By Joy Chakravarty
The maestro of the MENA Tour has turned into a master… a Zane master!
The 2019 season of the MENA Tour by Arena saw Zane Scotland, the most successful player in the Tour’s history, evolve into a reputed coach and a father figure to several young players.
Having won 10 titles as a player since the Tour was established in 2011, Scotland added two more in the first five tournaments played in the Spring Season – but this time as a coach.
Two of his students won – Daniel Gaunt at the Troon Series Al Zorah Open and MG Keyser at the Troon Series Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines. And several others were contending in almost every event.
Apart from Keyser and Gaunt, Scotland’s stable includes the promising Todd Clements; the long-hitting Joshua White; Saudi Arabia’s first professional Othman Al Mulla and England’s Joe Heraty, Taylor Carter and Zak Morgan.
“I think it is a relatively natural progression because golf has been a big part of my life for such a long time. Having played golf for almost 20 years now, as a professional and an amateur, I have a lot to offer,” said the 37-year-old, who won the inaugural MENA Tour by Arena event in 2011.
“I am pretty intrigued by the golf swing. It started with myself, getting the tripod out, filming myself and doing research. And then a couple of players, like Josh (White), started talking to me about it and asking about their own swings.
“About a couple of years ago, I realized that I know a lot about this thing – the good and the bad. It really is not all about positive experiences. Sometimes you get a lot more out when things are not going well. I also felt there was more to life than just playing competitive golf. I had a lot more to offer and that’s how the Zane Scotland Academy came about.
“The Zane Scotland Academy is like a network. I am a big believer that if you get good players around good players, they will get better. My adding the knowledge and experience just helps accelerate that journey.
“There are so many pitfalls, especially in professional golf, which is not golf-related. We are able to help upcoming players, or even someone as established as Gaunty, by being objective and giving a different perspective. You may have all the ingredients, but sometimes you need a third person telling you ‘have you thought of this?’ These small details can make a huge difference.”
While a youngster doing well is obviously pleasing for any coach, the recent success of Gaunt has a special place in Scotland’s heart and is a great example of the difference someone like him can make.
The 40-year-old Australian, a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour who rose to as high as No151 in the world ranking at one time, gave up the game in frustration in 2017 following a protracted period of poor play.
“I have played a lot with Gaunty and he is probably the only player who is elder to me and has had more success than me,” said Scotland.
“Gaunty does not need as much technical input as perhaps some of the younger players. He was going through a bad phase but that did not make him a bad golfer. I guess what he really needed was a bit of conviction from someone else that he could still go out and do it.
“To win in only his second start after more than a year-long break from the game is just fantastic.”
Scotland says he is enjoying his students’ success almost as much as he did his own, even though the feeling can be very different.
“When you do it yourself, you are in a bubble. You are so busy planning your next shot, so focused on what’s next, that you sometimes do not even celebrate it,” added Scotland, who has won the Journey To Jordan only once – in 2013.
“And then when your player is doing well, its different. It’s out of your control completely…you feel helpless at times. But you know you’ve had a small role to play in it.
“I did not play well and missed the cut in a couple of tournaments this year. As a player, I would have probably felt disappointed and not gone back to the golf course. But to go back there with my coach’s head on and not as a player, it’s a super different experience.”
Scotland did not have had the best start to his 2019 MENA Tour by Arena, missing the cut at Ayla Golf Club and Al Zorah. It was kind of expected as he did not play much golf last year recovering from a back injury. But he kept getting better and a tied 21st in Dubai Hills, followed by tied 14th in Bahrain showed he was trending in the right direction.
Even though Scotland’s reputation as a coach is growing, do not expect the competitor in him to give up anytime in the near future.“I will always play golf. Once you are a player, you are always a player. It’s always in you,” he said.
“I have had some back issues. I have had three big injuries during my career. I had a car crash and hurt my neck. I fractured my wrist when I had my European Tour card. And then I had this back injury in 2016. I was talking to some of the young guys on how to manage things and I told them that in my 15 years of playing golf as a professional, there were only about six years when I was fully fit. Now that I am getting close to full fitness, the player in you kicks in quickly.
“I know a lot more about my game now, so I don’t have to practice as much. I am not trying to find it, or dig it out of the dirt. I won’t probably play as much as I did in the past, but you have two or three good weeks in golf and everything changes. It would be fun competing against my boys.”