can all learn from it.”

The announcements were welcomed by Paul O’Hara, who is in the middle of his PGA training and won the Scottish Young Pros last year. “It’s different if you have a good sponsor as that allows you to play for a good few years without worrying too much but if you’re not progressing then I’d definitely say that going down the PGA route is a good move,” said the former top amateur.

Jobs are always likely to be there at the end of training, too, according to Mike Johnson-Hill, Galvin Green’s managing director. “There has maybe been a slight reduction in the number of club pros in some parts of Britain but there are still plenty of instances of well-run clubs having good pros and I can’t see that changing, to be honest,” he said.