For David Roy, the general manager at the Crail Golfing Society, the classic links in the East Neuk of Fife, an article written by Mike Clayton of Australian golf fame struck a chord. Clayton, who nowadays doubles as a golf course architect-cum-commentator, had noted how often he had seen a golf club ruined by its committee. One way and another, it reminded Roy of a comment from one of Crail’s recent past captains. On stepping down, he mentioned that he did not want to see committees of the future as the preserve of nothing other than grey-haired gentlemen.
Roy has spent 25 years as a club manager. Having served three different clubs in that time, he is as well-placed as anyone to comment on the qualities required for a member to be elected to lead a club. In 2016, he oversaw a breaking of 230 years of tradition as Crail became the oldest club (it’s the sixth oldest in the world) to appoint a woman captain, one Pam Smith. The members approved 100 percent. And they did the same again in choosing the 27-year-old Max Baillie this time around. Baillie is the youngest Crail captain ever, though William Ranken came close. Ranken was 28 when, in 1786, he was chosen as the first captain of Crail.
Baillie, incidentally, succeeds Jim McArthur, the former chairman of the R&A’s championship committee and a past chairman of the Council of National Golf Unions.
“Age is irrelevant. It is competence, passion, empathy and intelligence that matters. You want a person who is talented on a variety of different fronts and, regardless of how he is only in his 20s, Max fits the bill.” – Crail GM David Roy
Though the new incumbent can play a guitar and a mandolin and was once a member of a band, his talents as a musician do not extend to singing his own praises. “He doesn’t mind making speeches and so forth,” chuckles Roy. “In fact, he’s rather good at them. It’s just that he prefers to talk about the club rather than himself.”
Roy, however, is happy to do the “singing of praises” side of things on his behalf.
“It doesn’t matter whether a captain is 27 or 72,” said the GM. “Age is irrelevant. It is competence, passion, empathy and intelligence that matters. You want a person who is talented on a variety of different fronts and, regardless of how he is only in his 20s, Max fits the bill.”
Roy has known Baillie, who nowadays works for the beverage company Diageo, since he joined the club as a 12-year-old after falling for the game when he was given a set of plastic clubs and balls at age 2. In boyhood, he became leader of the club’s junior section and, almost from the start, he was an obvious choice when someone was needed to make a presentation on behalf of the junior section. During his years as a student of Geosciences at Edinburgh University, then Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University, he would take holiday jobs at the golf club and be able to turn his hand to whatever was required of him. “He worked in the bar, in the professional’s shop, in the restaurant, as a caddie, you name it,” said Roy. “There was nothing he couldn’t do. And the extent of his ground floor experience is unusual for a club captain to say the least.”
Nothing stopped when Max, a 4-handicap golfer, moved into the senior arena at a club where the Under-25s still pay no more than £176 a year and the Under-30s £300. “He led the sub-committee dealing with the club’s social side where he was able to furnish an up-to-date view of what the modern golf club should be offering,” Roy said. “It didn’t matter whether he was organising a children’s treasure hunt or the mid-summer shootout we have for all our members – senior and junior – on the longest day.
“That he got such a buzz out of doing it was brilliant because it’s not every captain who can be that flexible. We’ve had captains who can’t wait to get their teeth into governance, but in Max we have a man who approaches a host of very different things with the same degree of relish.”
The vice-captaincy came next where, once again, Baillie demonstrated all the necessary attributes. “He’s very thoughtful, never rash and endlessly diplomatic. Not only that, but he’s good fun to be around.”
In keeping with all of the above, Baillie has no inclination to take the credit for how the Under-30s is one of the most vibrant sections of the Crail membership. For his part, Roy insists that there cannot but be a connection between a young captain and a healthy proliferation of younger members.
Roy, a greenkeeper in the 1990s before becoming the award-winning general manager that he is today, has another valid observation about the appointment of a young captain and how it can affect a golf club’s outlook. “Millenniums,” he said, “take it for granted that men and women are equal. Most of our competitions are still single gender but that’s changing. More events are mixed – and much the better for it.”
What Baillie is anxious to get across is that his role as captain has been made all the easier by his love of the club.
“Crail,” Baillie says, “is not only a glorious location where you can keep half an eye on diving gannets and seals as you play, but you never know who your playing companions might be. You could find yourself playing with anyone, from any sector of life. I just love that side of things. It’s warm and friendly and everything you want of a club in this day and age.”
Top photo: Max Baillie, courtesy Crail Golfing Society
© 2021 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?