Golf: All-rounder Nicolson gets down to business

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From representing Scotland’s under-10 tennis youngsters at Wimbledon to topping the Scottish under-15 squash rankings and scoring the winner for Scotland hockey under-18s against Spain, ultimate all-rounder Greg Nicolson from Edinburgh, reckons he has had an ideal apprenticeship for a professional sports career – in golf!

The 25-year-old is this week competing in his third pro event, the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open on a Middle East/North Africa tour having started out last month when, in only his second round playing for pay, he landed a first hole-in-one.

It was the latest twist in an astonishing sporting journey and one in which he intends to draw on all his previous sporting experiences to eventually earn a place on both the USPGA and European Tours.

Nicolson has already overcome one obstacle which was satisfying his dad, Peter – a former Tennis Scotland president and Executive Board member of the Commonwealth Games Council, Scotland – that he was finally on track to fulfil an ambition to play sport professionally.

“Dad sat down with me and I could see him wondering ‘how many sports are you going to go through’. But I had long decided I wanted to try to make a mark in golf and he has been so supportive along with Glencairn Crystal.

“An epiphany came when a friend, Jamie Kennedy, gained a golf scholarship in Florida.

“I had already taken up golf, aged 15, at Carricknowe but joining the Mortonhall club was where I applied myself to emulating Jamie.

“I knew, too, that although I’d played tennis with the Murray brothers, Colin Fleming and Jamie Baker, too much racket sport could adversely effect golf but rather than quit I adapted so that a once-a-week game with squash taking over in winter became a refreshing release.

“I was still able to win a second consecutive men’s doubles title at the Waverley club this summer with Andrew Melrose and turn out for the squash team. At hockey I was on Heriot-Watt scholarship but realised the most I could hope for was a contract in Holland or Germany.”

Helped by regular games at Mortonhall with David Patrick, a Walker Cup amateur who subsequently turned pro, and Andrew Hogg, a low handicapper, Greg made it to Long Island University.

On returning he competed around Britain and after shooting 62 to break the Mortonhall course record he turned pro with a handicap of +3.6.

“Despite having the lowest handicap in the Lothians last year the one sport I play and in which I failed to represent my region was golf.

“The time is right and with a livelihood at stake I’m totally focused and better suited to the pro game. Top amateur golf tends to be a grind with 36 holes each weekend whereas in the pro ranks it is one round a day. That allows more time to rectify faults. Also, if you are out of contention in the amateurs there can be little to play for.

“Last week I shot one under par in my final round and moved up from 40th to 21st, doubling earnings to $400.”

No doubt there is still much to come from this former Watson’s College pupil as he channels such considerable sporting skills into his No. 1 pursuit.