WE all have to leave our youth behind at some point. Look, there it goes, sobbing and waving in your rear view mirror as you hurtle down the winding road towards middle-aged, crotchety fustiness and beyond.

This scribe maintains that covering golf doesn’t help the passage of time. I mean, here we are in October 2017 and this week sees the start of the 2018 season on the PGA Tour, thereby accelerating the ageing process by three months.

It’s perhaps no surprise that most of us scribblers in this Royal & Ancient game have so many lines on our face, the Network Rail engineers are regularly called out to media centres to deal with major signalling faults on our crow’s feet.

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“Golf is becoming a younger man’s game, it definitely is,” said that cobweb-shrouded 28-year-old relic, Rory McIlroy, in the wake of 24-year-old Paul Dunne’s breakthrough win in the British Masters at the weekend.

The youth movement continues. Eight of the last nine regular European Tour events have been won by players between the ages of 23 and 26. The standard in a truly global game remains incredibly high and the rapid rate of development is daunting for those trying to gain a foothold.

Here in Scotland, we certainly don’t have a McIlroy. We don’t even have a Dunne at the moment, which is meaning no disrespect to the impressive young Irishman. The phrase ‘there’s no Scot on the men’s European Tour under the age of 30’ has been spouted so often we’re almost hoarse.

A decade ago, at the British Masters of 2007, Lloyd Saltman made his professional debut along with his good friend McIlroy. Many of us thought Saltman would be our Rory; a confident, popular, engaging, highly marketable and talented young man who would hit the ground running after a prosperous amateur career and thrive in the pro ranks. It didn’t happen.

That same season, McIlroy finished third in the Dunhill Links Championship and secured his European Tour card in just his second event as a pro. The rest is history. Saltman, meanwhile, still muddles on in the margins of the professional scene.

Of course, comparing anyone to the kind of once-in-a-generation talent like McIlroy is all very unrealistic. Maintaining a degree of level-headed middle ground, particularly in this knee-jerk, rapid-fire age where everything is either jaw-droppingly brilliant or utterly lamentable, is not an easy task.

This week, the Dunhill Links will give another of our emerging players, Connor Syme, a chance to shine on home soil. The canny Fifer marked his professional debut with a 12th place finish in the recent Portugal Masters.

Inevitably, the reaction in many quarters was so triumphant it should have been accompanied by the 20th Century Fox fanfare.

In a sense, though, we shouldn’t have been so surprised by the joyous superlatives. A Scottish rookie actually making something of an immediate impression and adapting quickly to his new environment is as rare as hen’s teeth, after all.

Given he’ll be well suited to the links test this week, there will no doubt be one or two fevered observers excitedly suggesting Syme can do a McIlroy and finish in the upper echelons. In the small pool of the Scottish scene, where we have grown increasingly desperate in our rummages for a new face, drooling comparisons and predictions are par for the course.

Syme is not the kind to get carried away by all this palaver, though. He’s made a good start but, with no category yet for any tour, the 22-year-old will be well aware of the hard graft the lies ahead.

There have been many Scots down the years who were championed and tipped for great things but, for whatever reason, never made it.

Syme, and others, are merely at the start of what are hopefully long, fulfilling careers but, in this predictably unpredictable pursuit, patience and realism remain sensible watchwords in a clamorous age of restless judgement.


The Presidents Cup may have been something of a yawning anti-climax but the USA’s 19-11 rout of the International team was another eye-opener for Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn.

For many a year, the Europeans used their tight-knit unity as their strength while the US muddled on with no great sense of the collective cause.

Now, with so many young American players forging strong friendships, holidaying together and rooting for each other at events, they seem to have that priceless intangible that was once Europe’s reserve.

The 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris may be a year away but the US boys continue to fire some early warning shots.