Is the Home of Golf Empty?

Less than a day after writing about the frustrating, if gilded, career of Sandy Lyle I find myself ruminating once more on the state of Scottish golf.

Colin Montgomerie speaking both from the heart and with sense has publicly stated his frustration with the lack of talent emerging from the home of golf:

“We’ve been going through a transition for 30 years, like our rugby team. We never come out of it, really, our transition with football is the same. There are Scottish golfers coming through but not to the same degree as the other home countries – the Irish and Welsh and English have more coming through.

We have some but there’s no one particularly coming through. My partner at the World Cup which we won in China, Marc Warren, springs to mind. He’s got great potential, only 26 years old. He’s the best of the bunch, and let’s hope we can have more of his talent coming through.

At least golf, I suppose, I’ve managed to play on the Ryder Cup team for the last few times so at least I have some representation. And if I don’t play this year, we might not have a representative, well, for the first time in modern history, so we’ve got to get going.”

Wise words that should really worry any of us that take any sort of interest in Scottish golf: which given the nation’s standing in the game should be pretty much all of us.

Let’s look back to before Monty arrived on the scene. We’ll take the Ryder Cup team of 1987 as our starting point: Ken Brown, Gordon Brand Junior, Sam Torrance and Sandy Lyle made up a Saltire clad quartet.

Now arguably some of these players never made the impact that they could have, or should have, but Scotland was still producing a quarter of the Ryder Cup team that triumphed in the US.

Ten years on and Monty was the lone Scot in the team. Now, clearly the competition has got stiffer but which Scots have actually threatened to consistently join Monty as part of Europe’s elite? Paul Lawrie won a deserved Open at Carnoustie but his was a once in a lifetime moment when fate, luck, skill and grit combined in one glorious winning moment.

Andrew Coltart joined the Monty and Lawrie for the Brookline Ryder Cup in 1999 and has enjoyed a steady if not quite inspirational career. Others have threatened a breakthrough but none have delivered on their potential.

Marc Warren seems to be the hope of the moment and he will be hoping for a good season having planned his schedule to maximise his opportunities. But his aim this year in to improve his world ranking. The Ryder Cup would be an unexpected bonus.

In 2006 Warren was named European Rookie of the Year: the eleventh Scot to be so honoured since 1966. But the trick is not to be recognised for your achievements as a rookie – it’s turning the potential into sustained success on the tour that matters.

Tellingly Monty mentions football and rugby as well. The sporting malaise has begun to cover almost every sport in the country. Maybe the training is wrong, maybe the support networks are insufficient. It is difficult to tell but something has to change. The small country argument is often used but doesn’t wash when other small countries produce better results as a matter of course. And the argument is particularly poor when there are simply so many opportunities for golfers to hone their talent across Scotland’s mammoth range of facilities.

I can only hope that Monty’s comments will stir someone into action and that the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup both being hosted in Scotland in 2014 will inspire some youngsters.

Because right now, I am afraid, for a country that has produced 55 Major winners, one grumpy tennis star and a world championship winning elephant polo team just doesn’t cut the mustard.

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