SGU rethink sees amateurs warm up for new season

IN A bid to give the country's leading amateurs the best possible chance of making next year's Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen, the Scottish Golf Union has come up with a new approach to its winter programme.

Instead of sending Elite Squad members to all corners of the globe to play in tournaments that have become part of the traditional preparation for the new season, the emphasis will now be on warm weather training split between the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

Tomorrow a group of ten players, including Great Britain & Ireland squad members Ross Kellett (Colville Park), Kris Nicol (Fraserburgh) and Michael Stewart (Troon Welbeck), will head to the Middle East to start a month-long training programme.

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They'll spend the first fortnight working on short game, fitness and golf psychology with Ian Rae, the national coach, as well as members of the Scottish Institute of Sport support team. That will take place Al Badia Golf Club, part of the InterContinental Dubai Festival City.

Then, at the beginning of Dec-ember, the group will move on to Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, where the programme will include a match against the Emirates Golf Federation elite squad.

The second stage of the programme will see the same players go to South Africa in the third week of January and spend some quality time there preparing for the start of the domestic season in April.

"While our previous warm weather training camps and winter competitions have been successful, we have decided to switch the emphasis away from playing and more towards practice, preparation and development," said Steve Paulding, Scottish Golf Performance Manager.

"The need to move our training base was enhanced by the poor weather in Spain and Portugal over the past two winters, whereas good weather is almost guaranteed in the United Arab Emirates."

Paulding, who put Great Britain on track for cycling glory in his role as head coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, added: "We have worked hard to create the correct approach to our off-season programme and believe the players will benefit from not travelling as much from country to country or playing in events at this time of year."

The programme is being supported by Aberdeen Asset Management, WSM Sponsorship and InterContinental Hotels Group.

Jordan Findlay (Fraserburgh), Scott Gibson (Southerness), David Law (Hazlehead), Philip McLean (Peterhead), Greg Pat-erson (New Club, St Andrews), Paul Shields (Kirkhill) and James White (Lundin) are the others heading for Dubai. Banchory's James Byrne, the fourth Scot in the GB&I squad, was not considered due to him being at college in Arizona.