Martin Dempster: Amateur Championship projected perfect image of Scottish golf

P erhaps it was partly due to Crail hosting it for the first time, but there was something about last week’s Scottish Amateur Championship that generated positive vibes rather than the negative ones that often seem to surround Scottish Golf events.

Stuart Graham, with sons Gregor, 15, and Connor, 12, helped create a family atmosphere at the Scottish Amateur.
Stuart Graham, with sons Gregor, 15, and Connor, 12, helped create a family atmosphere at the Scottish Amateur.

First and foremost, that was down to the players and the way they conducted themselves, something that was clearly picked up on over the course of the week by David Roy, the manager at the host club and someone who knows his onions when it comes to golfing matters.

“Golf has its problems, but there are times when the sport really shines,” he wrote in a social media post at the conclusion of the event. “We had over 250 competitors, who were mostly in their early twenties and were unfailingly courteous, generous to others, respectful and grateful.”

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Talented, too, as Roy also acknowledged. “In an era when we are constantly being told that young Scots cannot apply themselves nor have the drive and willpower to overcome adversity, I witnessed the supreme skill of players who deserve to have their talent celebrated,” he added.

Indeed, which is why Longniddry’s David Rudd and Michael Smyth from Royal Troon, for example, should be applauded for being the new joint course-record holders on the Balcomie Links at the magnificent Fife venue after carding nine-under-par 60s in the stroke-play qualifying rounds.

Which is why 22-year-old George Burns should also be applauded for winning six head-to-head matches to claim the coveted title, becoming the first host-club member to come out on top since Jim Milligan achieved the feat at Kilmarnock (Barassie) in 1988.

Which is why two thirtysomethings, Callum Macaulay and Matthew Clark, also deserve credit for getting to the quarter-final and semi-final respectively, the former providing a great storyline as he attempted to repeat a 2008 win in only his second event since being reinstated as an amateur. To hear Macaulay, who would admit that he wasn’t in a good place at the time he called it quits as a tour professional, talking about how he was back enjoying his golf again and playing with a bit of freedom really was brilliant to hear.

One of my colleagues was surprised when the 35-year-old said he didn’t have any “goals” second time around in the amateur ranks, but why should he? He has been there and bought the t-shirt. Heck, he helped Scotland become world champions when winning the Eisenhower Trophy in 2008.

“Nice to get the buzz back under pressure,” Macaulay wrote in a post on Twitter following his exit at the hands of Clark. “However, these three mean more to me than golf ever will,” he added below a photograph of him, his wife Clare-Marie, and their two young sons, Evan and Lucas, on the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course before heading home.

In between the third and fourth rounds, Macaulay was out on the putting green at Crail with the two youngsters, adding to a family flavour at the event that included the Thurlow brothers from Murrayfield, Ali and Stuart, being in the field and, even better than that, it involved three members of the Graham family from Blairgowrie.

In all my time covering Scottish golf, it was one of the real highlights to see 46-year-old Stuart being joined by his two sons, 15-year-old Gregor and Connor, who is only 12 and stands little more than four feet tall, in the national championship and, boy, did they enjoy themselves.

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Both Stuart and Gregor made it to the match-play phase and, having just missed out following rounds of 74 and 71, keep an eye out for Connor. Indeed, here’s hoping that Scottish Golf make the most of a golden opportunity to use him as a poster boy to promote everything good about the game.

The sporting world seems to have gone into meltdown over Hinako Shibuno after the Japanese player smiled her way to victory in the AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn and, fair play, she certainly seems to be a breath of fresh air in a robotic-like professional game these days.

Seeing her on TV will hopefully inspire more young girls to take up the game, but, at the same time, there is nothing like seeing young Scots thriving to give others the drive to do likewise, which is why this particular Scottish Amateur Championship, even though I personally didn’t like the final being played over 18 holes for the first time, was indeed a positive affair.