Every nation not just Scotland – struggles with the best way to turn their best amateurs into successful Tour professionals, believes Nigel Edwards.
The Walker Cup captain the only man to have played for and captained Great Britain and Ireland to the trophy twice is better placed than most to judge the process that Scottish Golf is currently struggling with.
At present there is no Scottish male golfer with a card for the European or PGA Tour under the age of 30. Welshman Edwards, who in his day job works for England Golf overseeing their amateur set-up, thinks that it is just cycles that means England currently has 14 players within the world’s top 100.
“It’s not that long since we had just Lee Westwood in the top 100,” he pointed out. “Does England Golf have concerns about players struggling to make the transition from amateur to professional? 100 per cent. It is one of our biggest challenges alongside players staying in education.
“We have to do something about that transition from amateur to professional, whether it is increasing the opportunities and funding we give at amateur level or supporting them as a fledgling professional or even both.”
Edwards agreed that “something is right” with young Englishmen such as Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan thriving on Tour, but he is not sure what it exactly is.
“I’m wouldn’t say it’s all down to England Golf,” he said. “It’s a culmination of things plus the fact we have players who are determined to be successful.
“I suppose it takes someone very special to make the transition seamlessly, a Rory McIlroy for example. Or Sergio, Luke Donald, McDowell, some that clearly stand out as players from those I’ve played with or captained. The rest you never know.
“There are some players, although they are talented, fail to deal with it. We’ve all seen guys we thought were going to do it, for me, there was someone like Lloyd Saltman.
“I thought he was an exceptional player, but unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for Lloyd yet.”
Sullivan and Fitzpatrick were consistent performers before they turned pro, he continued.
“Andy in 2011, he was our most consistent player, his performances were truly exceptional throughout the year, but nobody seemed to pick up on that because of Tom Lewis’s success in the Open.
“Some guys come under the radar. “Sully” was one, Shane Lowry was another I played with who did that.”
Entering the pro ranks when close to the top of your form is essential, added Edwards.
“Jordan Spieth turned pro when he was playing very well, Rory turned pro when he was playing very well,” he said. “I like (former Amateur champion) Bradley Neil a lot, but did he turn pro earlier this year when he was playing well? We know the answer to that, and he’ll know the answer to that.”
Edwards does believe the current crop of amateur Scots are exceptional talents who could make the jump to professional.
“Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald have all decided to stay in the amateur ranks for the time being for the right reasons, albeit different ones.
“I don’t know if Jack has any intention of turning pro, but he’s been through university and got his degree in applied maths. He may want to pursue another avenue.
“Grant has just finished college in the US and I’m sure he will turn pro in time. For me, Ewen was fantastic at the Walker Cup, I was delighted he got his opportunity and he duly proved that he is a class player.
“For both him and Grant it’s now about trying to learn to win on a regular basis at the top level in amateur golf as that would put them in a good place when they do turn pro.
“With the three of them having decided to stay amateur for the moment, you could be looking at a very strong Scottish side for the World Amateur Team Championship next year.”