The son of a former Hearts player is the newly-crowned PGA Assistant of the Year – and had a big Hibs fan being the first to congratulate him on his achievement.
Keir McNicoll’s dad, David, was a defender for the Tynecastle club in the late 1970s and also played for Dunfermline, St Johnstone, East Fife and Montrose.
His son has been more accomplished with a small white ball, becoming the first Scottish golfer to reach plus six as an amateur and also winning the coveted St Andrews Links Trophy in 2008.
But it’s not for playing performances that the 31-year-old has just claimed the prestigious Titleist-sponsored PGA title – his second honour in three years after also picking up the Rookie of the Year prize in 2014.
After finding it tough results-wise early on as a professional, McNicoll decided to put his playing career on hold back in 2011 so that he could sign up as a PGA trainee under Alasdair Good at Gullane.
He was the first high-profile Scottish amateur to take that step and, as his title double illustrates, has certainly embraced the PGA programme.
“I put a lot of hard work into the three years and my goal was to achieve this award and to have done that is just amazing. I am chuffed to have done it,” said McNicoll, who lost to Edinburgh man John Gallagher in the final of the 2007 Scottish Amateur Championship at Prestwick. “I have always studied hard and during the past three years I have done that and have constantly asked people questions to get answers or to point to the right people who would know.
“I have a couple of mentors that I have also called upon and they have played a part.”
In addition to picking up the Whitcombe Cox Trophy, McNicoll also received a cheque for £3500 and a personalised golf bag and clubs from Titleist.
There to see him collect the prizes at the PGA Graduation ceremony in Birmingham were the aforementioned Good and fellow Gullane trainee Ailsa Bain, who was also among the latest batch of graduates. On hand to congratulate the ‘Class of 2015’ was Lothians legend, former Ryder Cup captain and, of course, proud Hibs fan Bernard Gallacher.
He played for Scotland at Gullane and also has his name up on the honours board in the members’ clubhouse, where McNicoll is now the toast.
“I am working at one of the best clubs in Gullane which offers me everything my career needs at present in terms of coaching and playing,” he added, having led a Scottish 1-2 as Glenbervie’s Bobby Rushford finished as runner-up.
“The club has also recently hosted the Scottish Open and been a qualifying venue for the Open, when it was staged at Muirfield.
“Staging a European Tour event like the Scottish Open, I didn’t think was possible, but it was an incredible experience.
“I bumped into guys I know like Shane Lowry, who I played against in the Home Internationals, and Russell Knox.”
The PGA training programme, encompassing the three year Foundation Degree, was founded more than 50 years ago and covers all aspects of golf including business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science and sports psychology.
The PGA also runs an honours degree in association with the University of Birmingham and this year has launched a new partnership with the University of Highlands and Islands.
“The PGA Graduation day is always inspirational and gives me great confidence each year the game of golf is in good hands for generations to come,” said PGA chief executive Sandy Jones.
“The quality of the graduates coming through our PGA training programme are second to none and there’s no doubt they are starting at the beginning of their careers which will take them to almost any corner of the world.”