Cooney and Black

There is another star Aberdonian in our midst. If, as is claimed, golf is a mental game, Richie Ramsay may be close to finding the key to unlocking a new golden age for Scottish golf



IS there some magic ingredient in the water, or is it the bracing north-east air? Whatever the reason, Aberdeen appears to produce more than its fair share of top-class golfers.

The Granite City boasts a proud dynasty of outstanding performers, from George Duncan in the Roaring 20s through to Paul Lawrie in the modern age.

Duncan, born at Methlick (before you pull me up, 22 miles is close enough in my book), was the first post World War One winner of the Open Championship and later went on to represent Great Britain in the first three Ryder Cup matches, captaining his side to victory at Leeds in 1929.

Harry Bannerman was a less successful player on the international stage, but there have been few more charismatic characters in the history of the sport.

Heaven alone knows what the bold Harry might have achieved in addition to his remarkable exploits in the 1972 Ryder Cup match, when he garnered two-and-a-half points, including halving with “The King”, Arnold Palmer, had he been a little less inclined to enjoy the good life?

Fun-loving Harry was dubbed “The Economy Class” Ryder Cup star, but when he was focussed on his game, he was a first-class performer.

The same can most definitely be said of Lawrie, a somewhat different individual to Bannerman; a family man dedicated to wringing the last drop of potential from his talents.

Nearly 80 years after Duncan had brought the Claret Jug back to Aberdeen, Lawrie repeated the feat at Carnoustie in 1999, becoming the first natural-born Scot since Edinburgh’s Tommy Armour in 1931 to win golf’s oldest and most prestigious major, by coincidence at the same venue.

Lawrie’s Open triumph represents one of eight European Tour victories, in addition to two Ryder Cup appearances, the most recent in 2012 when he played a pivotal role in Europe’s remarkable comeback in the singles at Medina. He was 43 at the time.

Now, we have another star Loon in our midst, 31-year-old Richie Ramsay. He first came to prominence in 2006 when he was crowned US Amateur champion, no mean feat when you look at the list of illustrious names that adorn the trophy. He was the first Scot since 1898 to do so.

Turning pro the following year, Ramsay subsequently went on to win the South African Open Championship in 2010 and the Omega European Masters two years later.

But, in my view, it is his most recent success in adding a third European Tour title to his CV in the form of last month’s Trophee Hassan 11 that is the most significant.

Having been hampered for two seasons by injuries to ankle, hip, neck and shoulder, Ramsay defied the odds in Morocco after missing the cut in four of his first five tournaments of the season. He had also been forced to quit after three rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic due to illness.

He also displayed remarkable mental fortitude in the middle of his final round, when he recovered from dropping four shots at consecutive holes – including running up a triple bogey six that saw him go from three in front to one behind – to claim a one-shot victory over Frenchman Romain Wattel.

It is that mental toughness coupled to unshakable self-belief that marks Ramsay out from so many of his contemporaries.

“I came to Morocco with a fresh attitude,” he explained. “I thought about what I had won and reminded myself that I have the game for the big occasion.”

Ramsay has that alright – in abundance. One also suspects that he has the elements of steel in his DNA.

Perhaps guilty of beating himself up on occasion in the past when things have not quite gone according to plan and prone to over-analysing his game to the nth degree, Ramsay appears to have acquired a more measured outlook.

But his work ethic remains the same and his desire to be the very best he can be is unaltered, regardless of the sacrifices he may have to make.

“A few guys – Rory McIlroy, for example – have unbelievable talent, but the rest of us have to work at it and, when I get to 40 or 50, I want to know I have done everything I possibly can to be the best I can be,” he added.

Hard graft comes naturally to Ramsay and he now embraces his gym work with the same enthusiasm, in the knowledge that he must keep fit to have a realistic hope of staying injury-free.

All of this coupled to his success in Morocco suggests he is ready to move onto the next level – and stay there.

I have rarely encountered a more single-minded individual from the world of sport. Or one whose occasional brusqueness I do not find particularly offensive – Ramsay believes in speaking his mind. Yet, he is every bit as hard on himself as he is on others.

If, as is claimed, golf is a mental game, Ramsay may be close to finding the key to unlocking a new golden age for Scottish golf.

It has not escaped his notice that next year’s Ryder Cup is being played at Hazeltine, scene of his 2006 Amateur triumph.

Don’t be surprised if the 10th anniversary coincides with Ramsay returning there as a member of Darren Clarke’s team.


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