“The challenge now is to maintain last year’s progress”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 8, 2021 13:53

The new managing secretary of The Blairgowrie Golf Club – the current GB&I Walker Cup captain – has said he is optimistic for 2021, even though it threatens to be overshadowed by Covid-19.

Despite the UK golf industry facing repeated lockdowns in the last year, golf boomed largely as a result of the pandemic and many clubs experienced a significant membership rise.

“Last year was a tough year for most people and businesses but golf was perhaps more fortunate than many,” said Stuart Wilson.

“Most clubs enjoyed a boost in membership after the first lockdown.

“Golf, and the domestic visitor market especially, is still going to be an attractive prospect come the spring. We will still be living under some sort of restrictions I suspect.

“Blairgowrie has done very well to bounce back from the spring lockdown. The club has seen a good number of under 35s dusting off the clubs and getting back into golf.

“The challenge now is to maintain that progress and momentum in the season ahead.”

New managing secretary Stuart Wilson is welcomed to The Blairgowrie Golf Club by captain James Macfarlane

Wilson succeeded Steven Morgan as managing secretary of the Perthshire club after 15 years in a similar role with his home town club Forfar. Stuart, 43, took-up the reins at the start of January – on the same day that English golf clubs were told to close but Scottish venues were allowed to stay open for two-ball and single player golf.

“There’s not many clubs I would have moved to from my home club but this is one of them.

“I have had a close affinity with Blairgowrie since I left school and spent two seasons working in the shop for long-time professional Gordon Kinnoch,” recalled Stuart.

“I also had the huge honour of captaining the European Junior Ryder Cup team here in 2014.

“Blairgowrie hosted the event superbly and of course club member Bradley Neil was part of the team. It was a very special week.

“It’s great to be back here in a full-time position.”

Despite his success in the amateur game, former Scotland international and Walker Cup player Stuart opted for a different career path, studying quantity surveying at Abertay University before securing a sports qualification.

“Winning The Amateur at St Andrews in 2004 opened up some marvellous opportunities.

“I was fortunate that it was the 250th anniversary of the R&A. I couldn’t have picked a better year to win it.

“I got the slot at The Open at Troon, where I managed to make the cut and left with the low amateur medal.

“That was the year Tod Hamilton beat Ernie Els in a play-off.

“I also played in The Open as a qualifier. But when you are there as the Amateur champion you get a better draw and I was fortunate to play with Mark O’Meara and Michael Campbell in the first two rounds and Lee Westwood in the third.

“Unfortunately, The Masters didn’t work out quite the same. It is a different animal altogether.

“I played with Tom Watson and Jim Furyk so that was a nice draw.

“There was a lot of rain delays and two tee starts that year. It wasn’t as smooth as usual.

“But everyone was really welcoming. In the practice rounds you just turned up on the first tee and played with whoever was there.

“I look back on it with fond memories and it was nice that 18 people from Forfar got the chance to go to The Masters and share the experience with me.

“By that time I was working full-time, managing the golf shop at Auchterlonie’s in Monfieith. I actually took a week off to play The Amateur.

“I got an opportunity to sample Augusta in February when we were over in Georgia with the GB&I squad to face the American Walker Cup team in the Jones Cup.

“I took the chance to get down to Augusta for a few days and play the course. I pretty much had it to myself.  It was like my own private golf course!

“Obviously it was a totally different set-up from Masters week. But I was made very welcome and it was good to get the touristy thing out of the system before arriving for the Masters.

“I never really harboured ambitions of turning professional. I always saw my career elsewhere.”

Stuart is hoping this year’s Walker Cup will proceed as planned.

“I made the Blairgowrie committee aware of a few obligations. As the GB&I mens’ captain, hopefully I will have the Walker Cup in May, at Seminole in Florida.

“We missed the St Andrews Trophy this year because of the pandemic so I will have that in 2022.

“I have done the Scottish boys, the Junior Ryder Cup and was chairman of the GB&I boys for five years – working closely with the late and much-missed Blair member Barrie Douglas and I was always secretly hoping I’d one day get the nod for the Walker Cup.”

Stuart, who selected fellow Amateur champion Bradley Neil for international honours in his amateur days, knows Blairgowrie has several promising youngsters emerging through the ranks.

“It’s good to see youth development is important at Blairgowrie. I have always liked to help boys and girls get the most out of their game.

“If you look at the Junior Ryder Cup at Blairgowrie, on the European Tour now you have the likes of Renato Paratore, Marcus Kinhult, Matthias Schwab and of course Bradley is looking to get back to the top tier.

“It’s great we have some very decent prospects at Blairgowrie.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 8, 2021 13:53
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