Friday, June 26, 2009
Scottish golf needs Dean Robertson.
The ex-European Tour pro should be utilized to help Scotland regain some margin of respect in world golf.
Scotland’s fall down the world ladder has been dramatic in recent years. If it wasn’t for Colin Montgomerie and one surprise victory by Paul Lawrie at the 1999 Open Championship, then Scotland’s place on the golfing map would be non-existent.
My homeland produces great amateurs. Then they turn professional and disappear off the face of the earth. With the exception of Montgomerie and Lawrie’s brief spell, we seem to produce professionals who epitomize the term journeyman.
Robertson fits that term pretty neatly himself. He was a star of the Scottish amateur game, winning the Scottish Amateur, the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play and playing in the Walker Cup. His only victory on the European Tour came in the 1999 Italian Open.
Following his Italian success, the Scot suffered psychological problems due to the break-up of a relationship. Robertson tried to make a comeback but had an Ian Baker-Finch moment in the 2005 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
“I shot a nightmare 92,” Robertson said. “I hit no fewer than 14 provisional shots. The ball was going at tangents, left and right into the haystacks.”
He did not contend the second round, choosing instead to go home and reflect.
“I didn’t want to play golf again. I didn’t want to even hold a golf club. It was totally irrational. I went away and relearned the game.”
A year later he returned to Gleneagles and won the Scottish PGA Championship thanks largely to a third round 63.
He attended European Tour Q-School that year. Though he felt good about his game, one thing was missing.
“My game was at the highest pinnacle of my career. The only thing I didn’t have was that burn, that want, that desire, any hunger. I didn’t have it.”
Robertson had reached a crossroads. That’s when he decided his calling was to pass on his experience to youngsters hoping to make it on the European Tour.
“What I have is a really powerful story. I’ve been there and done it. I know the pitfalls from experience. The way forward for me is to send on others who will learn from my experience.”
Robertson has penned a book along with sports psychologist Dr. John Pates and Mike Gardner entitled “How to think and play like a champion.”
After years of standing on European Tour practice grounds, Robertson believes he can help others avoid the traps so many fall into.
“When I was on tour I was like everyone else. I was a slave to the video camera. And to do what, to highlight the positives? No. I never, ever, had a video lesson highlighting the positives. I always got told what I was doing wrong and you need to fix it. And we live in a fix-it culture. So you fix and find what you think is the cure, then you lose it and have to fix it again. Find it, fix it, lose it. It becomes an absolute merry go round.
“We were all trying to find the perfect golf swing: whatever that may be.”
Robertson believes awareness is the key. He coaches kids and delves into many others aspects of the game other than the basic mechanics of the golf swing.
“Awareness is the key. Belief is the key. How do we install belief in players? It’s about identifying what we do well and looking at areas of improvement. We need to let the bad shots wash over us and focus on what we do well.
“How do we install awareness? By getting back to what the game was like when we were kids. Kids don’t think about how straight their left arm is or how still their heads are over the ball. They think about getting the ball to the target.”
As a Scot, Robertson knows all about the negativity that is part of the Scottish psyche. He wants to change that attitude.
“One thing that we in Scotland are very guilty of is highlighting negatives. We are very good at putting ourselves down. My vision is to have Scotland re-emerge at the forefront of world golf. We can make it happen, but we need to believe in ourselves because we have the potential.”
Robertson is currently teaching kids under the age of 14 in Scotland, but he has no input at higher levels. Ironically, he’s spent more time helping the English Golf Union recently, and Swedish golfers.
He has the experience of life as a European Tour professional, he has the knowledge and he’s hungry to pass it on. Scotland should put him to good use to help develop the next breed of Scottish European Tour pros.