Martin Dempster: Ross Kellett proves class act right to end as he calls it quits

Of all the Scottish golfers I’ve had the enormous privilege to come across over the years, I have always felt that one in particular was a huge credit to himself, his family and his nation. Ross Kellett was a polite young man with a touch of class when I first came across him and remains that today.

Ross Kellett has decided to end his professional golf career at the age of 31. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Ross Kellett has decided to end his professional golf career at the age of 31. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

At 31, Kellett announced over the weekend that he has called time on his career as a tournament professional, ending his dream of getting on to the European Tour after seven seasons chiselling away at the coalface, first on third-tier 
circuits and, more recently, the Challenge Tour.

“I have considered myself the luckiest guy in the world the past seven years, but it is with a heavy heart and sadness that I am stepping away from tournament professional golf,” said the Motherwell man, who played his amateur golf at Colville Park, in a social media post.

“Over the past year, I have fallen out of love with the game and, at times, some of my poor golf has made me feel beyond horrible, a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s affected how I’ve felt away from from the course and, at times, I’ve not been in a good place. I don’t believe that sport defines a person. I believe that your attitude and principles define you.

“Golf has taught me many life qualities I will carry with me forever and for that I am indebted to the game. I have been to places I could only have dreamed of, over 40 countries and who knows how many flights. I have an amazing opportunity to work for an incredible company (Blue Group Machinery in Stirling) going forward and am excited for a new chapter.”

Sad news and what a tough decision this must have been for Kellett, a man who essentially lived and breathed to be playing competitive golf for most of his life. It really does speak volumes for him as an individual, though, that he was able to look himself in the mirror and admit that a game he once loved with a passion was starting to have an adverse effect on his life as a whole.

As an amateur, Kellett represented Scotland at all levels. He’d be the first to admit that he was overshadowed a bit at that time by the likes of James Byrne, Michael Stewart and, latterly, David Law. However, you never sensed that he had a chip on his shoulder as a result of that. Far from it, in fact.

Throughout his career, Kellett worked his socks off striving to get better, his dedication and professionalism earning the respect of his peers. He’ll look back fondly on a maiden win in the paid ranks in the Montecchia Open in Italy on the Alps Tour in 2012 and also a success in the Mirage Classic in Egypt on the Mediterranean Tour last year.

Professional golf, though, is about making progress and, unfortunately, Kellett had been unable to make the headway he’d been hoping for on the Challenge Tour. His best finish on the second-tier circuit was a tie for third in the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana in 2016, which was also his most successful season, finishing 48th on the money list.

Let’s be clear here, though. Kellett has nothing to be ashamed about for calling it a day. It’s the opposite, in fact, because knowing when to move on in professional sport is a brave call. Having made that, it’s no wonder the Scot has been flooded with messages from lots of people he either played against, including European Tour winners Eddie Pepperell, Richard McEvoy and Chris Paisley, or came across over the years. Even Rich Beem, the former US PGA champion who now works for Sky Sports, picked up on Kellett’s post on Twitter. “I don’t know you Ross, but it was brave of you to post something that most players wouldn’t,” wrote the American in reply. “Playing golf professionally, at some point in every player’s lifetime, gets to us all.”

Role models don’t necessarily have to be those who win majors and WGCs. Through the way he handled himself, both on and off the course, Kellett was one of Aberdeen Standard Investments’ golf ambassadors. “Ross has always been a fantastic ambassador for the game and a consummate professional on and off the course,” said Martin Gilbert, the company’s Co-CEO. “Having known him since a young age, this wouldn’t have been a decision taken lightly. Ross has always displayed hugely positive attributes that will stand him in good stead whatever he decides to turn his hand to. We wish him the very best of luck.”

Kellett also represented the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre with pride for a spell and clearly made a big impression, too, on Blue Group managing director Austin Carey from the pair meeting through golf.

He has, indeed, been defined as a person by attitude and principles and deserves to start enjoying life again, albeit not in golf.