HE was once the voice of BBC Television sport.
Football, rugby, darts, snooker, bowls. You name it, Dougie Donnelly has helped bring it into our living rooms.
But golf is the 59-year-old Scot’s first love, and since parting company with the Beeb in 2010, his dulcet tones have been heard around the world relaying the European Tour action on satellite TV.
While a raft of players have indicated their desire to spend more time in the US in 2013, Dougie (pictured, right) declares European golf has never been in better shape!
“10 or 15 years ago, a lad would get his card, and come on Tour with no real ambitions other than to keep his card,” says Dougie.
“Top-10 finishes would be his aim in the second year before dreaming about becoming a winner in the third.
“Nowadays, however, the young kids come out from the Challenge Tour or Qualifying School, and think about winning from the first week they arrive.
“It’s still fresh in their memory that Rory McIlroy earned enough money in two events as an affiliate member to get his card.
“So they believe instant success is attainable.
“And then Branden Grace won last season in South Africa for his breakthrough in Johannesburg only weeks after getting his card at Qualifying School.
“Just when you are thinking that is a great story on its own, he beats his two boyhood heroes Retief Goosen and Ernie Els in a play-off the following week to win again.
“I saw all four of his wins because I was in China for his third victory, and at the Dunhill Links for his fourth.
“It is remarkable what he has achieved in a short time.
“He hits it a long way and doesn’t have a weakness in his game. So he has to be the one to step up a notch this year.”
But if Grace is Dougie’s tip for the top, and McIlroy his Player of 2012, it is 43-year-old Paul Lawrie who rightly earns huge praise for his performances over the past 12 months.
“Paul’s resurgence was phenomenal. Winning in Qatar against a world-class field was proof, if proof was needed, that he is a class act,” Dougie continues.
“He won again at the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles against another strong field, then capped it off at the Ryder Cup by beating America’s Fed X winner Brandt Snedeker 5&3.
“As happened with his Open win in 1999, he didn’t get the credit he deserved due to the sensations happening all over Medinah on the final day,” says Dougie.
“Will he continue his success this year? Well, we all know the standard is so high now, it will be difficult.
“But, equally, we all know what he can do.
“The way he’s playing, and the experience he has, he’ll enter this year full of confidence. And I wouldn’t bet against him at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014.
“We want Scots in the team on home soil, so I’m hoping Marc Warren will find some consistency, Stephen Gallacher will start holing some putts, Scott Jamieson will kick on from his big breakthrough in Durban, and Richie Ramsey continues his progress.
“Throw in Martin Laird, performing so well across The Pond, and this could be a great year for the Scots.”