The Optical Express Tour, the pay-as-you-play circuit that was taken under the Scottish PGA's administrative umbrella at the start of the season and incorporated into the Tartan Tour schedule, has provided much satisfaction for officials of the domestic scene.
Originally devised by PGA stalwarts Alan Tait and Nigel Scott-Smith two years ago as an independent tour, there was a danger the whole thing would peter out as entries for events struggled to reach the 50 mark, despite the financial backing of the title sponsor.
When Tait and Scott-Smith handed over the running of the series to the Scottish PGA in March, an important playing platform, particularly for younger professionals with gaps in their schedules, was safeguarded. Those involved with the circuit always had a clear vision and the aim was simple; to give Scottish golfers more opportunities to compete on Scottish soil.
With the Tartan Tour season now over, Michael MacDougall, the secretary of the Scottish PGA, has been left encouraged by what has unfolded on the home front during 2012. Back in May, Scott Henry took up the opportunity to compete in an Optical Express event at Spey Valley and won it. A few months later, Henry secured his European Tour card by winning the Kazakhstan Open on the Challenge Tour.
"Scott was exactly the kind of story those involved with the tour would've wanted," said MacDougall. "He had a gap in his schedule, he could play here and he went up to Spey Valley and won. It's nice for us to then seen him, as well as the likes of Chris Doak, go on to do so well on the Challenge Tour. There are a lot of strong players and journeymen on the Tartan Tour who have played at a high level and I'd like to think they can help to play a part in bringing some of these younger guys on. There are benefits for everybody in what we are trying to do with these Optical Express events."
While the Optical Express series was a welcome addition to the schedule, there remained the usual monetary and meteorological challenges during the year. "We probably lost half a dozen Pro-Ams this year, through a combination of the bad weather and various club issues," added MacDougall on the one-day shoot-outs that provide the life blood of the circuit. "You're talking about £40,000 to 50,000 in prize money going there. It does mount up."
On the playing front, Greig Hutcheon won the order of merit for the fourth time and will be joined at December's PGA Play-Offs by Scott Henderson and David Orr, who were second and third respectively. The Scottish side for next month's PGA of Europe Team Championship will comprise Orr, David Patrick and Edinburgh-based Welshman Gareth Wright, who won August's British Club Professionals' Championship and has decided to represent Scotland instead of Wales.
One other Scottish PGA member who did not too badly during 2012 was a certain Paul Lawrie. His own £30,000 Invitational event on the Tartan Tour, held at Deeside just a few days before he flew out to play in the Ryder Cup, was a huge success for those closely involved. MacDougall just wishes the golfing folk of Aberdeen appreciated what they had on their doorstep.
"The fact Paul played was extraordinary," he said. "It was a missed opportunity for the Aberdonians who didn't come to see a Ryder Cup hero as it turned out. I said to Paul that it will be stowed out with people. He said 'no one will come, it will just be like another day' and he was right. It was still a great event, though."