Re­tir­ing PGA boss Jones will still be at 19th hole . .

. . al­beit fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing as he takes up a new role as ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent

The Herald - Herald Sport - - GOLF - NICK RODGER

E don’t do walk­ing away, was a de­fi­ant ral­ly­ing cry of­ten spouted by those of a Rangers per­sua­sion when the club went into the kind of melt­down you’d tend to get in a blast fur­nace. Some­times, though, you just have to take your leave.

“I’ll have a bat­tle with my­self to let go but I’ll just say ‘walk away Sandy’,” said Sandy Jones, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the PGA, who will re­tire this week af­ter nearly 40 years with the as­so­ci­a­tion. As a some­thing of a died in the wool Rangers man, it was per­haps not sur­pris­ing that Jones sought the ad­vice of another long-serv­ing stal­wart in Wal­ter Smith, the for­mer man­ager at Ibrox who stepped down in 2011 af­ter amass­ing 10 Scot­tish ti­tles. “I was speak­ing to Wal­ter re­cently and he was telling me that dur­ing the first year, I’ll prob­a­bly be all over the place think­ing, ‘I should never have packed this in’,” added Jones, who spent 25 years as the heid hon­cho of the PGA af­ter 12 years as the Scot­tish PGA’s re­gional sec­re­tary. “Wal­ter said, ‘the dif­fer­ence be­tween you and me is that I won the cham­pi­onship on the Satur­day and by the Mon­day I was a no­body at Ibrox but golf might be dif­fer­ent as you’re keep­ing this other role’.”

Ah, so he’s not quite walk­ing away then? This new role is as ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent which means Jones will still be in­volved with the PGA in some ca­pac­ity. “80 to 100 days,” noted the Glaswe­gian, who is a mem­ber of the Royal & An­cient, Loch Lomond and Gle­nea­gles among oth­ers but re­mains a Mount Ellen man at heart.

Jones, 70, be­gan his life in golf­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion back in 1980 when he took up the reins at the Scot­tish PGA. “I remember get­ting asked on my first day by the press, ‘how would I like to be judged?’ and I said, ‘Christ, I’ve just started’. Here in 2017, Jones re­mains qui­etly con­tent with the work he has done across a va­ri­ety of plat­forms.

“I am very proud of our PGA ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme,” he said. “Espe­cially be­cause it took a three-year bat­tle with the mem­bers to ac­cept the pro­gramme we now have. There was even a strike threat. Now we have 7,800 mem­bers, 1,600 of whom work around the world in around 80 coun­tries. It is sat­is­fy­ing that the PGA is one of the big­gest in­flu­ences in golf on the devel­op­ment side.”

As far as de­vel­op­ing play­ers in Scot­land is con­cerned, and aid­ing the rocky tran­si­tion from the un­paid game to the pro ranks, Jones be­lieves the am­a­teur body of Scot­tish Golf and the PGA are slowly but surely com­ing to­gether. It’s al­ways been a prickly sub­ject, of course. “Un­der pre­vi­ous man­age­ment (at the Scot­tish Golf Union), there was a re­luc­tance to en­gage with the pros,” claimed Jones, who will al­ways cham­pion the con­quests of Paul Lawrie who came through the PGA train­ing pro­gramme and went on to be­come an Open cham­pion. “It was al­most you do as we tell you; a kind of mas­ter and ser­vant re­la­tion­ship. Eng­land are way ahead of the Scots. They have en­gaged much more sin­cerely with the pro­fes­sional game. The game here has to come to­gether. Not the PGA run­ning it or Scot­tish Golf run­ning it, but both sides.”

In the wider sense, Europe’s for­tunes in the Ry­der Cup have cer­tainly changed since con­ti­nen­tal play­ers were drafted in and a new com­mer­cial struc­ture in­volv­ing the PGA, the traditional custodians of the cup, and the Euro­pean Tour was ham­mered out. It’s big busi­ness now. “But it’s not all about the com­mer­cial­ity,” warned Jones. “I’m al­most the voice of Sa­muel Ry­der (the orig­i­nal bene­fac­tor of the Ry­der Cup) in this. He was a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man but when he started the match it wasn’t about the com­mer­cial as­pects, it was about get­ting the best play­ers in the world. We need the com­merce to make the Ry­der Cup work, as well as the Tour and the PGA, but you have to be care­ful it’s not seen as a money mak­ing ma­chine. Don’t soil what is a proper match.”

Next year’s Ry­der Cup is in Paris but there have al­ready been jit­tery claims made that Gle­nea­gles is on standby to host the event again with the US con­tin­gent wary of the ter­ror­ist threat in France. “The Amer­i­cans are com­mit­ted to Paris, to­tally,” coun­tered Jones. “There is no hint they won’t go.”

The Ry­der Cup has given Jones many of his fond­est mem­o­ries, from a first Euro­pean win on Amer­i­can soil in 1987 to a home­com­ing at Gle­nea­gles in 2014. The char­ac­ters in­volved re­main cher­ished too. “I was ref­er­ee­ing a Seve (Ballesteros) match at a Ry­der Cup,” Jones re­called. “Af­ter shak­ing hands on the first tee, Seve said ‘are you the best ref­eree in the world?’. I just ig­nored it but he kept on ask­ing. Even­tu­ally I said, ‘well, Seve, I think you are the best player in the world so they wouldn’t put the worst ref­eree in the world out with you’. He shook my hand and said ‘you’ll do for me’.

“He was great.”

TOP MAN: Sandy Jones has been with the PGA for al­most 40 years. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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