THE local golfing community joined in the chorus of praise following Bearsden golfer Martin Laird’s triumph at the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on Sunday.
The 28-year-old honorary Hilton Park Golf Club ace made history as the first European ever to have won this tournament which has propelled him up 19 places to 21st in the world rankings and pocketed him a cool $1,080,000.
Former Hilton Club professional John Kelly, who played with Laird before he went to Colorado University on a golf scholarship in 2000, said: “I played with him a few times and he was a very enjoyable person to play against.
“What I remember about him was his talent and determination. He could hit the ball longer than anyone else I have ever seen before. That comes from talent. For every shot he took I took two.”
John, the professional at Hilton Park from 2000 to 2005, is now the professional at Kames County Club, Lanarkshire, and added: “Even when he was in America at college, he used to come back for the summer holidays and play at Hilton Park. I remember thinking he would go far because he practiced from morning til night.”
John is convinced we haven’t seen all that Laird has to offer yet, adding, “I’ve seen him play and used to help him with some general pointers even though he had a professional coach in America and I’m sure his determination coupled with that obvious talent will see him in the next Ryder Cup team.”
Echoing these sentiments, Hilton Park Golf Club’s general manager Gordon Simpson said of the former Bearsden Academy pupil: “We are absolutely delighted with his win. He was a junior captain here and we made him an honorary member in 2008. .
“This is not just great for us but for Scottish golf as a whole.
“The pressure at the final hole must have been immense. Considering the poor start he made he did exceptionally well to come back and win.
Golfing professional David Pirie, who writes a column in the Herald agreed, adding: “It is great to see someone who played golf in the area doing so well. This will be a real inspirations for youngsters not just in this area, but for up-and-coming golfers from across Scotland.”
Laird let a two-shot overnight lead slip with but he battled back with two putts from around 80 feet to beat American Steve Marino by one stroke.
He is guaranteed a tremendous welcome when he competes in the Barclays Scottish Open at the Castle Stuart Golf Links in July..