Jan 16 2013 By Andrew Weston
Anybody who plays golf will tell you it's mind over matter more than any other sport.
If that's the case, then Motherwell's Ross Kellett is well on his way to enjoying a successful career as a professional golfer.
Take for instance his decision to knock back the opportunity to compete in last year’s Scottish Open, instead opting to play in the little known Montecchia Open on the Alps Tour.
The winner of his home tournament picked up a cheque for nearly £500,000 whilst the winner of the Montecchia Open scooped around £4,000.
Even a top 20 finish at the Scottish Open would have seen Kellett earn almost ten times more in prize money than the winner at the Italian based tournament.
At first glance you would think he was barking mad but it turned out to be the most important decision he has made since turning professional around 15 months ago.
Kellett had only one thing on his mind last year - to finish in the top five of the Alps Tour Order of Merit which would secure him a place in the European Challenge Tour.
His steely, single-minded approach paid off. As it transpired he went on to win the Montecchia Open, his maiden professional title, a result which proved absolutely pivotal in securing a top five finish which was only decided during the very last tournament of the year.
“I could have taken a sponsors slot at the Scottish Open but my sole focus at the start of the year was to finish top five," he said. "I won 5,800 Euros in Italy which was a massive amount in terms of the Order of Merit. The final round that week was one of my best all year. I hit three birdies and no bogeys.
“I was very much of the mind set of going out and playing my own game and seeing what happens. In the past I had been wrapped up on how everyone else is doing. At 16 and 17 there was water on both holes and demanding tee-shots but I hit good shots all the way in. To know you were the best that week felt great.”
He added: “The relief was of the hard work over the years paying off. My mum and dad had put a lot of time and effort into me and it was great for them.
“I took great confidence from that and went on the finish second the week after.”
Despite finishing 47th in the final tournament of the year at the Masters 13 Allianz, near Marseille, Kellett did enough to secure his card for the Challenge Tour, Europe’s second tier tour.
It became a straight shoot-out with three other players for four places but he eventually prevailed under intense pressure.
“That’s the most pressure I have played under. A full season came down to one round.
“With a double purse, fluctuations were great. It was horrible because this time I had to focus on what other people were doing. I had to finish ahead of the guy behind me so signed my scorecard at the end and went straight to scoreboard.
“It was a big relief. I played well and was consistent during the season. It would have been pretty hard to take if I hadn’t made it but that’s professional sport, the margins are so fine.”
His success last season was the continuation of a career which has been on a gradual upward curve since bursting on to the scene as a teenager.
After joining Colville Park Golf Club aged 14 he got his handicap down to 14 in his first season and a year later he earned his first nation cap at under-16 level.
That same year he represented Scotland at the under-18 Home International in Ireland and after securing funding through SportsScotland and the Scottish Golf Union he went on to enjoy a successful amateur career.
He made a decision to turn professional at the tail end of 2011 and is happy to bid his time in a fiercely competitive sport.
He said: “I knew I was going to play in most of the events on the Alps Tour having secured playing rights so that was the most determining factor in turning pro. I have seen a lot of guys turning pro and not having anywhere to play. It’s like going to University and studying for five years but knowing you don’t have any work after it.
“Aberdeen Asset Management sponsor me which is a great help. I enjoyed last year and I am always learning, dealing with the travelling and other things. It’s not all abut the golf.
“People think the travelling part is quite glamorous but it’s far from it. I was on 40 flights last year but sitting in an airport lounge can certainly get the better of you, especially if you are not playing well. But I wouldn’t change anything. I am forever waking up in the morning thinking how lucky I am. There are stacks of people who would love to be in my shoes. By the time I was 21 I had been to every continent in the world. To be doing it playing golf is pretty special.”
During the off season Ross has been in Abu Dhabi practicing and this week has taken himself off to Spain before returning to Abu Dhabi in preparation for the Challenge Tour’s opening tournament in India.
When back home he meets up with coach Ian Rae but admits practising abroad in sunnier climes is important.
He said: “I missed a few cuts last season when I had tournaments dotted about and not a lot happening in between. I was back home where the weather was poor and then had to go straight back on tour not having been able to work on my short game. It cost me. If that happens this season I will make sure I am away somewhere I can work in between.”
His debut season on the Challenge Tour cannot come quick enough and whilst not wanting to set too many targets a finish in the top 80 is vital to retaining his card the following year.
“You review your goals as you go along,” he admitted. “I want to cement myself on the Challenge Tour but top 45 would secure me a place in the Grand Final at the end of the season and top 20 a place on the European Tour.”
And what if, as expected, he once again gets an invite to take part in the Scottish Open. Would he take up the offer this time?
“It may clash with a Challenger Tour event so unless things have been going really well and I have a massive amount of points I will probably give it a miss.
“Last week I was up in St Andrews and met Stevie Black, the mentor of rugby player Johnny Wilkinson.
“He is an amazing guy and I talked to him about how best to go about gaining success.
“It’s about being patient. He says people want quick fixes and want to get better right now. That’s not how it works. I want to improve my swing but that will happen day by day.”
With this honest, level headed approach towards his chosen profession, do not be surprised to see Ross having another successful season.