PROFESSOR David Bell CBE has been appointed captain of Royal Dornoch Golf Club.
A native of the town and a former pupil of Dornoch Academy and Golspie High School, the long-time member takes over the reins from Willie MacKay.
He will serve a two-year term in office, with two-times Carnegie Shield winner Gary Bethune installed as vice-captain at the club’s annual meeting.
Professor Bell paid warm tribute to his predecessor for steering the club and staff through the pandemic.
“These have been extraordinary times,” he noted.
“Dealing with a pandemic was difficult both in terms of physically keeping business turning over and also trying to imagine what the world would look like if, and when, we ever escaped this horrible disease.
“None of this daunted Willie. No matter the problem, he gave his full attention to finding a solution.
“Some of this was around ensuring staff safety; some of it was trying to navigate an escape route for Royal Dornoch during extraordinarily financial uncertainty; some of it was addressing issues that had to be dealt with but which largely go unnoticed by the membership.
“And we have emerged into a world where, through the exceptional work of the staff and Willie’s guidance, Royal Dornoch’s reputation has never been higher.”
Professor Bell noted that the club’s greatest asset was a Championship course rated among the very best in the world, with The Struie fast emerging as an acclaimed course in its own right.
But he cautioned: “Even though our course is close to the top of world rankings, I believe we underplay some of our other assets, such as our heritage and our environmental credentials.
“There are few other clubs that come anywhere close to us in either of these areas.
“Part of our heritage is the mutually supportive links between the Royal Burgh and the club.
“The club is a hugely important economic driver for Dornoch and the club would not be what it is without the support of the community.”
A graduate of Aberdeen University with a first class honours degree in Economics and Statistics, the new captain’s career took him to posts at St Andrews, Strathclyde, Warwick and Glasgow Universities before he joined Stirling University as a Professor of Economics in 1990.
Having developed a passion for golf growing up in Dornoch, while at Stirling Professor Bell played a role in developing the university’s celebrated golf scholarship scheme, which has produced the likes of Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, European Tour player Richie Ramsay and Louise Duncan, who recently stepped up to the professional ranks.
Although now in theory retired, he is still heavily involved in the world of economic and social policy and often features in media interviews.
He chairs the Scottish Government’s regional policy advisory group and is working with UK policy influencers on extending devolution in England.
Professor Bell is a member of the Scientific Monitoring Committee of a pan-European study of the economic and health impacts of ageing and he is keen to promote the positive effects of golf on the health of older people.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Scotland’s national academy) in 2003 and is still heavily involved with its activities.
He is currently the holder of the Stewart Cup, which is competed for by the Tait Golfing Society – the Royal Society’s own golf club.