Over the last couple of years there’s been a good deal of negativity about the state of Scottish professional golf. That feeling has recently been exacerbated by the fact that, for the first time since the World Rankings were introduced in 1986, there are no Scottish players in the top 100. Alastair Forsyth is the highest ranked Scot at 113 with Colin Montgomerie (former World Number 2) at 118. Monty at 118! What the hell is going on?

Yes, the World Rankings do make rather depressing reading for Scottish golf fans. But cease the wailing and the gnashing of teeth for a moment – it’s not all doom and gloom. The prospects for 2009 actually look pretty good and I’ll tell you why.

At last week’s European Tour qualifying school at PGA Catalunya in Spain, four Scots earned their playing rights for the 2009 circuit – Andrew Coltart, Chris Doak, David Drysdale and young amateur Callum Macaulay came through the gruelling six round marathon. England and Sweden could boast the same number of qualifiers but no nation managed more.

In addition, Macaulay was part of the three-man team that won the Eisenhower Trophy for the World Amateur Team Championships last month. Given the majority of today’s top professionals make their way through the elite amateur system it must be considered a great sign that Scotland could field a side that came out on top of the pile in this prestigious event.

After finishing 8th and 9th on the 2008 Challenge Tour, Richie Ramsay and Steven O’Hara also have places on the 2009 European Tour. They’ll join Monty, Forsyth, Paul Lawrie, Gary Orr, Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren on the main circuit.

Not to be forgotten is Martin Laird – The 25-year-old Scot earned $850,000 on the 2008 PGA Tour and narrowly retained his card for 2009. In the latter part of the season he displayed he has the potential to step up and win a tournament next year. He recorded three top-tens in a row through August and made it to the FedEx Cup playoffs.

I’ve just read that Keir McNicoll has become the first Scot to end a season with a handicap of +6. The 24-year-old returned 30 scores under 70 through 2008, the lowest of which were 61 and 62 at Carnoustie Burnside. He had a 66 over the Carnoustie championship course. He also won the St Andrews Links Trophy and the Leven Gold Medal.

See it’s not so bad.

On a level just below McNicoll, I continued my quest to improve this week. As I mentioned last time, many of us couldn’t get a start time in the Alliance at Newmachar. Not to be denied our Wednesday game, a splinter group of nine temporarily disassociated Alliancers travelled to Murcar Links for an alternative meeting.

The contestants were:

Stewart Davidson jnr – Alliance winner at Murcar for the last two seasons and hot favourite in this event.

Stewart Davidson snr – Making his Alliance debut this year, he’s slowly getting to grips with the trials and tribulations of winter golf.

John Kinsella – Braemar member who holds the world record for the lowest ball-flight ever recorded for a shot struck off the middle of a clubface.

David Bisset – World expert on putting from off the green, last lost a ball in 1987.

Roy Black – Renowned for his high ball-flight, Roy’s chances were seriously hampered when he put a regular shafted 7-wood in his bag.

Fergus Bisset – A competent golfer with a terrifyingly fragile mental state.

Jim Murray – A solid competitor but, at this time of year, his mind drifts away from golf towards blasting pheasants out of the sky.

Chris Brindley – A gritty competitor and an 11 handicapper who may well be on the way to single figures next season.

Derek Randall – A former Murcar member with a game suited to the links.

The links was in superb condition for the time of year and we were playing the full course to fast-running greens. But the wind was howling so it was a pretty challenging round.

Everyone, well almost everyone, struggled – I lost three balls in the gorse and took three attempts to get up to a raised green on the fourth, Davidson Jnr made two eights; Davidson snr managed to leave a three foot putt two feet short; Bisset snr took a free drop from a GUR greenside bunker before duffing his next shot into the adjacent bunker (not GUR)… etc…

But Derek coped manfully with the conditions and was round in an incredible nett 66 – good enough to win by nine shots! There was going to be a lengthy steward’s enquiry back in the clubhouse until he kindly bought a round of drinks with his winnings and all was forgiven.