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Gordon Sherry on the comeback trail

It's a measure of Gordon Sherry’s continuing high profile with the public that years of indifferent golf have not dented an enduring status as one of the game’s brightest characters. In spite of season after season of underachievement, there’s still a lot of good will around for a player who enjoyed the summer of his life in 1995 but struggled to match the successes of his amateur days in the professional arena.

Ian Doyle, the millionaire businessman who manages European Tour players Dean Robertson and Alastair Forsyth as well as many of snooker’s leading lights, discovered as much when he agreed to handle the big man’s affairs last month. When Sherry parted company with Carnegie’s sports management team a few weeks ago, his star was at its lowest ebb.

"Gordon was all over the place," Doyle recalled. "He was even buying his own clubs.I don’t think he knew where to turn next."

Once the 6ft 8in graduate of Stirling University with the larger than life personality put his trust, and his future, in Doyle’s hands, matters began to improve. When he tees up in the Northern Open at Forres today, Sherry will wield Ping clubs and hit a Nike ball. The deals with those two international companies are worth £100,000.

On paper, it seems an extravagant price to pay for a golfer who isn’t even eligible to play on the Tartan Tour, never mind the European Tour. Doyle, though, accepts no kudos for negotiating what appears to be such a handsome return when the market is so competitive.

"Honestly, it was easy to put these deals together for Gordon," insisted Doyle’s entrepreneur who has guided Stephen Hendry’s brilliant career "You see, he’s still a name – people remember what he achieved. The truth is we’re starting again with Gordon and the important thing is Gordon also realises there’s a lot of work to be done."

The memories which fuel hope of a Sherry revival are all concentrated in the summer of 1995. It was then that the best amateur golfer in Europe left Tiger Woods trailing in his wake as he claimed fourth place at Carnoustie in the Scottish Open behind Wayne Riley, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo. He was also at the centre of attention at the Old Course for the Open when he played with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman, who hailed the Scot as a breath of fresh air for the game’s future. President Bush wanted to shake his hand.

Sherry went on to play a key role in helping Great Britain and Ireland beat the US (Tiger again) in the Walker Cup at Porthcawl two months later. By the time he teed up in the Masters the following year at Augusta, the Scot was fully expected to make the same kind of impact in the paid ranks as Sergio Garcia was to achieve a few years later.

It didn’t work out that way, partly because Sherry was a touch naive and made the mistake of sharing his dreams. Some listeners mistook those hopes for goals and he was portrayed as full of himself.In fact, this likeable son of Kilmarnock was, at worst, guilty of saying what he believed, rather than taking the politically correct line. But his public image changed almost overnight from boy wonder to self-satisfied rookie.

Sherry, who never saw himself as arrogant, might have coped with that PR calamity had he not also been struck down by glandular fever at the outset of his professional career. Even when he made a full recovery from that debilitating illness, the Scot’s mental energies were drained and his confidence ebbed away. In a sport where the game is played between the ears as much as the tee and green, this was a devastating turn of events.

The spiral of decline reached a nadir when he parted company with his former agents and didn’t know what the future held. Now he’s been given a second chance by Doyle and over the coming months will try to build some self-belief again.

Doyle doesn’t want his latest client to chase invitations to play European Tour events and instead will encourage Sherry to walk before he runs. He’ll play Mastercard and Challenge Tour events with an emphasis on making cuts and grinding out consistent performances.

After all, everyone knows Sherry’s potential: this year’s priority is to turn dormant talent into solid achievement. Loch Lomond, to their credit, have stood by him and his contract as the club’s touring professional was renewed. The chances are he’LL play in the Standard Life tournament and also attempt to qualify for the millennium Open.

But his targets for the year will be accomplished in less exotic surroundings. Sherry himself appreciates the challenge lying in front of him."I was treading water," here called," and didn’t want to continue that way. I had to make a decision. Already with Ian, things are beginning to turn around. I’ve had a couple of meetings with him and he’s very positive.

"The main problem was a loss of confidence and that’s what I have to get back."

Doyle has sorted out Sherry’s financial worries and given him another chance to concentrate on just playing the game. At the age of 25, he still has time on his side and can take encouragement from the fact that many wonderful golfers in the past took time to make their way in the game. Ben Hogan, for example, didn’t become established as a major force until he was 34.

Married to Alison, the couple live in Helensburgh. "We’ve got a nice life and a nice home," said Sherry. "It’s just about getting the golf right."

With Adam Hunter, coach to Paul Lawrie, looking after his swing, and Doyle handling his business affairs, Sherry only needs to concern himself with knocking a little white ball into a hole again.

It was a task he found easy as an amateur. When Sherry was a child, he played golf as a child. Since he’s become a man, he’s discovered how difficult the game can be. Now it’s time to put away childish things, Sherry, the professional, will get a chance to call the shots.

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