Commentary: Laird gives Scottish golf a bit of hope

Martin Laird

Martin Laird

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Finally, some good news for Scottish golf.

Paul Lawrie’s victory in Spain along with Martin Laird’s win at Bay Hill give Scotland much to cheer about. Goodness knows the Home of Golf has had very little to celebrate in recent years.

Lawrie’s first victory in nine years is the first Scottish win on the European Tour since Richie Ramsay won the South African Open in December 2009. Before that Alastair Forsyth won the 2008 Madeira Island Open. In 2007, Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren both won European Tour events.

In other words, the Scots aren’t exactly lighting up the European Tour. Indeed, Scottish victories are so rare these days that Scottish newspapers got excited last week when Sandy Lyle won on the Senior Tour.

Laird has now won twice on the PGA Tour in three years. He’s the first Scot to win on the PGA Tour since Lyle back at the 1988 Masters. Lyle won five times on the PGA Tour. Ken Brown won the 1985 Southern Open.

Problem for Scotland is that Laird is based in the U.S. He had to go to the U.S. to develop as a golfer, basing himself at Colorado State before getting his PGA Tour card. His forays into Europe are few and far between.

Truth is, Scotland has not produced a regular European Tour winner since Colin Montgomerie. Lawrie might have won the 1999 Open Championship and has another six wins on Tour, but he never really kicked on from his Open victory.

Lawrie is one of a pack of Scots on the European Tour who make nice livings and win the odd tournament. Stephen Gallacher, Forsyth, Gary Orr and Warren are the others. They aren’t exactly what you would call world beaters.

Contrast Scotland with the rest of Europe and you’d be forgiven for doubting that the game was invented in Lawrie’s homeland. English golf is booming right now, with a plethora or world-class stars capable of major glory. Ireland can boast about Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy as bonafide world-class stars.

Other nations such as France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Italy have left Scotland in their wake. They are producing good young talent capable of winning on the European Tour. Yet look beyond Lawrie and Co. and Scotland’s cupboard is pretty bare.

That’s not to say there isn’t potential. Arizona State’s James Byrne looks like the real deal. Former East Tennessee State player Michael Stewart has just won the South African Amateur Championship. Whether they turn into legitimate Euro Tour stars is another story. Indeed, Byrne might just do a Laird and base himself on the PGA Tour.

Lawrie is trying to redress the problem with his foundation, which is striving to develop Scottish talent. Hopefully, that will bear fruit down the road.

So the Scottish newspapers will revel in a great weekend for Scottish golf. They better make the most of it. Scots have learned over the years to live in hope more than expectation.

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