In this country, where the dank, grim days of winter are as short as a resigned sigh, the onset of some decent, dry spring weather doesn’t half raise the morale. Well, it would if the coronaviruswasn’t lurking all over the parish.
While nothing is more important than the health of all and sundry, the timing of the Covid-19 assault for those in the golfing industry has been as wonky as high handicapper’s swing.
Clare-Marie Macaulay’s admirable endeavours in spreading the game’s gospel into schools has been, temporarily, plunged into the rough but her enthusiasm for getting a new generation playing and, most of all, enjoying golf knows no bounds.
The grassroots work she performed in tandem with her PGA qualified brother, Andy Carlton, at Paisley Golf Club certainly made people sit up and take notice. One such person was a certain Open champion.
“Paul Lawrie approached me to see if I’d be interested in taking on a role in his Foundation,” said Macaulay of the 1999 Claret Jug winner’s advance. “It was an easy decision to make.
“It’s great to have Paul there as a figurehead. Some of the teachers in the schools we go to may not be golfers but they know of Paul.
“Even if the young kids don’t know him, it’s a nice, inspiring tale to tell about his rise, his Open win and what he does for golf. Paul wants the best for golf in Scotland, we all do and we need to keep driving it forward.”
In a joint venture which can only be beneficial for the young ’uns, Lawrie’s Foundation and the Foundation run by Stephen Gallacher have teamed up with the Junior Flag Challenge, an initiative Macaulay helped run, to form a nationwide under-12s development platform that is also backed by Scottish Golf.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said of this combined fleet. “We’re getting a more joined-up approach now and that can only be good.
“Before I joined up with Paul people may have thought we were in competition with what he was doing and what Stevie was doing. That wasn’t the case at all.We just all wanted the same thing and that was to get more kids playing golf and give them more opportunities. Working together will help to do that.
“When I was a junior at Fereneze, I never struggled for a game in the juniors. We need to get the numbers back up. The Scottish Junior Flag Championship gives young players a bit more incentive. They don’t need a handicap and it’s a chance for them to represent their clubs through a local qualifier and then onto a regional event.
“The clubs across the country get involved too and there are a lot of very active people trying to do their bit for junior golf.”
Of course, the wild spread of the coronavirus continues to put a spanner in all manner of works. “Obviously now, I can’t go into the schools,” said Macaulay, the wife of former European Tour player Callum.
"This couldn’t have arrived at a worse time. But we just need to get on with it. It’s a shame as there was some real momentum building with the school programme.”
Her momentum may have been halted by this perilous pandemic but Macaulay’s eagerness remains undiminished. “There is huge potential to get golf into schools,” she added. “All the teachers seem very keen. It’s a bit different to other standard sports.
“I do ask the kids if they’ve ever touched a club and a lot haven’t. I’ll also ask them, ‘be honest, did you think golf was boring?’. But they love it and say it’s better than they thought.
“It’s aimed at primary five, six and seven and a few kids have been involved in the five week course at school and have gone on to do coaching at their local clubs.
“Ralston Golf Club, for example, started some junior coaching and six of them from the school programme went along which was encouraging. They were keen to keep going.
“A lot of the time with golf, kids have parents or grandparents who are into it but going into schools gives everybody a chance. It opens it up to all.”