Scottish Golf is losing its performance director after Stuart Clayton, who succeeded Steve Paulding following his departure 16 months ago, tendered his resignation in order to link up again with legendary coach David Leadbetter.
Clayton, who hails from the north-east of England, is leaving the governing body towards the end of April, having landed a job heading up the training and certification programme for the David Leadbetter Golf Academies worldwide. Before joining Scottish Golf, Clayton worked for five years at the IMG David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Florida, having previously held director of golf posts for the Englishman at academies in Austria and South Korea.
His departure means Andrew McKinlay, Scottish Golf’s new chief executive, has a key role to fill as he prepares to take up the post in May, when he will be free to leave his current job as the SFA’s chief operating officer.
“It is fantastic job that Stuart has been offered and he is going back into a company that he has been part of before,” said Eleanor Cannon, the Scottish Golf chair and currently holding the reins following the departure last year of Blane Dodds as chief executive to take up a similar post at Tennis Scotland.
“Stuart is hugely respected and he’s also a gentleman and will continue to be a friend of Scottish Golf. He’s got a very good team, including [performance programme co-ordinator] Claire Queen, who is exceptional. He is going to set the year up and also help us in the replacement process,” Cannon told The Scotsman. “Andrew [McKinlay] will also be involved in that with sportscotland.”
Clayton joined Scottish Golf as performance development manager in September 2015, just before the new unified governing body was set up. He then stepped up to performance director after Paulding left to take up a position with British Athletics. During his spell in the top post, Clayton watched Connor Syme and Bob MacIntyre earn Walker Cup selection before making encouraging starts to their professional careers. Liam Johnston also won the African Amateur and, just last weekend, Shannon MacWilliam triumphed in the Border Championship in South Africa.
“I’m not leaving because of anything to do with Scottish Golf,” insisted Clayton, pictured. “I’ve got a new opportunity that is an exciting one. I’m heading up the training and certification programme for David’s academies worldwide, which still allows me to be based in the UK, though there will be a bit of travelling in the job.
“I have really enjoyed the challenge at Scottish Golf. It has been really encouraging to see the guys do well this past year in terms of them playing in the Walker Cup, turning pro and also some individual success. It has also been pleasing to see some of the women make steps forward as well. I definitely think from the performance side we are in a decent position. There have been definite strides forward.”
Potential replacements include the 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.
“We are going to work very closely with sportscotland to make sure we have someone going in there who is part of the executive team and pulling their weight at that level,” added Cannon.