A sportscotland institute of sport supported golfer has become the first person from Orkney to be selected for the Scottish Golf National Academy.
Just five years after taking up the game, 15-year-old Michael Schinkel has been left “delighted and humbled” by his selection.
The youngster is also the first golfer in the Schinkel household, having only taken up the sport when Orkney Golf Club signed up to offer taster sessions through the national junior programme, ClubGolf.
“At the time I was involved in a number of sports doing a lot and my mother heard about the coaching at the club so I got involved there,” recalls Michael.
“The club is only two miles away, cycling or walking distance, and after a year of going along regularly I began enjoying it and I just got better.”
In 2009, the golf bug now well imbedded, Michael began regular competition play, expanding his schedule and bettering his results to the point where, in late 2010, he was selected for professional coaching with Stuart Morrison, PGA Pro at Tain Golf Club, and the sportscotland institute of sport strength and conditioning as part of a local athlete support programme supported by ClubGolf, set up by its regional manager, Willie Mackay.
Then, in October, he was selected to play for the SGU North district squad, a season in which he has halved his handicap to seven.
Living on Orkney has its draw backs for an aspiring golfer. A lack of winter daylight reduces practice time, whilst during the season a shortage of junior competitions makes it essential for youngsters with ambition to travel long distances to reach events. The lack of a resident Pro brings about a whole set of difficulties. But it is testament to the club, the Schinkel family and Michael’s own commitment that he has overcome every barrier.
Orkney Golf Club has risen to the challenges of its remote location. Fully integrated with ClubGolf it has trained members as volunteer coaches, it offers structured coaching, and has developed extensive indoor facilities. In the early days of its involvement with the programme it invited a pro to coach its juniors during the summer holidays.
Other partners have helped Schinkel’s development. The sportscotland institute of sport in Highland and Islands has been on board for two years giving him and other local talented athletes Strength and Conditioning support, delivered by Bruce Ruthven. Northlink ferries company give Michael discounted travel.
“There are so many people to thank,” says Schinkel. “Orkney Golf Club and its junior section for embracing the ClubGolf programme, Janette Mackie, our junior ClubGolf administrator, Stu Slater, the junior convenor, and the coaches who made it great fun. Stuart Morrison at Tain has been a brilliant coach, coaching me when I need it.
“And my granny who has driven me everywhere so that I can play in competitions on the mainland.”
This autumn another chapter begins for Schinkel but in many ways it is just the start. Morrison will continue as coach and coaching opportunities will increase to monthly, with additional performance and assessment days at the Paul Lawrie Centre in Aberdeen, and a winter series of events on the mainland will be added to the mix.
“I would really like to become professional; it's a big ask but that's what I really want to do,” adds Schinkel. “Being selected for the National Academy is just what I need to take my game to the next level. “
Chris Hildrey, sportscotland institute of sport Network Manager for Highlands and Islands, said:
“Michael has been a delight to work with and his success is a fair reflection on the commitment and application shown by both him and his family. sportscotland, the SGU, Orkney Islands Council, and Pickaquoy Trust have been visionary in their support to the Local Athlete Support Programme and it is testament to their partnership working that we have been able to support Michael in his progression.”
Stuart Morrison, Scottish Golf National Academy coach and PGA Pro at Tain Golf Club, added::
“When I first met Michael and saw him hit balls I realised very quickly I had somebody who had a chance to do well. At that time we were all unsure as to where this programme would take us but Michael has proven what can be possible.
“I am just one part of a team of coaches aided by an incredibly committed family all working together to allow Michael to follow this path. Nothing though would have been possible without Michael's talent and his desire to succeed, which has made my job so much easier in coaching him.
“Hopefully Michael and his success will inspire other kids in the Highlands and Islands to realise that their location is not as much of a disadvantage as they may think.”