Sometimes Colin Montgomerie talks a lot of sense. Love him or loathe him, there are times when he speaks some hard truths.
His recent thoughts on the state of Scottish golf were, as we say over here, spot on.
Those responsible for the interests of Scottish golf should take his words to heart and act on them. And quickly, because when Monty goes there might not be much for Scottish golf journalists to write about.
“I think we're going through a transition,” Montgomerie said about Scottish golf. “We've been going through a transition for 30 years. We’ve never come out of it, really.
“There are Scottish golfers coming through, but not to the same degree as the other home countries – the Irish and Welsh and English have more coming through.”
Monty is bang on. He is 59th on the official world ranking, the only Scot in the top 100.
You have to go all the way down to 150 to find the next highest-ranked player from the Home of Golf, Simon Yates. Two other Scots, Alastair Forsyth and Marc Warren, occupy spots in the top 200.
Monty and Warren may have won the World Cup last year, but that’s about all Scotland has to brag about at the moment.
There are only 11 players with full cards on this year’s European circuit – Scott Drummond, David Drysdale, Forsyth, Stephen Gallacher, Paul Lawrie, Craig Lee, Alan McLean, Gary Orr, Warren, Peter Whiteford and Montgomerie.
If you didn’t know your history, you could be forgiven for thinking the royal & ancient game was invented in any country but Scotland. Players from many other nations outnumber competitors from the auld country on the European circuit. For example, there are 12 French players with full European Tour cards.
Montgomerie’s place atop the Scottish food chain has gone unchallenged for so long that it doesn’t seem too inconceivable to think he still will be leading the Scottish charge when he’s 50, less than six years from now.
The former eight-time European No. 1 is known for his love of statistics. Here are a few he could have produced to back his “Scotland must do better” argument:
• Just two Scottish players graduated from the European Tour Qualifying School last year, equaling the number of Austrians who got cards and one less than Italy’s tally.
• Only one Scot graduated from the European Challenge Tour to the main tour last year.
• Since 1994, the year after Montgomerie won his first of eight European Order of Merits, only 18 Scots have earned European Tour cards at Q-School. Only five of that number currently hold full cards, including the two last year.
• Just seven players have graduated to the main tour via the Challenge Tour since 1994. Of that number, five currently hold full cards. In five of those years, no Scots graduated.
• Fourteen Scots have played on the GB&I Walker Cup team since Monty first won the Order of Merit. Only two of them, Gallacher (1995) and Warren (2001), currently hold full European Tour cards.
• Only three Scots have won the British Amateur Championship since 1994. Gordon Sherry (1995) was the only one to turn pro, but he never made it to the European Tour.
• Paul Lawrie is the only Scot to win a major, the 1999 British Open.
• Lloyd Saltman was the only Scot on the GB&I Walker Cup team last year.
• Richie Ramsay won the U.S. Amateur in 2006, the first Scot to do so since 1898, but has yet to break onto the European Tour.
• There is only one player in the top 50 of the Golfweek/Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking presented by Titleist, and only five in the top 100.
• There have been only four Scottish winners of the British Boys Championship since Monty’s breakthrough year.
The above statistic might be a reasonable return for other nations, but not for the country that gave the world the greatest stick-and-ball game. It’s a paltry return considering Monty was top dog in Europe for seven consecutive seasons in the 1990s.
Monty hasn’t been able to inspire younger generations of his countrymen to take up the game with his play. Maybe his straight talking will shame those in charge of Scottish golf into redoubling their efforts to produce future champions.