Purple patch can be taste of things to come for Scottish golf

No-one is laughing now. Not after back-to-back Scottish successes from Grant Forrest and Calum Hill on the European Tour, a strong display from Kelsey MacDonald in the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open and Hannah Darling underlining her huge talent by winning the Girls’ Amateur Championship.

Hannah Darling kisses the trophy after her win in the R&A Girls' Amateur Championship at Fulford. Picture: Jan Kruger/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

It really has been a brilliant spell for Scottish golfers and has come, of course, in the wake of eyebrows being raised when Bob MacIntyre found himself flying the Saltire solo in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s last month.

As I pointed out at the time, there were extenuating circumstances but, at the same time, it required players to start climbing the world rankings to ensure that something similar didn’t occur moving forward.

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Forrest leapt from outside the top 300 to 174th on the back of his maiden European Tour win in the Hero Open in St Andrews a week past Sunday and now Hill has broken into the top 100 for the first time after doing likewise in the Cazoo Classic just outside London on Sunday.

Calum Hill with the trophy following his Cazoo Classic win at the London Golf Club. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

It’s the first time we’ve had back-to-back Scottish successes on the circuit since Aberdonians Paul Lawrie and Richie Ramsay won the Johnnie Walker Championship and Omega European Masters respectively around the same time of the year in 2012.

It was no real surprise to those in the know that Forrest proved he could win at the top level and the same goes for Hill, who, on the back of three Challenge Tour triumphs, had been threatening to get the job done on the main tour all season long.

Don’t be surprised if Connor Syme joins that first-time winners’ club before too long because he’s also good enough to achieve that feat, with both Ewen Ferguson and Craig Howie on course to bolster that tartan army on the top circuit next season.

“I think it is,” said Hill in reply to being asked if he thought Scottish golf is in a good place right now. “When you get a group of people who spur one another on, the camaraderie between everyone, it’s brilliant to see it.

Grant Forrest shows off the Hero Open trophy after his win at Fairmont St Andrews. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“There are a lot of really good players coming through from the Challenge Tour and it’ll be a really good group of guys out here. The girls are doing good things as well.”

The likes of MacIntyre, Forrest and Hill will be inspiring the next generation, as will both MacDonald and Darling in the girls’ game following their exploits over the past week.

It’s not been the smoothest of journeys for MacDonald in her professional career, not helped, of course, when the LET lost its way before the LPGA came on board, but there was a real maturity about her performance in the Trust Golf Scottish Women’s Open at Dumbarnie Links.

At no point in the week did she look out of her depth in the world-class field, having boosted her confidence with some recent strong displays in LET events and, on this evidence, having tied for 15th behind American Ryann O’Toole on the Fife coast, there’s no reason why she also can’t savour that sweet taste of success for the first time in the paid ranks before too long.

Kelsey MacDonald, right, with the Jock MacVicar Leading Scot Trophy alongside Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open winner Ryann O'Toole. Picture: Tristan Jones.

The 30-year-old from Nairn has earned another chance to shine on home soil by securing a spot in this week’s AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, where Louise Duncan will also be in the field on the strength of her brilliant victory in the R&A Women’s Amateur Championship earlier in the year.

Duncan, of course, has been selected for the upcoming Curtis Cup, as has Darling and what a way for the 18-year-old Broomieknowe player to celebrate her inclusion in the GB&I team by winning the Girls’ Amateur Championship at Fulford on Saturday.

It was Scotland’s first success in the event since Clare Queen landed the title in 2001, something that actually came as a surprise to Queen, who has a hands-on role in helping young talent develop these days in her role as Scottish Golf’s performance director.

“I couldn’t believe that I had been the last Scot to win it,” admitted Queen. “I actually thought Sally Watson had won it, but she got beat in the final. I am absolutely delighted for Hannah and it’s a great way for her to cap her junior career. I sent her a text on Saturday night and said, ‘there’s some good names on that trophy!’”

“She’s a great person and she always works so hard. She’s always wanted it and it is pretty exciting to see what she can go on and achieve over the next few years. It’s great for all the other girls to see her doing well and be inspired by her.”

In the Boys’ Amateur, a trio of Scots - Cameron Adam, Niall Shiels Donegan and Daniel Bullen - made it to the last eight at Royal Cinque Ports, while the previous week it had almost been a memorable tartan triumph in the first edition of mixed Boys’ and Girls’ Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa.

“It was so close, nearly beating England on their home turf,” said Queen, who is delighted to have major winners in Catriona Matthew and Paul Lawrie on board in mentoring roles, of that effort. “We felt we left a bit out there, but the kids involved will take a lot out of that.”

“Paul and Catriona being involved adds something special, and it feels like we are moving in the right direction.”

It does, indeed, and here’s hoping the last week or so is a taste of what’s to come from Scottish golfers across the board for the next few years.

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