Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Words of advice from Scott Knowles and Bryan Innes

No point turning pro if you can't be winning amateur
By Martin Dempster
Scotland's leading amateurs had little to crow about in the Scottish men's open stroke-play championship at the weekend. It has not been a stellar season so far for the members of the SGU's elite squad, and unless they start to become prolific winners, they have been advised not to even think about turning professional.
Scott Knowles, the Scotland captain, said as much at Glasgow Gailes on Sunday and so too, did Bryan Innes, the 40-year-old Murcar Links man who upstaged his young compatriots as he led the home challenge, finishing third in the biggest domestic event of the season so far.
On the team front, Scotland have excelled in recent years, as wins in the World and European Championships testify. Yet, since Richie Ramsay won the US Amateur Championship in 2006, it's been a different story in terms of individual performances and this season we've drawn a blank so far in the top amateur events.
Fraserburgh's Kris Nicol twice came close to tasting success as he finished runner-up in both the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Open Stroke Play, while Fifer Greg Paterson will still probably be kicking himself after letting the Welsh Open Stroke Play title slip through his fingers when he lost a five-shot lead going into the last round.
As Knowles acknowledged, it is harder to win such events these days due to the fields containing greater strength in depth, particularly in terms of the continental challengers. However, he accepts that such challenges are the yardstick and believes the job of Scottish captain would be made a lot easier if players weren't in such a rush to turn professional.
"Personally, I think spending a few more years as an amateur would be more beneficial than just jumping on the bandwagon of the pro ranks," he said. "It's a hard scene and they're on their own, though there's some funding now from the SGU to help them. At times they might be better spending time in the amateur ranks and winning tournaments.
"The depth of the fields in amateur events these days is that much better. But that's a challenge for the guys. If they're going to turn pro at some point and can't compete against these guys then the question has to be, 'why are you turning pro?' If they can't win an amateur tournament what makes them think they can win a pro tournament?"
Innes, pictured above by Cal Carson Golf Agency, agrees, pointing to the amateur career enjoyed by Ramsay, a fellow Aberdonian, as the benchmark for anyone thinking about trying to become a Tour professional. "You wonder why some players do turn professional," he said. "Richie was a serial winner (as an amateur] and has gone on to do well as professional – that should be a wake-up call to them (the current crop of leading amateurs]."
Later this year Scotland will defend both the European and World titles without some of the players who helped win them. The Eisenhower Trophy trio of Wallace Booth, Gavin Dear and Callum Macaulay are all now in the paid ranks, as is Paul O'Hara, who was in the winning European team in Wales last summer.
The six-man side to defend the European title will be shaped after this weekend's St Andrews Links Trophy, though, sensibly, it won't be finalised until after the Amateur Championship at Muirfield in a fortnight's time.
As things stand, Nicol, who has certainly raised his game, must be in with a good shout, while other strong contenders are likely to be Ross Kellett, James Byrne, Philip McLean, Michael Stewart and David Law, though the latter could face a race against time if he doesn't shake off a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the Scottish Stroke Play and could also rule him out of the Links Trophy.
While acknowledging that he's not had much to get excited about so far this season, Knowles is confident the Scots can peak at the right time in order to give a good account of themselves in Sweden. "It just takes guys coming into form at the right time, and that's what we were so good at last year," he noted.
"In qualifying we only made it by a couple of shots. Then when it came to the matchplay all the guys hit form at the right moment and that's what we want to gear it for.
"There's no point in them hitting their peak beforehand and when it comes to the Europeans they don't make the top eight. Getting into the top flight is the aim and when it becomes head-to-head we can beat anyone, as we proved last year."

Scots-born Rhys eyes Ryder Cup
SO there could be a Welshman in Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor after all – yet who'd really have thought it would be Edinburgh-born Rhys Davies?
When the qualifying race started at Gleneagles last August, the 25-year-old Davies was still playing on the Challenge Tour at that time. Now he is the man in the frame.
He's won on the European Tour this season, finished second on two other occasions and is up to 11th and 19th on the World and European points list respectively.
Davies played in two Walker Cup teams, one of them as a team-mate of Rory McIlroy, and putts like a god so he could certainly be useful to have around in October, when it would be a pity, really, if Wales wasn't represented.
Just imagine how it would feel if there's no Scot involved when Gleneagles stages the event in four years' time!



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