Talented youngster shows it can be done despite obstacles
JUST five years after taking up the game, Orkney golfer Michael Schinkel has been selected to join the Scottish Golf Academy.
The 15 year old, who admits to being “delighted and humbled” by his selection, is the first player from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles to be selected for the Academy.
He is also the first golfer in the Schinkel household, entering the sport with his brother when nearby Orkney Golf Club signed up to offer taster sessions through ClubGolf.
“At the time I was involved in a number of sports doing a lot and my mother heard about the coaching at the club so I got involved there,” recalls Michael.
“The club is only two miles away, cycling or walking distance, and after a year of going along regularly I began enjoying it and I just got better.”
In 2009, the golf bug now well imbedded, Michael began regular competition play, expanding his schedule and bettering his results to the point where, in late 2010, he was selected for professional coaching with Stuart Morrison, PGA pro at Tain, and sportscotland institute of sport strength and conditioning as part of a local athlete support programme supported by ClubGolf.
Then, in October, he was selected to play for the SGU North district squad, a season in which he has halved his handicap to seven.
Living on Orkney has its drawbacks for an aspiring golfer. A lack of winter daylight reduces practice time, whilst during the season a shortage of junior competitions makes it essential for youngsters with ambition to travel long distances to reach events. The lack of a resident PGA pro brings about a whole set of difficulties. But it is testament to the club, the Schinkel family and Michael’s own commitment that he has overcome every barrier.
Orkney Golf Club has risen to the challenges of its remote location. Fully integrated with ClubGolf it has trained members as volunteer coaches, it offers structured coaching and has developed extensive indoor facilities. In the early days of its involvement with the programme it invited a pro to coach its juniors during the summer holidays.
“There are so many people to thank,” says Schinkel. “Orkney golf club and its junior section for embracing the ClubGolf programme; Janette Mackie, our junior ClubGolf administrator and Stu Slater, the junior convenor and the coaches who made it great fun. Stuart Morrison at Tain has been a brilliant coach, coaching me when I need it.
“And my granny who has driven me everywhere so that I can play in competitions on the mainland.”
This autumn another chapter begins for Schinkel but in many ways it is just the start.
Morrison will continue as coach and coaching opportunities will increase to monthly, with additional performance and assessment days at the Paul Lawrie Centre in Aberdeen, and a winter series of events on the mainland will be added to the mix.
“I would really like to become professional; it’s a big ask but that's what I really want to do,” adds Schinkel. “Being selected for the national Academy is just what I need to take my game to the next level. “
Stuart Morrison Scottish Golf National Academy coach and PGA Pro at Tain Golf Club, said he hoped the news would spur on other kids in the area to take up golf.
“Hopefully Michael and his success will inspire other kids in the Highlands and Islands to realise that their location is not as much of a disadvantage as they may think.”