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Just watch him go
Barry Hume has joined the long list of promising Scots amateurs who want to make a living out of golf, but has he got what it takes? Nick Rodger finds out

For an amateur who had just finished 21st in the Scottish Open amid some of Europe's most eminent professionals, Barry Hume walked off the final green at Loch Lomond looking like he'd just shot an 87 in the Glencruiten Spring Medal.

While his performance on the Bonnie Banks back in July had eager observers of the Scottish game cooing like a box of pigeons on a barbecue, the 20-year-old from Haggs Castle was not overly impressed as the plaudits flew about in wild abundance. And it was nothing to do with the fact that he could've walked away with a tidy little cheque for around £24,000 had he been a pro.

'I didn't think I played particularly well at Loch Lomond,' he admitted. 'People were saying you played great and you're doing really well and that was nice. But when you know inside that's not the case it kind of wears on you. A 21st place finish was good but I wanted to be up there contending and I thought I could've been that week.'

Lesser amateurs would've been quite happy to make the halfway cut and get their mugs caught on the BBC cameras as they sliced the ball into the east wing of Rossdhu House, but it's a measure of the young man's ability, self belief, confidence and ambitions that he felt he could have been involved in the upper echelons of the leaderboard on the Sunday night.

And it is those positive attributes that Barry will need to preserve and draw on more than ever now that he has made the move from the relatively carefree world of the amateur ranks into the cutthroat business of the professional game.

When ScottishGolf caught up with him at the Haggs Castle club in Glasgow, the former national amateur champion had officially been a professional for four days and was preparing to jet off to Wales to compete in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

He had just had the most successful 12 months of his career to date, a productive and triumphant period that was illuminated by victories in both the Scottish matchplay and strokeplay championships, the European under-21 championship, the Tennant Cup and the Cameron Corbett Vase. If ever there was a time to join the big league then this year was undoubtedly it.

'I feel like I've been a pro since Loch Lomond,' he said. 'I could've turned pro then. The British Masters at Woburn gave me heart and once the British Amateur was out the way and I didn't win it, I was pretty much decided then because I didn't have the Masters to think about. My mind was a bit clearer. I then won the Tennant Cup, the Scottish Strokeplay and the Cameron Corbett Vase and I knew then I was ready.'

'Potentially I could've turned pro last November but I wanted to stay amateur and try and win some 72 holers. I'd only won the Scottish Boys' strokeplay title and I wanted a couple more. I don't think I could've timed my move any better. The momentum was there and it's worked out perfectly. It's been my best season.'

The seeds of Hume's blossoming career were sown 11 years ago when he first started playing the game at the age of nine. At that point, he was also a promising footballer with Renfrew Victoria and Highbury Boys' club - local teams in the Glasgow area - until a rare bone disease brought a premature end to his footballing ambitions.

Searing pains in his right hip were diagnosed by doctors as Perthis Disease, a condition that leads to a softening of the bone. He was told he couldn't play football for two years.

'It was hard to take as a young boy,' Barry said. 'Playing football was all I'd ever wanted to do. It was a very frustrating time because I loved the game and they told me that rest was the only real cure. I started to concentrate on golf after that. I'd got into it quite early.

'From the age of nine it was a pretty quick development. I had a handicap of 17 at 12 and then I joined Haggs Castle in 1994. It had a good environment and a great junior section at that time. There was a lot of encouragement from the members and that was good to have early on.'

From those solid foundations Hume began to forge a successful amateur career, one which, in addition to the silverware acquired along the road, has been littered with Scottish caps at boys, youths and full international level.
It is perhaps not surprising that he looks back on his amateur days with considerable affection.

'I wouldn't change my amateur career for anything,' he said. 'I achieved everything I wanted to. This year I couldn't have picked three better tournaments to win. The Scottish strokeplay was the obvious highlight but the Tennant Cup is one of my favourite tournaments and to win the Cameron Corbett Vase at my home course really put the icing on the cake. I've made a steady progression over the past five years and this year it's all came together. I've matured a lot over the past six months.'

At that point of the chin-wag, I tentatively asked Barry whether the 'maturing' had spread across every aspect of his game. Over the years, he has been known to have a less than accommodating nature when things have not gone according to plan on the course, particularly when us members of the Fourth Estate emerge from the dark recesses of the press tent begging for post-round quotes.
While his rampages may not have been of the Monty standard, Barry, to his immense credit, admits that it is something that he has worked on to improve.

'Sometimes you need a few minutes to think about how the day's went,' he admitted. 'You guys (the press) are a bit hasty and jump in and put pressure on and we say things we shouldn't have said.'

This particular scribe remembers following Barry and his caddy off the course after a narrow defeat in June's British Amateur championship where the Scot had been two up with five to play against English internationalist Richard Walker but lost after frantic finale.

The atmosphere as the cautious approach was made was about as frosty as an Eskimo's fridge and perhaps, on reflection, the opening gambit 'where did it go wrong?' did nothing to lighten up the sombre mood as Barry responded with a stare that could've melted a tank.

It was a jovial episode that he recalled as well. 'I think I held back on what I might have really said to you that day,' he laughed. 'That game was disappointing. I'd played well but Richard finished brilliantly. I just needed a bit of time. Sometimes 20 minutes after I've spoken to you guys I've thought maybe I should've said this and been more positive.

'I remember at the British Boys championship a couple of years ago and I got beaten in the semi-finals. A guy from the press came up to me when I was walking off the course and he asked me a few questions. I'd played well all week to get to that stage and was very disappointed to have lost.

'I was very blunt with him and just left and then a few minutes later I wished I'd said could you just give me a couple of minutes. I would've spoken to him for an hour once I'd got myself together. I'm learning all the time.'

As he now strives to gain a foothold in the professional game, the next few months will be the biggest learning experience in this talented youngster's short career. He is embarking on a voyage that will certainly be turbulent and at times down right frustrating but with drive and ambition oozing out of his pores, it is a journey that Barry is well geared up for negotiating.

'Everyone's been really encouraging,' he concluded. 'But you do hear the odd rumour sometimes. There's people saying I'll struggle in the pro game but they are the people who don't know me.

'I have family and friends who believe in me. If the people who are closest to me believe in me then that's all I need. It's easy to be negative when you're starting off but it's the winners who are positive.'

With such a bright outlook, we might not have to wait too long for Barry Hume to become a true champion.

Barry Hume on:
Things he'll miss about the amateur game
'All my friends. Playing in the Scottish team was a great experience and I just enjoyed the banter whenever you were together with the team.'

What he's looking forward to in the pro world
'Getting my Tour card would be great. I'm looking forward to learning from all the players who have been on the Tour for a while. It will be a great experience. I would love to win my European Tour card from the invites I have already but I'm not going to put pressure on myself. It would be great to avoid pre-qualifying and go straight to final qualifying. That's a realistic goal.'

Peers who have struggled to gain a foothold in the pro game?
'It doesn't worry me at all. It's an individual game. I might react differently and adapt better, you never know. People like Steven O'Hara and Mark Loftus are great players. I'm not sure why they've struggled but I'm sure they'll make it and bounce back.'


©    22 - OCTOBER 2002



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