One of the most recognisable figures in Scottish golf is in despair over the organisation he served with great pride, first as an employee then as its figurehead, being at the centre of sexism claims and accusations that the “blazer brigade” are holding the game back.
Graham Ewart was one of just four people on the Scottish Golf Union payroll when it was based at Barnton and remained involved for a spell when it moved to Drumoig before becoming its president in 2005 following his retiral.
Now 83, the long-serving Kingsknowe member still keeps close tabs on anything to do with what became Scottish Golf in October 2015 following an amalgamation with the Scottish Ladies Golf Association and recent events have left him feeling extremely upset.
Eleanor Cannon, the chair of Scottish Golf, claimed sexism towards her was part of the reason a bid to increase the affiliation fee paid by club members by £3.75 to £15 was rejected while one of her closest allies said individuals within the game, men in particular, should be “ashamed at some of their behaviour” towards her.
Ewart said that sort of behaviour is unacceptable but he believes it is wrong for Cannon and her fellow board members to appear to be constantly pointing a finger of blame at the men’s Area associations.
“I am very concerned where Scottish Golf is at the moment,” said Ewart in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman. “They used to have volunteers all around the country who did a superb job yet now I keep hearing people talk about the “blazer brigade” and that really is being disrespectful.”
Recalling when he was the SGU’s championship secretary/treasurer, working alongside then secretary Ian Hume and two administrators from offices at Barnton, he added: “I always played down the fact there were just four emlpoyees and and it went up to 40 (it’s currently 32) because golf has moved forward and there’s more legislation to cope with.
“But it has got totally out of hand in respect of the numbers now there at Scottish Golf and, purely from a performance point of view, the results we are seeing are not any better really than when I was involved .
“The thing that worries me is how unaccountable these people are. I think one of the fears people have is that since a board was set up, replacing the old executive committee, it is a runaway train because who actually has control over the board? Nobody.”
Ewart penned a letter to Scottish Golf in November to suggest that the more successful clubs in the country should be the ones providing support for the governing body, along with the Scottish Government, VisitScotland and the PGA, due to the importance of golf to the country’s economy, but he did not even receive an acknowledgement.
“In 1976, when Sandy Sinclair was the president, it was realised that all clubs paying the same amount was not a fair way of funding the SGU and so clubs started paying for every member they had,” recalled Ewart. “Surely the time has come to again look at the fairest way to fund Scottish Golf and, for me, we can’t charge member clubs any more money. We have to get revenue elsewhere, possibly by targeting clubs with big visitors’ income, though I appreciate some already give back.
“I’m not really bothered that my letter wasn’t acknowledged because I’ve done my stint, but I am very sad that bridges are not being built. To me, it all seems to be confrontation and that can only be bad for golf. It also seems to be that an awful lot of the seminars that have been held recently are talking shops and not about listening.”