A decade ago, Barry Hume was being lauded as Scottish golf's next big thing.
Nowadays, the 30-year-old's career is consumed by a different kind of ball game. As the operations director of Soccer Innovation, a Glasgow-based US college scholarship placement service which he runs in partnership with former St Mirren and Aberdeen midfielder Ricky Gillies, Hume is striving to help promising youngsters achieve their potential. And he knows only too well how perilous that particular process can be.
When Hume made the step up into golf's professional ranks back in 2002, hopes were high. He had produced a matchplay master class in beating Craig Watson 5&4 in the final of the 2001 Scottish Amateur Championship at Downfield before joining an elite group of double winners by adding the national strokeplay crown to his collection at Southerness the following season.
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In between, there were a couple of other order of merit titles and a European Team Championship gold medal with a Scotland squad that also featured Marc Warren and Steven O'Hara. Hume, in fact, plundered the winning point in that 2001 final against an Ireland team spearheaded by Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey.
Those dazzling amateur dramatics were expected to be replicated in the professional theatre, but it never happened.
There were the odd moments. Hume qualified for two Open Championships, in 2004 and 2008, and was runner-up in the Malaysian Masters during a brief flirtation with the Asian Tour in 2006. Yet the financial rigours of trying to gain a solid foothold in the paid game eventually took its toll. Another failed attempt at the European Tour's qualifying school in 2010 was the final straw. "I was chasing after a lifetime goal with no money and it was never going to happen," he said. "It was not a hard decision to take. There's only so long you can bang your head off the wall before you have to say 'enough is enough.' "I played for five years with my last 500 quid, so success is all relative. To play for five years with 500 quid in your pocket is good but that's not success in other peoples' eyes.
"I had sponsorship initially with BUPA and I had help through a kind of pay-back-later syndicate. But it all became a big gamble in the end. I would've been as well taking the 275 quid entry fee for a EuroPro Tour event and putting it on a horse at 33 to 1 and winning 10 grand that way. I practised and was dedicated, but when you don't have the money or a stage to play on, you're not going to get anywhere. I don't think about it now. I know nothing about golf now and I don't follow it, I have no interest. I never played for the money, I'm not motivated by earning loads. I turned pro for the challenge of playing at a better level but when you start playing golf for money when it's not your motivation, it becomes strange."
With the golf clubs now gathering dust – "I've maybe played three times since last August" – Hume is using the experiences in his locker to aid others. Having ventured Stateside on a golf scholarship in Texas in 2000, the Haggs Castle honorary member is eager to ensure that other promising Scottish athletes get the chance to chase the American dream. The US college system has spawned such footballers as Claudio Reyna, Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey and our own David Weir and Hume believes it can provide plenty of opportunities for sporting salvation.
"A lot of those we deal with have been released by clubs and they think their life is over, but we can plug them back in, get them over to the US and start again," added Hume, who was a promising footballer himself with Renfrew Victoria until the bone condition, Perthis Disease, ended those ambitions. "The way football is going now, there are a lot of young boys getting discarded. There must be hundreds released every year. Do they chase a part-time contract in the lower leagues for the rest of their days or do they jack it in all together? The US system gives them opportunity and it's a proven way. In my opinion, they stand a better chance of becoming a proper professional over there and have a degree at the end of it.
"I'm excited by this opportunity and the chance to put people back on the right path. I've been there and done it. If people don't reach their potential it can be down to a host of factors. Finance is a small one, there can be family issues, they can fall out of love with their game. I don't think there is ever wasted talent. Talent is always there regardless."
Hume's talent may have been lost to golf, but others are now feeling the benefits.