Swanston captain 'bowled over' by support following golf academy blaze

A week after seeing a personal investment go up in flames, Swanston club captain Graeme Millar has been “bowled over” by the support for the rebuilding of a golf academy at the Edinburgh venue.

Swanston Golf Academy was ravaged by a blaze, which police believe was started deliberately, on 30 December.
Swanston Golf Academy was ravaged by a blaze, which police believe was started deliberately, on 30 December.

An appeal set up by Mike McNally, one of the coaches based at the facility, has raised close to £20,000, £700 of which was donated by Ian Finnis, Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie, after he put the Ryder Cup man’s 2020 headcovers up for auction on social media.

Businesses have also offered separate support to Millar, a well-known figure in Capital golfing circles, with a target of 1 April having been set for the academy to re-open and help the club cater for a growing membership that includes more than 170 juniors.

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“I was as gutted as the building was, I have to say,” said Millar of the blaze, which police believe was started deliberately. “The first news I heard was a text from (club manager) Mike Robson. He left it until the morning, which was good of the big fella as I would have been up there all night.

Swanston club captain Graeme Millar, left, and Scott Gourlay at the opening of the Tour Performance centre in the facility in June 2019. It was not damaged in the fire.

“The damage was quite extensive, even worse than I first imagined. My initial thought was, ‘how on earth do we take this forward?’.

“I started phoning around contractors and people I knew to see what we could do. We contacted the insurers straight away and since then it’s just been a catalogue of meetings.

“I’ve been bowled over by the amount of support we’ve had. Personally, that has come from architects, surveyors, structural engineers, contractors etc. It has been fantastic. My faith in humankind has been resurrected.

“The GolfFundMe appeal is not my kind of thing. I’m not really a begging bowl sort of person, but it was set up by Mike McNally and Peter Arnott.

“I knew we would be covered for the building, but they have lost a lot of valuable equipment and they will also have a loss of earnings, as will our own PGA pro, Adam Wills.

“Hats off to them for setting it up and hats off to the people who have contributed, it’s been brilliant.”

Millar, who has been a member of the Capital club for more than 50 years, came up with the original plan to build a driving range before being encouraged by Scott Gourlay, one of the leading club-fitters in Europe, to include a fitting studio in the facility.

Arnott and McNally then set up coaching bases and, in tandem with Wills, the new Swanston Golf Academy was set to be officially unveiled on 1 January.

“It will be a success story again,” said Millar. “My plan is to have it open on 1 April and the range will be bigger when it is rebuilt. There is an element of ambition about that date, but we have started to order the materials and, weather permitting, it can happen.

"We’ve got 172 juniors up here and the great thing is that they are all playing. We’ve actually come out of Covid better than when we went in as far as membership is concerned.

“On that basis, it is so important that we have somewhere for the kids to play and that’s where our Templar Course (a nine-hole layout where rounds take less than an hour) comes into its own.”

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