Four of Scotland’s brightest up and coming young stars, Grant Forrest, Ewen Ferguson, Robert MacIntyre and Connor Syme, were given the opportunity to show off their skills in front of former Ryder Cup star Stephen Gallacher ahead of this week’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts.
The four amateur stars played a practice round together at Macdonald Spey Valley ahead of their home European Challenge Tour event and Gallacher, who is currently out of action due a hand injury, followed them around for nine holes.
The three-time European Tour winner, who was the only home-grown player in Paul McGinley’s European victorious team at The 2014 Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, is a fervent supporter of grassroots golf in Scotland and runs his own Foundation to help develop the game among kids in his native land.
Stevie Gallagher helping top amateurs at the Scottish challenge yesterday at Spey valley pic.twitter.com/3KsodSzqZ4— Ian Rae (@ianrae59) June 22, 2016
For the likes of MacIntyre, who just last week reached the final of the British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl, it was an inspirational experience ahead of an exciting week in Aviemore.
“It’s brilliant to have someone like Stephen walking the course with you and giving you tips on how to play certain holes,” said the 19 year old. “It’s a different view to your own, it’s someone who’s been there, done it and knows his way around the course too so it was great.
“I met Stephen first was when I was 16 or 17 when I won the Scottish Boys, which his foundation sponsored. I met him there and I’ve seen him the odd time since then but this is basically the first time I’ve had a one to one.”
Gallacher, meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to watch Scotland’s brightest young golfers up close and extoll upon them some of his rich experience of life in the professional ranks.
“I've just been watching some of the young boys,” he said. “I just came to walk round with the Scottish amateur coach Ian Rae, who is a friend of mine, just to see how the guys are getting on. It was just nice for me to have a walk and watch them play.
“The thing I like is that the four kids get on great. They've got a good camaraderie together, and I think they're pushing each other on.
Gallacher at the 2015 SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge
“Connor won the Australian men's amateur championship in January, while Grant is high up the World Amateur Rankings. He and Ewen just played at the Walker Cup, while Robert just got beaten in the final of the British Amateur Championship.
“They're pushing each other on, and you've also got other guys playing equally as well, who will maybe get the chance to come and play in these events next year. I'm just telling them to play their own game, they don't need to do much more.
“When they get to the elite level of the amateur game it's just about gaining experience, and playing in a different environment. The opportunity to play in these four or five Challenge Tour events is huge for them.
“After the new rule, where the amateurs can play the tournament and their points count, it's a massive incentive and a massive chance for these guys.
“I think it's the future for the amateur game - to play these as an amateur, test the water, and then gain your experience. Hopefully they do well enough, get a couple of top tens if they play seven or eight, and then they get a full year out of it.
“The more I can promote the tournament, the better. That's the whole thing about hosting the Challenge Tour - it's brilliant for spreading the word to the younger kids that it's a brilliant place to start out their career and a great place for them to go on.
“If they have one good week, and they get into the top 10 or whatever, they keep playing, so it's huge for them. It's a great opportunity for the young kids now.”