Hamish Grey believes the “shackles” have been taken off Scottish Golf as the unified body prepares for its first annual meeting, the date of which has left the chief executive holding up his hands to admit a blunder.
“It wasn’t deliberate,” insisted Grey of that having been set for 6 March, which is Mothering Sunday and, therefore, a date that would normally be avoided for such occasions, especially by a national organisation that is encouraging its voting membership, which includes clubs for the first time, to travel to Glasgow.
“It was set ages ago and I put my hand up that it wasn’t in my diary and then wasn’t noticed by anyone else,” he added. “We have got to give 90 days’ notice and we were inside that period when we found out it was Mothers’ Day, so we couldn’t move it.”
Both the Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies Golfing Association used to hold their annual meetings in January. “The idea of moving it to March was partly because it’s not ideal to be travelling in January and that can also be a time when people are on holiday,” said Grey of the calendar change.
“There is nothing malicious. We are keeping it short and sharp so that people can still get away to celebrate Mothers’ Day quite comfortably. Next year the idea is to have a conference, of which the AGM will be a part, but it was too short this year to organise that.”
Since the new unified body came into effect, the first in a series of forums was held at Gleneagles in January. The Scotsman has been told that some people in attendance left that feeling “completely let down and disappointed”, but Grey is happy with the progress made so far.
“It’s probably a series of things rather than just one thing,” he replied to being asked what aspect in particular he felt had come out of the Scottish game falling into line with almost every other country in the world, that made him feel confident that a brighter and better future can lie ahead.
“This has been an opportunity for us to take a hard look and say, ‘how can we make this even better’. That’s quite unique. The reality is that you’ve effectively got a new body and it almost breaks the shackles to say, ‘don’t look at the past, look at what we need for going forward’. That’s been the real emphasis, will continue to be and that’s exciting.”
One of the “resolutions” being proposed at the annual meeting is that the Scottish Golf board, which is headed by chairman Eleanor Cannon, is given permission to raise the per capita fee by five per cent without the approval of the members. Close to half of Scottish Golf’s income comes from the per capita fee – the annual charge taken from club members through their subscriptions – and that is currently £11.25 for an adult playing member.
“It will give practical flexibility,” said Grey of the proposal. “We meet in March, our financial year starts in Ocotber and budgeting is done in June/July, so it is very impractical at the moment to speculate what the per capita should be.
“We’ve tried to keep it around inflation over the last five years between both bodies. In fact, on the ladies’ side they left it flat for a number of years. What we are saying is that the board should be able to have the capacity to go up to a maximum of five per cent without permission from the membership at the annual meeting or calling a special meeting.”
On the tournament front, Russell Knox birdied two of his last four holes to salvage a level-par 70 to sit three off the clubhouse lead in the Honda Classic at PGA National, the PGA Tour event where the Scot has finished second and third in the last two years.
Meanwhile, David Drysdale and Kylie Walker were both sitting handily placed after the opening rounds in their respective events this week in Australia.
Drysdale’s three-under 69 at Lake Karrinyup left him sitting joint-13th, four behind American Peter Uihlein, in the ISPS Handa Perth International, in which Jamie McLeary also broke par with his 71 but Stephen Gallacher found himself in a fight to make the cut after a disappointing 77.
“It was a decent start,” said Drysdale after carding five birdies, including three in a row from the 11th on a course where the 40-year-old from Cockburnspath finished joint fourth at the end of the 2014 season to hold on to his European Tour card. “I made a poor bogey at the second, but I also got up and down twice to make good pars, so, overall, I’m pretty happy with three-under.”
Walker signed for the same score at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast to sit in a share of tenth, three off the lead, after the opening round of the RACV Ladies Masters. The 29-year-old’s card was illuminated by an eagle at the par-5 15th – her third in five rounds. On a day when Canadian Brooke Henderson set the pace along with Dane Nicole Broch Larsen and France’s Marion Ricordeau, Sally Watson shot 76, one better than both Pamela Pretswell and Heather MacRae.