The Quiet Resurgence of Scottish Golfers on Tour
Ireland continues to unearth major champions and England boasts its most impressive group of players in a generation, but Scottish golfers are making a quietly resurgent progression through the game. Those in the Home of Golf yearn for the days of Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie, Catriona Matthew and Dale Reid proudly flying the Saltire on tour, but there have been optimistic signs that the pool of players successfully representing Caledonia is becoming healthier.
Carly Booth's triumph in the Czech Ladies Open - the Perthshire star's first Ladies European Tour victory in seven years - was just the latest example of Scots regaining their swagger within the beloved sport the country introduced to the world.
These have been fallow times for a nation crying out for icons. But the wait may soon be over.
The likes of Richie Ramsay, Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren have infrequently won on the European Tour, maintaining some level of presence. Stephen Gallacher's participation in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles five years ago was a positive emblem. And Inverness born Russell Knox has been the closest the Scots have to show for a great player this decade, winning the Irish Open and a World Golf Championship among several notable achievements.
But it wasn't enough. Last season, only Knox and the experienced Gallacher finished inside the top 100 on the Race to Dubai.
This year, it has been a different story. Ramsay, Drysdale and Jamieson have rejuvenated themselves, and the hugely respected Stevie G won the Indian Open, but the inclusion of Robert MacIntyre, David Law, and Grant Forrest has provided a welcome freshness onto the main circuit, all sitting inside the leading 90 in the rankings.
Aberdeen's Law won the ISPS Handa Vic Open in February, his breakthrough on the tour, though it has been the performances of the unassuming MacIntyre that have garnered most attention. The left-hander from Oban had impressed many on the Challenge Tour, but his results this calendar year have surpassed even the most committed of expectations.
Runner-up finishes at the British Masters and Made In Denmark were a statement of intent, showings that saw the 22-year-old grouped with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler at the Scottish Open. Carrying that experience into Royal Portrush, MacIntyre finished in a tie for sixth at the Open Championship, his major debut, the first top ten recorded in one of golf's great men's championships by a Scot since Alistair Forsyth at the 2008 PGA in the United States, and the best since Monty's agonising loss at the U.S. Open in 2006. Bob is a young man with the game and mentality to succeed.
What a week I had at my first #TheOpen— Robertmacintyre (@robert1lefty) July 22, 2019
It’s something that wherever my career goes I know I’m going to remember for the rest of my life
Finishing tied 6th is crazy and the support I’ve had from everybody has been amazing
I honestly can’t thank everyone enough?????????????????????????????????? @TheOpen pic.twitter.com/fFv2ZZfJ9t
Beyond that, the Scottish contingent on the European Tour will be complemented in 2020 by the impressive Calum Hill - who presently leads the Challenge Tour - and Fife's Connor Syme, a winner in Turkey four months ago. Former Walker Cup star Ewen Ferguson also retains realistic hopes to join them next season.
Looking down into the amateur game and the biennial contest against the United States, Sandy Scott and Euan Walker are part of Great Britain & Ireland's team for the upcoming matches at Royal Liverpool, hopefully continuing a line of succession.
Regular opportunities for women professionals in Europe are criminally lacking, but in addition to Booth, Kylie Henry, Michele Thomson and Kelsey MacDonald are inside the top 80 on the LET's money list. The underappreciated Gemma Dryburgh is 113th on the LPGA Tour in America, but requires a strong end to the campaign.
Scotland understandably celebrates its historical and cultural importance within golf, but discovering great players to reflect that status has proven an obstacle. Intuitional issues and generational problems remain a factor, but with MacIntyre, Hill and Booth leading the way, the days of the cradle of the game potentially crowning its own Shane Lowry or Georgia Hall seem closer than before.
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