Ever since the young Northern Irishman exploded spectacularly on to the golfing scene like a bomb in a fireworks factory, we have all been asking ourselves the question: "when will Scotland produce its own global superstar?"
Of course, a jaw-dropping talent like McIlroy is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon but that is the lofty standard the cradle of the game has to aspire to. "It might take a few years, but I would expect to see the odd person like that coming through," said an optimistic Andrew Coltart yesterday at the official launch of the next stage in Scottish golf's equivalent of The X Factor.
As part of the ClubGolf programme, the national initiative aimed at introducing the game to as many youngsters in the country as possible, a total of 50 Scottish Golf Development Centres will be rolled out over the next three years in a bid to identify and nurture the next wave of talent.
There may be a few bum notes along the way but, at least these days, it seems that the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish Ladies' Golf Association and the Professional Golfers' Association are all singing from the same hymn sheet in a concerted bid to create a brighter future. If a new standard bearer for Scottish golf on the tour comes off the production line, great, but the need to encourage youngsters into the game and bolster club membership around the country remains of paramount importance and a key objective of the battle plan.
The first 21 of these development centre clubs, stretching from Royal Dornoch in the north to Portpatrick Dunskey in the south west, have already been chosen as bases for accessible, high-quality coaching that will be available to boys and girls who are aged between 11 and 17 and have a club handicap.
The ClubGolf scheme has been growing in quantity, with 40,000 primary five pupils (half of those being girls) going through the introductory stage during 2012. Now, the focus is on finding the quality.
As part of the development centre programme, players will be entitled to 30 hours of coaching with expert advice on the more wide-ranging themes like fitness, nutrition and psychology. The days of simply standing at the driving range and battering away bucket loads of balls are becoming a thing of the past. The facilities that have been chosen all provide excellent areas for putting and short-game development, a part of the game that has been something of an Achilles' heel for the Scots down the seasons.
"It is not about artistic impression, it's about scores at the end of the day, and that's something we're trying to get right down into the bedrock of what we're doing," added Coltart, who appreciates that many golfers have been hampered by too much focus on the technicalities of the swing and end up suffering through paralysis of analysis. "It's not worrying about how you swing the golf club, it's about what score you put on the card. In doing so, you open it up to fun, rather than graft. It's not saying you don't have to work hard, but sometimes standing there repeating and repeating the swing can send you to sleep."
Steve Paulding, the performance manager at the SGU, is confident emerging talent can flourish and progress through the various levels of support. And he is ready to crack the whip to get the best out of each individual once they reach a certain stage. "We give people opportunities at certain stages, and if they use these opportunities well they'll be given a leg up to the next stage," he said. "If they don't use these opportunities and they don't learn and are not willing then we move them out and clear space for the next group coming along.
"We are going to be much tougher. We want to create athletes for a sport and give them all the support they need to move on. But there's only one person out there who can do that, the individual."
Coltart, too, wants to see those with bountiful golfing qualities make the most of what they have once they reach that elite level. "A huge amount of money is being spent on their development, and they are very, very lucky," added Colart, who sits on the SGU's performance committee.
"Compared to my day, so much more is being thrown at them now. But they've got to do it themselves. The moment they start slacking, there are other kids out there grateful for the opportunity. If you can educate them at a younger age about the disciplines involved and how dedicated you have to be then, hopefully, we can nurture that desire in each individual."
Contextual targeting label: