Seven players to benefit from pioneering project’s backing this coming year
THE identities of the seven professional golfers chosen to receive support this year as part of the Team Scottish Hydro initiative have been revealed.
Previous recipients of the backing, Callum Macaulay, George Murray, and Andrew McArthur, are joined this year by fellow Challenge Tour star Duncan Stewart, as well as Tartan Tour professional Chris Kelly. Ladies European Tour duo Kylie Walker and Pamela Pretswell complete the line-up.
Each of the players will receive significant financial support to enable them to fund their schedules on their respective tours for the coming season.
Launched in 2011, Team Scottish Hydro has proven to be immensely successful, helping to catapult no fewer than five players onto the European Tour in just three years, including Craig Lee and Chris Doak, who have successfully established themselves on the circuit.
It is with good reason, then, that the people behind the scheme are optimistic this year’s crop of players will build on that success.
“In the main, I think we can claim Team Scottish Hydro as a bit of a victory in that the help the guys have received over the past couple of years have helped them get where they are,” said Iain Stoddart, the director of Bounce Sports and one of the brains behind the scheme.
“In the case of Craig Lee, he has often cited the example of how being able to go to Colombia to play in an event in 2011 helped to nudge him over the line and graduate to the main tour. He has said that without the support of Team Scottish Hydro, he wouldn’t have been able to go and play in that tournament.”
The inclusion of a Tartan Tour player is a change to the set-up for this year and, as Stoddart explained, there is a very practical reason behind it.
“There is a lot of activity around Team Scottish Hydro and many corporate fulfilments back here in Scotland that need to be taken care of,” he said. “However, it tends to be that when one of the guys is away, they are all away. That leaves nobody to represent the team and fulfil those corporate duties. That’s where Chris will come in.
“As well as playing on the Tartan Tour, he also has a number of starts on the Challenge Tour this year and will be playing in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. This is a new area that we have decided to go and look at and we’re hopeful it will be a success.”
Kelly himself is delighted to be joining the team. “Any support is greatly appreciated, so when I got the call to say I was in, I was delighted,” said the 35-year-old. “The last few years have been quite tough, not having much help so hopefully this will help me push on.”
To Kelly’s mind, ‘push on’ means giving himself the best chance to follow his contemporaries and former Team Scottish Hydro members Craig Lee and Chris Doak in trading-in the Tartan Tour for the European Tour.
“I’m not going to lie, whilst it’s great to watch Craig and Chris on the European Tour, it’s also difficult when you have played so much golf with them and have been there or thereabouts yourself,” he added. “It gives you the belief that, if they can do it, you can, too.”
For Duncan Stewart, meanwhile, the support means that he will be able to keep what he earns this year for the first time in three years.
The Grantown-on-Spey man has resorted to selling shares in himself over the past few seasons to help keep him playing but, with the backing of Scottish Hydro, he won’t need to go to such drastic lengths this year.
“I’ve decided to discontinue my shares scheme,” explained the 29-year-old. “Over the past two seasons, I’ve been giving away around 50% of everything I’ve made on the course but what I win now will be mine, which is great.”
Whilst other players might have baulked at handing over so much of their prize money, Stewart sees it differently. He said: “Writing just over 100 cheques at the end of last year, you wonder to yourself, ‘Is this worth it?’, but the reality is I wouldn’t be here without it.”
Stewart also admits he was boosted by several of his backers refusing to cash in their shareholding in him, including Paul Lawrie.
“Paul has been a great support to many young players, myself included,” he added. “Any time you have any questions, you know you can always go to him, which is fantastic.”
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NEW TO THE FOLD Chris Kelly, one of the most prolific winners on the Tartan Tour over the past decade or so, will benefit from the support of Team Scottish Hydro this season, along with six other Scottish professionals