Shona Malcolm, the new PGA in Scotland secretary, and Eleanor Cannon, who is the inaugural chair of Scottish Golf Limited, discovered they are singing from the same hymn sheet during a first get-together following their respective role announcements.
Malcolm’s appointment saw her become the first female to be handed the reins in any of the PGA’s seven regions that blanket Great Britain and Ireland, while the selection of Cannon to oversee the new amalgamated body for amateur golf in Scotland also signalled a welcome change in attitude about women being involved in decision-making about the men’s game.
“I honestly couldn’t have seen that happening,” admitted Malcolm of the pair finding themselves in their respective posts. “Ten years ago, I think that would have been a step too far for some people. I think it is refreshing that’s no longer the case, but the good thing about it is that it isn’t just about having women in these posts. It’s about having the right people.”
While Malcolm, having served as both chair of the Scottish Ladies’ Golf Association and CEO of the Ladies’ Golf Union, is a well-kent face on the golf scene, Cannon, who has board experience within public and private companies, is, at national level anyway, a newcomer. The pair share a passion for the game, though, and also have the same opinion about how it needs to move forward and not get stuck in the past.
“I didn’t know Eleanor until a friend introduced us and we then arranged to meet up for a game of golf, which we had here at Gleneagles last Monday,” added Malcolm, looking out onto the first hole on the Kings’ Course from her office in the PGA in Scotland headquarters at the Perthshire resort.
“That was quite enlightening as she has some great fresh ideas. Talking to Eleanor, she has a modern and progressive mentality and I’d like to think I’m the same. I’ve always said that you have to capitalise on your traditions but not be restrained by them and I think that’s where golf is at the moment.
“I think golf in Scotland is in a state of flux at the moment as the two amateur bodies merge, the R&A and LGU talk about merging and, of course, our own change of personnel at the PGA in Scotland. But I think there are lots of things that I can bring to the table to help play a part in the activities of all these organisations being joined up.”
It took two attempts, of course, to join up the SGU and SLGA, but, on reflection, Malcolm believes the lengthy process was needed to get the right template for Scottish Golf Limited. “I think we had to go through that first iteration of the amalgamation talks to sort out a few things, probably in both bodies, and I was delighted when the amalgamation went through,” she said. “At a forthcoming 110-year celebration of the SLGA, I’m sure there will be moans and groans from some people because things are being done differently, but we have to move forward.”
Having spent the first few weeks in the job “shaking a lot of hands” around the country, Malcolm is starting to look at how she plans to put her own stamp on the Tartan Tour, which remains by far the biggest of any of the PGA’s regional circuits and will be represented by two players, Graham Fox and Gareth Wright, in the PGA Cup starting at CordeValle in California on Friday (18 September).
“I think both the PGA in Scotland and Tartan Tour can become even stronger brands than they are just now as they have loads of potential,” she said. “We are probably going to look at different ways of securing sponsorship, but it will probably be a few months before that really kicks in.
“Where the Tartan Tour was 25 years ago was right at the top end of the game. It was covered extensively in the media and secured sponsorship almost without thinking about it. We are keen to get back to that and will be pulling out all the stops in our attempts to do so.
“We are very keen to capitalise more on our relationship with Gleneagles [home of the Scottish PGA Championship since 1999]. We are sitting here behind the first tee on the Kings Course and we have to make the best of that relationship. I think both parties are keen to move forward on that.
“We are revising the tournament schedule to make sure that things are sitting in the right places. I’m still trying to find my feet in that respect, but I’ve already got some ideas that should allow us to move forward.
“Next year’s Scottish Professional Championship will be the event’s 100th staging
“It is something to celebrate as there are very few countries in the world that are able to mark the 100th playing of their national championship. It is high on the list of trying to capitalise on opportunities.”