Jamie McLeary sees it as Scottish golf’s equivalent to the X-Factor while Callum Macaulay views it as a possible route to the Ryder Cup, but there is an overwhelming consensus from the five male players on Team Scottish Hydro that the support is crucial to their hopes of making it to the European Tour.
Every year, Scottish Hydro choose a team of five male professional golfers and two female professionals and provide them with financial support as they attempt to fulfil their dreams of making it to golf’s biggest stage.
This year, Craig Lee is plying his trade on the European Tour thanks to the backing of Team Scottish Hydro in 2011, a year in which his consistent form on the Challenge Tour helped earn him a place in the Race to Dubai.
It is a fate which Chris Doak, Jack Doherty, Callum Macaulay, Andrew MacArthur and Jamie McLeary all have in their sights this season and one which they believe would not be possible without the help of Scottish Hydro.
“The hardest thing about playing in Europe can be the financial side,” said Doak, who is on the team for the second season this year after finishing 36th in the Challenge Tour rankings in 2011.
“It’s slightly different on the European Tour, but getting the funding to get you started is the big thing. It lets you get everything sorted and organised and you know that you have that support. It’s good to get everything prepared, it’s a great thing. It’s just good to know for people hoping to make that step up, that it is available should they make the criteria.
“If you don’t have sponsors lined up, and a lot of players won’t, it’s a huge help. Otherwise, I’d be selling my house or looking for a loan.”
McLeary, back on the team this year after struggling with injury last season, agrees and says it makes a huge difference on tournament week not to have to worry about funding.
“For a few of us we don’t get any other funding so it’s good for us to have this support. It’s such a help just being able to pitch up and only worry about the golf.
“I’ve been there before, where you’re basically just earning enough money to pay for your next week. It does allow you to be able to not worry about that side of things. For my first four or five years it’s almost all I would think about, the money aspect. It’s different when you’re playing amazing golf and picking up massive cheques every week.
“The difference the Team Scottish Hydro funding makes is unbelievable and it’s great they’re doing it because we need something like that. There are too many players falling out of the game because of money reasons.”
The 2009 Scottish Hydro Challenge winner reflected on the moments prior to the selection of Team Scottish Hydro and likened it to one of the world’s most renowned reality shows.
“I guess it’s a bit like being in the final of the X-Factor,” he said. “You’re never sure whether people are going to vote you out or not.
“I feel like I’ve played well enough to deserve it and I’ve shown at the start of the year that I deserve it but you’re never quite sure what the decision’s going to be.
“I thought other guys had a case for being in the team and it’s a shame for some of them but at the same time I think they got the balance of the team right. It’s a good team and the difference it makes is unbelievable.”
Macaulay, meanwhile, is also extremely grateful for the support granted by Scottish Hydro and has high hopes when it comes to repaying their support.
“It’s great that Scottish Hydro have seen the potential in this project and they’re doing a lot of other things for Scottish golf so it’s great to have the support and hopefully we can repay the faith they have put in us by moving to the next level.
“Scotland started the game and unfortunately there have only been a few that have come close to perfecting it. There’s always a little bit of criticism about how few Scots there are in the top levels of the world ranking.
“Players such as Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher, Martin Laird and Richie Ramsay are pushing that forward at the moment. All of the big ranking points are on the European Tour and that’s obviously where we on Team Scottish Hydro are trying to get to.
“The eyes of the world will be on Scotland again for the Ryder Cup and who knows? Maybe one of us can make it on to the team by the time it comes to Gleneagles. You don’t know how quick this game can change. You look at Jason Dufner, Branden Grace and players like that and it can all change in an instant.”