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Lloyd Saltman: All it takes is one win that could spark things for me

It IS not easy being a touring professional with an eight-week-old baby on the go.

Disturbed sleeps, nappy changing, bottle feeding? It sounds more like a day among flustered golf writers during the peak season to be honest.

Lloyd Saltman seems to be relishing fatherhood, though, and this week's Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley is already a family affair. His wife, Nicola, and new addition, Max, are in attendance, while Zack, the younger of his brothers, is competing alongside his sibling in the £200,000 championship. "Zack is staying with us, so I've said he can do some of the feeds and change some nappies," said Lloyd with a smile.

The fact that this will be only Saltman's fifth event of 2014 shows how fickle this Royal & Ancient game can be. Nearly a decade ago, when he was 15th in the 2005 Open at St Andrews as an amateur, the sky was the limit for this supremely talented golfer. It has not quite worked out that way, of course. Since he joined the paid ranks in 2007, on the same day as his friend and Great Britain & Northern Ireland Walker Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy, Saltman's career has remained anchored to the launch pad. Apart from the odd mini-tour win, the occasional Alliance success and, more bizarrely, the World Hickory Open, Saltman has yet to capture a professional title on one of the "proper circuits".

Given his lack of competitive action this season, the fact he was leading going into the final round of a EuroPro Tour event in Shropshire recently was a decent effort. He slithered back into a share of 20th on the closing day but those little signs of hope keep him coming back.

"My ambitions haven't changed," said the 28-year-old. "I'm still trying to work hard and get better. There are always rounds now and again that make you remember why you are doing this. All that it might take is one win to spark things. The great thing about golf is that you can change your career in one week, and maybe this can be that week for me."

Upbeat, confident and with plenty of charisma, Saltman looked the complete package when he was strutting his stuff. He was the poster boy for a new generation. Bradley Neil, the Blairgowrie teenager who won the Amateur Championship last weekend, possesses those similar traits and is the latest Scot to be labelled as the 'next big thing'.

Saltman did not rush into turning professional. Many suggested he should have made the leap after that Open performance instead of waiting for two more years but that is easy to say in hindsight. Neil, it seems, is in no great rush either.

"I had a plan and I stuck to the plan," added Saltman. "Whether it was the right one or the wrong one, who knows?

"I'm here because this is where I am, not because I didn't turn professional earlier than I did. What advice would I give to Bradley? Just keep trying to improve. He looks like a great prospect."

Saltman is one of 23 Scots competing in the Highlands in an event that continues to go from strength to strength since its inception in 2006. Last night, it was announced that the Scottish Hydro Challenge will continue to be held at Macdonald Spey Valley for the next four years, with Stephen Gallacher coming on board as the tournament's new ambassador.

"I began my career on the Challenge Tour and, back then, I could only have dreamed of the kind of opportunities this tournament provides for some of our young players," said Gallacher.

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