Martin Dempster: Much more like it from Scots in 2019 and signs of even better to come

It was a season that put Scotland back on the European Tour map, not only bringing title triumphs but also hope - no, make that confidence - about a bright future for the Saltire-standard bearers on the ever- more-challenging circuit.

David Law of Scotland with the trophy after the ISPS Handa Vic Open. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty
David Law of Scotland with the trophy after the ISPS Handa Vic Open. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty

Russell Knox winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2018 apart, it had become a bit of a struggle for Scots to make their mark at the top level in the European game over the three or four seasons before this one. It was a huge and welcome boost, therefore, when David Law and Stephen Gallacher both landed victories in the early part of the campaign with their tartan triumphs in the ISPS Handa Vic Open and the Hero Indian Open respectively.

For Law, it was a quick breakthrough following his graduation from the Challenge Tour along with three of his compatriots, with the Aberdonian producing a shot every bid as good as the one that Rory McIlroy had us all salivating in Dubai last week on the 72nd hole to seal his win in style with a closing eagle.

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Gallacher’s victory was the fourth of his career, but what a thrill it was for the 45-year-old to land this one with his 18-year-old son Jack on the bag, the pair working brilliantly together on a roller-coaster final day at the notoriously difficult DLF Golf & Country Club in New Delhi.

Stephen Gallacher kisses the trophy after he won the Hero Indian Open Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

In some respects, it was slightly disappointing that no further Scottish successes followed in the subsequent 30 events, but that certainly wasn’t down to the lack of trying from the ten card holders this time around.

In total, 13 top-five finishes were recorded by Scottish players during the season while the 47 tournaments in 31 countries delivered an impressive 24 top-10 finishes.

No-one flew the flag better, of course, than Bob MacIntyre as he announced his arrival on the European stage in sensational style by securing the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year - the first Scot to win that accolade in 13 years. In achieving that feat, the 23-year-old has made the golfing world sit up and really take notice of a Scot for the first time in a while. It only seems a matter of time, really, before he lands that breakthrough win and, once it does, the floodgates could open because we are talking here about a seriously talented young man.

Grant Forrest, another of the Challenge Tour graduates, also held on to his card comfortably and will now be looking to build on that by getting in the mix a bit more in 2020, which promises to be exciting as well for Richie Ramsay and Scott Jamieson.

Ramsay, who left it until the final event the previous season before securing his playing privilges, produced one of the best Scottish efforts in the second half of the campaign to make his presence felt in the BMW PGA Championship and looks close to clicking as he bids to win once more.

As does Jamieson, who knocked at the door in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and was seeing signs in the recent Turkish Airlines Open that his game is starting to trend in the right direction.

After a bright start that effectively secured his card for a 19th successive season, it turned into a disappointing year for David Drysdale but, as his 500th appearance on the circuit looms, the 44-year-old remains as hungry as ever to secure that elusive first title triumph.

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While Liam Johnston, the fourth of the newcomers from the Challenge Tour, was unable to hang on to his card, there were enough positive signs to indicate he can be soon back competing at the top level before, something Marc Warren is certainly capable of but right now is seeking a spark to re-ignite his career after an awful year that left him way down the Race to Dubai rankings before then coming up short at the Qualifying School.

With Calum Hill and Connor Syme stepping up from the Challenge circuit this time around, it’s a status quo in terms of numbers for the 2020 campaign, which after a break of all of four days, gets underway in South Africa on Thursday.

Make no mistake, people around the world are starting to sit up and take notice of Scottish golfers again and here’s hoping that this season was just the springboard for what lies ahead for golf’s Tartan Army on the European battlefront.