Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Fusion Scotland support scheme can light

fuse for young Scots pros

Sam Torrance has already endorsed it. So have Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and George O'Grady, the European Tour's chief executive. In fact, you'd search in vain for a negative word about it.
Now, three years after it was first mooted, Fusion Scotland could be about to get off the ground. Funding appears to be close for an initiative that is badly needed to help this country achieve a better strike rate when it comes to players making the transition from amateur to professional. Ken Lewandowski, Dougie Donnelly and Iain Stoddart, pictured right by Cal Carson Golf Agency, the three men who came up the idea during a chat at an Open Championship, are close to seeing their dream come true and should be applauded for trying to create something that will be an asset to Scottish golf.
What's more, they are doing so without trying to make a profit for themselves. All three know the game inside out. Lewandowski, a former Hibs chairman, is Loch Lomond Golf Club's Scottish captain and has been a long-time friend and supporter of the aforementioned Gallacher.
Donnelly, of course, is one of the country's best-known sports broadcasters and now covers golf around the world for the Golf Channel. Stoddart is a co-owner of Bounce Sports Management, the Edinburgh-based firm that has David Drysdale, Scotland's top performer on the European Tour last season, on its books as well as Andrew Oldcorn, the former PGA champion.
They believe Fusion Scotland will help to "radically reduce" the situation highlighted in this column of talent being lost to the game at its highest level due to a lack of financial and logistical support.
"Fusion Scotland aims to bring together all sources of assistance, and add managed commercial backing, to provide the resources that will help Scotland's elite players develop, compete and succeed on the professional stage," says Stoddart, a man who is in regular contact with Tour administrators and has done more than anyone of late to help rising Scottish stars secure spots in European Challenge Tour events.
"It will fill the chasm that exists at the most fragile stage of our players' careers; namely as they leave the amateur ranks behind to turn professional."
The concept is simple. A panel would select a handful of players based on a criteria that has been arrived at through consultation with the Scottish Golf Union and the R&A's amateur status committee.
Players would be both male and female and would have secured a category that enabled them to play at least on the Challenge Tour, the Nationwide Tour, the Asian Tour, the Ladies European Tour, the LPGA Tour or the Futures Tour.
They would receive help with expenses such as travel arrangements, tournament entries, PR and communications, assistance from Bounce Sports Management in building relationships with sponsors as well as tax and financial advice from professionals in those fields.
The Scottish Institute of Sport would be on board too, to help with coaching and fitness, diet and nutrition and sports psychology.
In return for all that, the players, who would be allowed to retain 100 per cent of the prize money they earn for the initial two years they'd be involved, would be required simply to wear clothing supplied by Fusion Scotland, carry sponsors' branding and act as its ambassadors.
"While a plethora of amateur excellence still emerges from Scotland's courses, too much of our potential talent is lost to the game at its highest level," says Donnelly.
"Take David Inglis, for example. Among his achievements as an amateur, he won four back-to-back NCAA Regional titles when he was at the University of Tulsa – a record shared only with Justin Leonard, a former Open champion. Yet, after turning professional in 2004, he was given £4,000 by sportscotland and offered no further guidance, resource or support."
While the recent financial climate has not helped when it comes to securing funding for such an initiative, the men behind Fusion Scotland hope 2010 will be the year it finally gets off the ground, with £35,000 per player per year being the figure they believe to be necessary for the initiative to run at a viable level.
"It is sad that Scotland loses so much talent because players can't afford to stay on Tour," says Lewandowski. "We want to give young guys and girls the chance to focus on golf rather than worrying about where there next pound is coming from. We've already had one Ryder Cup with no Scots in the team and it could keep happening if we don't do something.
"These players deserve to get a chance and the key here is that Fusion Scotland would be trying to do something that would add value to the Scottish game."
The above article appears in The Scotsman newspaper this morning.

*Can the Fusion Scotland scheme work? You can E-mail your view to Colin@scottishgolfview.com

Monty tunes up for season to savour

If you don't think Colin Montgomerie has a sense of humour, then have a look at Sky's promotional advert for their golf coverage in 2010, writes Martin Dempster (in The Scotsman newspaper today).
The station's main golf presenters, Ewen Murray, David Livingstone, Richard Boxall and Di Stewart, are members of an orchestra with Montgomerie as their conductor. It's a hoot from start to finish – check out the look on violin-playing Murray's face as his bow goes flying through the air – with Montgomerie joining in the fun by throwing a glare towards the audience after a camera flashes and then, at the end, tossing his baton away in disgust.
"They don't know about music, but they do know about golf," is the tag line for the advert and the sight of Montgomerie, who appears to be letting his guard down more and more these days, involved in such a production will go down well with the contenders for his Ryder Cup team.
They will all know how determined he will be to crown his career by being a winning captain in the event that has mattered most to him but, at the same time, it looks as though he'll be able to conduct affairs at Celtic Manor with a smile on his face.




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