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Major lift for pair plying trade on minor tours

Looking to build on the success that has already helped five players gain European Tour cards, the organisers of Team Scottish Hydro have added two new faces in Chris Kelly and Duncan Stewart to their line-up for the coming year.

Duncan Stewart made ends meet by selling shares in himself. Picture: Herald Archive
Duncan Stewart made ends meet by selling shares in himself. Picture: Herald Archive

Their inclusion reflects the way in which those selecting the team are seeking to spread the net: Kelly is a Tartan Tour veteran while Stewart, a pro for seven years, has worked his way up through various satellite tours, making ends meet in the last two seasons by giving away shares in himself.

Both can draw confidence from the fact that, along with Andrew McArthur, Calum Macaulay, George Murray and women's tour hopefuls Pamela Pretswell and Kylie Walker, they are joining a set-up that has rapidly produced results far superior to those achieved by what would be regarded as the traditional route for transforming amateur potential into professional success.

Iain Stoddart of Bounce Sports, the management company that runs Team Scottish Hydro, is more than pleased with the scheme's progress.

"I chased it down for quite a while for someone to support this model and we've had five players go through it to the European Tour in three years which means you're vindicated for everything you talked about. That's a hell of a return in anybody's language," he said.

Bounce also have Scotland's current leading professional, Stephen Gallacher, on their books so have a clear understanding of the support necessary to be competitive at the highest level.

However, while Gallacher is currently preparing for a first crack at the US Masters and is a serious contender to provide home representation at this year's Ryder Cup, the seven players named yesterday are merely at the difficult and sometimes protracted transition stage.

It is an area that has induced much agonised debate across Scottish golf throughout the past decade and more with no Scot having won a major championship this century while Paul Lawrie and Andrew Coltart remain the last Scots to make Ryder Cup debuts in Lawrie's Open Championship winning season of 1999.

During that period umpteen players who have been regarded as boasting prodigious talent during their amateur careers have floundered on encountering the harsh reality of their living depending upon their scoring.

In that context, of the original quintet selected for Team Scottish Hydro in 2011, only Gavin Dear, who has opted out of professional golf and is pursuing a business career, did not make it onto the European tour. It represents a remarkable strike-rate.

"When you're talking about Ryder Cups, majors, even getting onto the pitch to play in those, you've got to be at a certain level," Stoddart noted.

"What's happened in the past, before Team Scottish Hydro came along, was that these guys were caught in the mixer of almost getting there but not having the wherewithal and the backing to do it. Our golfers aren't getting millions of pounds, but they're getting their hardest costs covered which means they are able to take part in events that they might otherwise not play in.

"It's still a hard job to go when you look at a European Tour heavyweight like Stephen, who is winning tournaments and putting results in. He's the leading Scottish candidate to get into the Ryder Cup team but he's still got a long way to go and it's hard to sustain in anyone's language because all these guys can play."

Chosen by an anonymous panel of golf experts, team members currently get a maximum of three years' support in a package designed to get them to that bigger and more lucrative stage which, as in the case of Macaulay, may be split over a couple of different spells either side of a European Tour season.

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