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The Scottish Golf Union's road to folly was paved with good intentions . . .

If there is one thing the World Cup has taught us, it is that human beings from every nook and crannie of this slowly birling chunk of space rock simply love gawping at themselves on a giant screen in the stadium.

Drumoig had become "nothing more than a glorified driving range". Picture: Alan Richardson
Drumoig had become "nothing more than a glorified driving range". Picture: Alan Richardson

As the camera sweeps slowly around the stands to capture all the drama that fitba' conjures up and focuses in on a bunch of agonised, tortured and tearful spectators, isn't it funny how the emotions suddenly change the moment the hitherto despondent fella in Row F catches a glimpse of himself on the tele and begins elbowing, pointing and joyously shrieking as if he's just seen Elvis hurtling across the sky on the wings of Pegasus.

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Before you can sneeringly grumble the words 'self-obsessed simpletons', you have a frenzied riot of attention seekers hooting their lungs dry and furiously flapping their arms like Icarus as the wax began to melt while the stampede towards a split-second of global coverage builds to a ferocious rammy.

Oh well, they say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Try telling that to the Scottish Golf Union officials a few seasons ago. It's now some 15 years since the much-trumpeted Scottish National Golf Centre at Drumoig, built at a cost of over £4m, was opened.

Even though the main section of this all-singing, all-dancing HQ looked like an airport hangar rising amid the Fife wilderness, it was a wonderful facility; an indoor and outdoor centre of excellence that was going to be the breeding ground for a new generation of Scottish golfers. Fast forward to 2014 and that central building, which effectively symbolised a brave, ambitious venture gone wrong, is to be demolished. There will no doubt be a few who will not lament its passing.

The SNGC eventually turned into the white elephant that almost brought the Scottish Golf Union to its knees and led to much bickering, finger-wagging and a general disharmony in the ranks.

The SNGC was widely viewed as the right facility in the wrong place. It was situated too far away from the main centres of the population - the fact the land was leased at an extremely low rate gave it the edge over other touted venues like Loch Lomond and Dalmahoy. As the growth of other practice centres also began to accelerate throughout the country, the decline of Drumoig became terminal.

The books, meanwhile, made an audit at Ibrox look financially uplifting. Neil Simpson, the former managing director of the facility, had warned prior to his resignation in 2001 that it would become nothing more than "a glorified driving range" unless the finances could be sorted. And that's essentially what it did become. The haemorrhaging of cash was relentless and the SGU ran up debts of over £1 million.

It was Scotland's club members who bailed the project out initially as the annual levy was raised from £5 to £10 for one year but the operating losses continued and receivership was inevitable.

The Drumoig debacle was highly damaging to the SGU. By attempting to diversify into the running of a National Golf Centre, many felt the governing body had lost sight of its core role. The plus side of the expensive failure was that it gave a chastened SGU the opportunity to re-focus and re-model itself. Harsh lessons were learned.

Drumoig has not been a complete write-off, of course. Stuart Syme, the Fife exile who has spent 17 years as the highly respected professional at Dumfries & County, has returned to his own backyard to take up the running of an impressive facility that still has much to be admired and built upon. Syme, whose son Connor reached the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship recently, will re-open the 25-bay driving range this Saturday.

He is designing a par-3 course on existing areas of turf and has already gained approval for Drumoig to be a Scottish Development Centre for Clubgolf, the national junior programme which Syme has been heavily involved in. He is optimistic that he can breathe new life into a centre that was originally lauded as being 'ahead of its time' when the doors swung open.

For the SGU, which decamped to new premises along the road at the Duke's Course, it will always remain a bold vision of the future that, ultimately, became a folly.

AND ANOTHER THING

He's back, but how is his back? By all accounts, Tiger Woods managed a pain-free return to competitive action at Congressional last week after three months on the sidelines following surgery.

No sooner had he signed for a second round 75 and missed only the 10th cut of his professional career, the feverish analysis and optimistic outpourings began. Next up is the Open at Hoylake, where he won the last of his three Claret Jugs in 2006.

But can we seriously expect a player, who is easing his ravaged body back into shape, to contend in the rigorous test of a major championship? Woods has defied the doubters before but a quick fix on his back followed by a quick victory? That may just be a Tiger tale too far.

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