By MARTIN TIGHE
FROM a Scottish perspective, seeing a Welshman win The Tartan Tour’s flagship event of the year doesn’t really inspire confidence for the future of Scottish golf.
Add that to the fact that there wasn’t one single Scot playing at this years Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, and you could almost give up the ghost when trying to work out where Scotland’s next golfing star will come from.
But, as lovers of the game, we take the time to scratch below the surface of these headline stories, we can see that there is cause for optimism – and it’s right here on our doorstep.
As alluded to, the 2016 M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles was won by West Linton golfer, Gareth Wright. Although he plies his trade in Scotland, he is very much Welsh. Yet the initial case to be optimistic came from Wright.
As he fought off the challenge from 30-year-old Paul O’Hara and 23-year-old Louis Gaughan he spoke of the natural progression throughout golf.
Wright said: “I’m not surprised to see Paul and Louis come into contention. Even if you look at the Ryder Cup you have a lot of younger guys coming through and it’s just the way of life – a changing of the guard almost.”
That didn’t stop Wright from securing his second Scottish PGA win, but as many Tartan Tour players are doing their best to move on from the tour, Wright was full of support for golf in his adopted country.
Speaking of the merits of the tour, Wright added: “I think a lot of pros are taking the PGA route. Players that have been good amateurs but maybe didn’t quite make it see it as a good route to develop.
“The Tartan Tour has a lot of good players. I mean you have got players who have won on the Challenge Tour and you’ve got former European rookies of the year and guys that have played in all the Majors.”
So with this endorsement from Wright, how did the players he mentioned, O’Hara and Gaughan feel about his views on the tour?
North Lanarkshire’s O’Hara who has been professional since 2010 seemed to concur that the tartan Tour was a good place to learn.
He said: “My game is a lot better now than it was when I joined the pro ranks. There isn’t one particular area thats made the difference, just my overall game. Driving, short game, putting, my iron play especially. And confidence.”
And O’Hara cringed as he recalled: “I look back at when I was playing as an amateur and some of the shots I’ve hit and I think, I wouldn’t hit them now.”
As for Bathgate’s Gaughan, he feels a definite improvement having played on the tour. After his third round at the Scottish PGA he told me: “I enjoyed it and I felt quite comfortable. When I’m positive that is when I hit good shots and I need to try and keep that attitude for every single shot.”
Of the technical side to his game he had this to say: “My swing’s getting there. I’m hitting it better and better every day. It really feels good now.”
This is good to hear as he was once described by his coach, Alan McCloskey, as addressing the ball like a “pun ‘o’ mince’!
We’ll leave the final word on Scottish golf to the new Scottish PGA Champion: “If you play to a decent standard on this Tartan Tour, and are competing at the events, then you are going to be playing good golf.”