Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where did all the bright young stars go?

Gordon Sherry's career highlights

waste of Scottish young talent

Bumping into Gordon Sherry the other night – he's hard to miss at 6ft 8in – got me thinking.
How many golfers has Scotland produced with genuine talent over the years only for them to fall way short of their true potential?
Sherry, pictured by Cal Carson Golf Agency, is a classic example. Here's a player who caught the eye throughout his amateur career. Not just because of t hat massive frame, either. He won titles in Ayrshire, tasted success in Scottish tournaments and triumphed in the blue riband event, the Amateur Championship.
He was a class act, as the Kilmarnock (Barassie) man further illustrated during an amazing few days in the summer of 1995. Still an amateur at the time, he produced a fantastic performance to finish fourth in the Bell's Scottish Open at Carnoustie, where Wayne Riley, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie were the only names above him after 72 holes.
A few days later, in a practice round for the Open Championship at St Andrews, he found himself playing with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson and had a hole-in-one at the eighth on the Old Course, the photographers capturing one of my favourite golfing photos later that day of the young Scot being congratulated by these two golfing legends as though he was their son.
At that time, Sherry appeared to have the golfing world at his feet. The following April, when he got to play in the Masters at Augusta, he received a personal invitation from Watson to join him for a practice round at Augusta National. Sherry looked destined for big things but, from virtually the second he turned professional, it all started to go pear-shaped.
From what I remember, he ruffled a few feathers when he got an invite for a Scottish PGA Championship at Dalmahoy and was then struck down with glandular fever.
The man who once looked as exciting as Tiger Woods around the same age – the pair were on opposite sides at the 1995 Royal Porthcawl but, contrary to what some believe, it was Gary Wolstenholme who beat Woods in the first-day singles and not Sherry – disappeared from the scene like snow off a dyke.

These days Sherry, whose sole success in the paid ranks came in the low-key Mauritius Open in 1997, runs corporate golf days and does a spot of after-dinner speaking. He's excellent in both roles and had his audience at the recent Lothians Golf Association Biennial Dinner hanging on every word at Hibernian's Easter Road.
He doesn't sound bitter about the way things have worked out and deserves credit for that. But that's not the point. Here's a guy who clearly had the talent and looked as though he could go all the way to the top. Just ask Jack and Tom. They're not the type who'll have had the wool pulled over their eyes many times over the years when it comes to assessing fellow golfers.
What really bugs me, though, is that Gordon Sherry isn't alone when it comes to Scottish golfing talent going to waste. Over the past 20 years, I've come across a whole host of young golfers in this country who have excelled at early age yet haven't kicked on, so to speak.
Heck, in some cases they're not even playing the game any more. Take Colin Fraser, for example. The Burntisland boy is probably the best junior golfer I've clapped eyes on, standing out like a sore thumb when he succeeded Andrew Coltart as the Scottish Boys' champion at Dunbar in 1988.
Yet he disappeared from the scene as quickly as he'd appeared and, before too long, this highly-talented individual had put his clubs away in a cupboard. As far as I'm aware, Fraser hasn't been seen on a golf course for many a year.

And what about Steven Young? The Inverallochy youngster chalked up three successive title triumphs in the Scottish Boys' Championship in the mid-1990s and looked another star in the making. He's still playing golf at least but a club job in America isn't exactly what we were expecting for him a few years down the road.
Add David Inglis to the list, too. The flame-haired player who followed George Macgregor and Colin Brooks – I'll come back to him – off the conveyor belt of talent at Glencorse on the outskirts of Edinburgh was oozing with natural talent. On the college circuit in the States, he often beat Nick Watney, now making megabucks on the PGA Tour. At the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton, he also happened to crush Ryan Moore, another American professional doing well these days, by 4 and 3 in the deciding singles.
Six years on, Inglis has disappeared from the golfing radar. He married a girl he met at college and stayed in America but, in doing so, seems to have steered his golf career on to the scrapheap.
For me, Brooks, the man who, in 1986, preceded Montgomerie as the Scottish Amateur champion is another classic case of what might have been. He was brilliant on the old European Satellite Tour – now the Challenge Tour – and looked to be the real deal when he stepped up on to the top circuit.
Alas, that proved a disaster. He just couldn't perform to his full potential on the big stage and, after being hit in the pocket quite badly, he decided that the life wasn't for him. He's now one of Scotland's leading coaches and good luck to him, but I still maintain he had the talent to have done better as a player.

Need some more names to ponder? Paul Girvan, who played with Colin Montgomerie in the 1987 Walker Cup; Drew Elliot, a former Scottish team-mate of Andrew Coltart; and Barry Hume, the 1999 Scottish boys' stroke-play champion, the 2001 Scottish men's amateur championship winner and then the 2002 Scottish men's amateur open stroke play champion. Hume was tipped by many to be the best thing since sliced bread.
I'd like someone to sit all these players down and ask them where it went wrong. Were they given the right support? What would they have done differently? What can be done to stop the same thing happening to others in the future?
Despite what some people say, Scotland has a good record of producing talented young golfers. The trouble is that we often fail to make sure those players reach their final destination.

Any comments? You can E-mail them to Colin@scottishgolfview.com



Post a Comment

<< Home

Copyright © Colin Farquharson

If you can't find what you are looking for.... please check the Archive List or search this site with Google