Elliot Saltman has wheezed his way back from Spain with suitcases packed with his own weight in the finest cured ham after a hole-in-one at the Madrid Masters on Friday. Tiger Woods had a hot dog lobbed at him by a spectator during the final round of the Frys.com Open in California on Sunday in another indication that his game has, well, gone to the dogs.
And some hard-nosed cynics would argue that the results for our leading Scottish hopefuls in the European Tour’s qualifying school over the past few weeks were just mince.
The failure of Michael Stewart, James Byrne and David Law to overcome the first hurdle has caused considerable gnashing of teeth and did as much for morale as a leaf through ‘The Pictorial Guide to Aviation Disasters’ in the airport departure lounge. As ever, it’s important not to get too downbeat at this early stage, given that Law and Byrne have only just turned pro and Stewart is yet to make the move up.
With Walker Cup appearances and Scottish Amateur titles among the three of them during glittering careers at the sharp end of the unpaid ranks, the trio have done plenty to justify the belief that has been placed in them, but already the old chestnut that is the amateur-to-professional question is beginning to rear its head.
Last year, Scottish Hydro, in partnership with Edinburgh-based Bounce Sports Management, unveiled a support package for Scottish golfers on the European Challenge Tour while over £1m of public money was also ring-fenced to help a select number of players at a similar level develop.
The criteria for receiving that aid is a place on the second-tier circuit at the very least. Now that they are facing a stint in the third division, having stumbled at the opening phase of the q-school, it seems unthinkable that three of the nation’s most promising players would be cast adrift given the time and money already invested in nurturing them.
Mercifully, Byrne and Law have already signed with highly influential management companies, IMG and 4 Sports respectively, who will provide sponsorship to help ease the burden. Others have not been so fortunate down the seasons.
At least the golfing bodies, at all levels, are now recognising the problems that come with trying to transfer success in the amateur game on to the professional stage.
This week, the Scottish PGA Championship is taking place at Gleneagles. While the flagship event of the Tartan Tour is a pro-only affair, there have been encouraging moves from the powers that be within the PGA to show that they are committed to bettering the domestic game.
The opening up of the Northern Open last year, to include leading players from the SGU squad, was a major step in the right direction while Paul Lawrie, the former Open champion and a strong supporter of golf in his homeland, is keen for his own invitational event on the circuit to feature a hefty representation of amateurs.
It is something Sandy Jones, a passionate Scot and the long-serving chief executive of the Belfry-based PGA, is also eager to see more of.
It certainly can’t do any harm. For an amateur who harbours hopes of making it in the cut-throat world of the paid arena, any opportunity to play against seasoned pros, whatever the format, can only be beneficial in the long run. If that chance can be provided on home soil then better still.
“This kind of thing should be happening if we are serious about playing a proper role in the development and evolution of the game,” said Jones. “I think this is the way forward in having these transitions. No-one was more happy than me that David Law won the Northern Open.
“I think it is good for the Scottish PGA region and I think it is good for the betterment of Scottish golf. I think there is an element of protectionism amongst our PGA members but if you are going to have that view then I think your world is going to shrink very quickly.”
Two years ago, Jones was highly critical of the SGU’s role in the transition venture and claimed that the amateur body, led by chief executive Hamish Grey, had adopted an almost dictatorial approach to proceedings while essentially snubbing the views and expertise of PGA members.
He has admitted that “relations are probably better than they were two years ago” but it is obvious that some simmering tensions remain. “I get the feeling that my intrusions are not welcomed,” Jones added.
At a time when a united front is being forged to help advance the Scottish game it would be a shame if a clash of personalities, and the self-interests of the administrators, hindered this positive process.