It’s often tough to be a Scottish sports fan. Our sporting history strangely mirrors the history of our nation – a series of, “so near, yet so far” stories. Yes, there have been those rare moments of triumph – the Grand Slam of 1990, Bannockburn, Paul Lawrie’s 1999 Open victory, Prestonpans, beating England 3-2 at Wembley in 1967 to become unofficial World champions…
But, the triumphs tend to be one-offs – never leading to periods of sustained success. The Scottish sports supporter generally has to rely on hope of the odd upset rather than expectation of dominance.
Even by our standards, this week has proved tricky. First, Scotland’s… no, Britain’s… great tennis hope Andy Murray went crashing out of the US Open, suffering a surprisingly heavy defeat to Croatia’s Marin Cilic. He says he’ll come back stronger and I believe he will. He surely has the talent to become a Grand Slam winner but, at this stage, his remains one of those “so near, yet so far” stories.
Then, after raising our hopes (though maybe not our expectations) with a 2-0 win over Macedonia, Scotland’s footballers were agonisingly defeated 1-0 by Holland, removing any chance of qualification for South Africa 2010. Much like the Jacobite Rising of 1745, it was a good effort… just not quite good enough.
Anyway, talking of hope, I read the other day that 43 Scots have entered the first stage of European Tour Qualifying School. Included in the 43 are, Walker Cup team members – Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear, Saltman brothers Lloyd and Zack, Scottish amateur runner-up Paul O’Hara and a host of other talented young pros and amateurs.
It’s a hard road for those attempting to make it all the way to Final Qualifying at PGA Catalunya. Stage one is four rounds and 25% of those who enter will progress to stage two – another four rounds, from which just 25% make it to the final stage at the beginning December.
That means only one eighth of the stage one entrants will make it to PGA Catalunya. It’s there the real fun starts – six gruelling rounds with the top-30 securing a European Tour Card for 2010 and various other playing categories available to those finishing below that. So if any of the entrants are make it all the way they’ll need to play 14 straight excellent rounds. It really is a tough school.
Yesterday I played against two of those hopeful Scottish 43 for a fiver. My mate Paul Cormack is headed to Dundonald next week to see if he can be one of the 25% who move on to stage two in November, his pal Graeme Lornie will try and make it through at The Oxfordshire. If it goes by the odds, 5.375 of the Scots who’ve entered stage one should make it to PGA Catalunya. I think I’ll hope to see six of them there but expect it to be just two.
So which of the pair picked up the spoils at Banchory yesterday? Well, actually, despite a hole in one at the 12th by Graeme, neither of them managed it. Big Stu fired a 65 to beat them both by two. Maybe he should be playing at Dundonald…