Scottish golfers to benefit from funding as they enter professional ranks

By David CurrieBBC Scotland
Scotland's Grant Forrest
Scotland's Grant Forrest is aiming for a top-15 finish in the Challenge Tour

Scottish Golf has developed a programme to ease young golfers' transition from amateur to professional status.

The governing body's chief executive Blane Dodds says a new finance and support package for Scotland's promising young golfers will help to establish them on the European Tour.

"It's an initiative for helping the best talent we've got," said Dodds.

"It's taking away a lot of the management, logistics and hassles of life on tour."

Ewen Ferguson and Grant Forrest are the first players to benefit from the initiative, which will guarantee them eight Challenge Tour starts this season as they look to qualify for the European Tour.

They will receive funding for two years, as well as coaching and management support from the scheme, which is a partnership between Scottish Golf, Aberdeen Asset Management, SSE Hydro and Bounce Sports Management.

With only one Scot - Russell Knox - in the world's top 30, Scottish Golf wants to try to enable more players to reach the top of the game.

Scotland's Russell Knox
Knox has secured six professional wins, including two on the PGA Tour

"We've watched Ewen and Grant coming through the ranks over the last few years and clearly we want success at the highest level of the game as an objective," Dodds said.

"There is cash involved, but it's more rounded than that. We've been helping to prepare them from a golfing perspective, there's coaching and technical and lifestyle and strength and conditioning [advice].

"The other element is when that talent is showing promise and ability to perform at a higher level, it's ensuring all the other ancillary support is there so that they can perform when they are on the course.

"It's a stepping stone. If you look over the last few years, the young, talented golfers from Scotland haven't fulfilled their potential. It's about trying to help that process. "

'An expensive sport'

Ferguson, who played his third Challenge Tour event at the Turkey Airlines Challenge last week, was Scottish Golf's amateur of the year in 2015 and, along with Forrest, was a member of the Great Britain & Ireland team that won the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham.

The duo were identified as having the potential to reach the highest level of the game by the Scottish Golf performance committee, and the governing body plans to open the initiative to other players next season.

Scotland's Ewen Ferguson
Ferguson has been identified as having the potential to reach the European Tour

"The ultimate goal is to be out there playing stress free, without having to worry about the financial side of things and hopefully bring the best out of ourselves on the golf course," said Ferguson.

"[It's] having the financial backing and support team around you to be able to make the stress less and play with more freedom.

"It's being able to fund my first couple of years of getting out there and trying to find my feet, that's the problem it will solve. It can be very expensive, food, hotels, taxis, caddies - that's what will be taken care of."

Forrest tied for fifth in Turkey, having only turned professional last year. His aim for this season is to finish in the Challenge Tour's top 15 and qualify for the European Tour.

"It's an expensive sport to play for a living, so not having to worry about that when you're teeing up every round is so valuable," Forrest explained. "It's the peace of mind to go out and perform my best.

"If you have a bad week and miss a cut and you want to change your flight it costs more, so it's things like that, to make your life easier and try to help to deal with all the hardships that come with life on tour."

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