Scottish Golf’s outgoing performance director believes recent achievements by the likes of Bradley Neil, Connor Syme and Gemma Dryburgh are helping inspire the next generation of young talent in the home of golf.
Fellow 22-year-olds Neil and Syme are both playing on the European Tour this season while Dryburgh, 24, has just joined Catriona Matthew in flying the Saltire on the LPGA Tour.
“I think the youngsters coming through are being inspired by the likes of Bradley, Connor and Gemma,” said Stuart Clayton, who finishes up as performance director in April to take up a post with the David Leadbetter Golf Academies.
“They can relate to them as well as they aren’t much older than them. They’ve seen them around and they’ve also played in similar tournaments to them.
“I think that is really important and, when you are around the boys’ squads, they talk about Bradley and Connor, as well as the likes of Grant Forrest, Bob MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson.
“Especially Connor after what he achieved last year, winning his European Tour card, qualifying for The Open and making the Walker Cup. I think the young players believe it is achieveable and I think that is huge.
“Gemma getting her LPGA card was also a great achievement and great for the young females to see.”
Clayton joined Scottish Golf as performance development manager in September 2015 before stepping up to take over from Steve Paulding when he left for British Athletics 16 months ago.
Potential replacements include University of Stirling’s high performance coach Dean Robertson and Steven Orr, the 2015 England Golf Coach of the Year and the youngest-ever recipient of PGA Master Pro status.
It has also been suggested that Spencer Henderson, currently the national boys’ coach, could assume both roles.
Clayton believes he has helped put a solid structure in place for whoever his successor may be, with newly-appointed chief executive Andrew McKinlay set to be part of that selection process.
“We are always trying to improve the programme to make sure players are prepared for whatever the next step is in their journey, whether that it to be a pro, to play more amateur golf or just keep progressing,” said Clayton.
“We are doing everything we can and, for me, the biggest thing has been just trying to make sure you put the right environment in front of the players and the right opportunities and I think we have definitely made strides forward in doing that.
“You have to realise they are all individuals and grow in their own way. Coming from a coaching background, I fully understand where coaches who are involved with players are coming from.
“There isn’t a method there. It’s about giving them whatever help they need to develop, whether that is technique or the mental of physical side or the preparation.
“Hopefully being exposed to players who have been there and done it is helpful and we have been really fortunate the last couple of years.
“I know that Stephen Gallacher (who sits on Scottish Golf’s performance committee) spends time with some of the young players in his management group and Richie Ramsay has given back to the boys a few times.
“So, too, have Bradley Neil and Connor Syme. There is definitely an element of some mentorship and ambassadorial stuff developing, which is reallly good for the young players moving forward.
“I’ve had good conversations with Stephen, Paul Lawrie and Catriona Matthew and they have been really helpful. There’s a huge thank you from me to them for their input during my time with Scottish Golf.
“They are figureheads in the Scottish golf and highly respected by me because they have a lot to offer.”