Martin Dempster: Big week for Scottish golfers as pro events restart
Tartan Tour and new Tartan Pro Tour swinging into action
In the grand scheme of things, competitive sport might still not seem too important at the moment, but, at the same time, it has definitely been uplifting to see that returning in golf in recent weeks.
Perhaps a bit early in the eyes of many people, the PGA Tour led the way in getting things up and running and, in recent weeks, the European Tour, Challenge Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour have all cranked back into action.
This week, it is the turn of the Tartan Tour and the Tartan Pro Tour while, on the amateur front, the Stephen Gallacher Foundation National Matchplay event is also taking place.
The green light was given by the Scottish Government last week for professional events to restart with immediate effect, which means returning to the coalface at either Deer Park or Carnoustie this week.
It is somewhat appropriate that the Tartan Tour is restarting with the Deer Park Masters, which, on this occasion, is being played as an 18-hole pro-am on Wednesday. The Livingston venue, after all, has been a regular stop on the PGA in Scotland circuit thanks to the support of John Muir, founder and chairman of the Muir Group, which has owned it since 1986.
It is the Tartan Tour’s first event since David Longmuir, the Scottish Football League’s former chief executive, took over as the PGA in Scotland manager, and he will be pleased to see a field including Paul O’Hara, Alastair Forsyth, Chris Currie and Greig Hutcheon.
In some respects, it will be a timely chance to refamiliarise themselves with this particular venue as a return is on the cards early next month for the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship, the circuit’s flagship event.
Especially in its first year with a new title sponsor, it is great that an important tournament has been rescheduled, giving players starved of competitive golf due to the Covid-19 pandemic a welcome opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of the greats in Scottish golf by landing the title.
As for the Tartan Pro Tour, Paul Lawrie’s new circuit gets up and running with the Carnoustie Challenge on Wednesday and Thursday and what a start in store for it, ticking every single box in terms of what the Aberdonian was trying to achieve when he came up with the idea in the first place.
His main aim, of course, was to provide playing opportunities for home-based Scottish tour pros, specifically those left with nothing to compete in at all when the PGA EuroPro Tour, one of Europe’s third-tier circuits, scrapped its entire 2020 schedule.
Players such as Ryan Campbell, Neil Fenwick, Sam Locke and Craig Lawrie, Paul’s eldest son, will all be champing at the bit, with a couple of fascinating days being in store over the championship course at the Angus venue due to the mix of players lining up in an event carrying a prize fund of £19,000, with £4,000 going to the winner.
As well as the PGA EuroPro Tour, the Challenge Tour, Staysure Tour, Ladies European Tour, LET Access Series, Alps Tour, ProGolf Tour and Tartan Tour are all being represented and the LPGA Tour as well.
Leona Maguire currently holds a full card for the US circuit and what a terrific boost she has handed the inaugural Tartan Pro Tour event by deciding to head over the Irish Sea to join players such as Kylie Henry, Michele Thomson, Kelsey MacDonald and Beth Allen in taking on the men.
It is also a battle of the sexes in the Stephen Gallacher Foundation National Matchplay at Castle Park, where some of the country’s top juniors will be relishing the opportunity to get their teeth into what is likely to be a rare chance for some competitive play this year.
Add in Alan Tait’s excellent “Get Back to Golf” initiative, which started at Crail last Friday, and, slowly but surely, the golfing landscape is beginning to return to some normality in Scotland. In fact, once Open competitions get the green light, then everyone should be happy.
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