After a spell working in his native Scotland Malcolm Isaacs has crossed the North Sea to spread the golfing gospel in Norway, writes Steven Carpenter.
Turning your back on the chance to go to university while still young is a decision that can be life-changing – for good or ill. One person who did just that and is now reaping the rewards is PGA Professional Malcolm Isaacs.
It was not an easy decision to make for the Inverness-born golfer who had plans to further his education by studying for a degree in economics in his native Scotland.
But after struggling with a series of hamstring injuries, which hampered his progress in other sports, Isaacs discovered a passion for golf that ultimately changed his path in life.
“My first round was at a school outing as a 13-year-old so I started a little later than most,” he recalled. “I was a young footballer with dodgy hamstrings so golf seemed a good fit. The appeal of being individually accountable appealed to me very much and the endless variety of each game drew me in.”
Isaacs began playing properly at Castle Heather Golf Club in Inverness under the stewardship of the club’s head PGA Professional Martin Piggott and it was not long before that life-changing decision had to be made.
“I was set to go to university but after playing some golf at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club and getting along so well with David Torrance, he offered me a position in the shop.
“My intention was to study an economics degree at a Scottish university but the pull of golf was far too strong.
“Although my handicap was six at the age of 17, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity of being around the sport 24/7.”
With Torrance as his mentor, Isaacs was in good hands as he began studying his PGA Degree.
Torrance is a former Scottish Coach of the Year who attained the status of PGA Fellow Professional in 2015 for his commitment to personal development and coaching.
“David (Torrance) is a good friend and completely shaped my professional career for me.
“Aside from placing tremendous trust in me with daily operations, he demonstrated what impact a pro can have at a club.”
ABOVE - Malcolm Isaacs pictured with Magnus Ohlsson (head professional at Oppegård Golfklubb)
Isaacs qualified as a PGA Professional in 2011 and spent the next year competing on the Europro Tour full time.
“After a period I knew I had made the right choice and I was excited to turn professional because my game had improved.
“The PGA qualification lasts a lifetime and has global value and significance but most importantly I love to help others enjoy the game more.
“It was easy to embark on something that would place value on the ability to help others. I knew also the qualification would carry weight internationally and feel fortunate to have a career that has so many possibilities and in something I have a deep passion for.”
A brief spell as a tournament professional attached at Newmachar in Aberdeen followed before Isaacs worked as a teaching pro at nearby Gamola Golf.
But in January this year, Isaacs and his Norwegian partner, Elisabeth, moved to Norway and he is enjoying a new role at Oppegård Golfklubb, located just south of Oslo.
“We had always planned to live here at some point and having just had a baby boy, the timing has been great.
“I have visited the country many times so for me it has not been a big deal to move. Every Norwegian I have met speaks fantastic English which helps of course.
“I have much to learn but it's fantastic. I feel very fortunate to be at a thriving club with more than 1,300 members.”
Starting a new job in a completely new environment yet alone country can be a daunting task, but not for Isaacs, who has settled into his new coaching role nicely, alongside head professional Magnus Ohlsson.
“I love the game so I will always coach wherever I live. There is a great atmosphere at the club and it has been a very enjoyable start to the job.
“It’s always fun to help foster an enjoyable environment for learning and to help enable new golfing friendships amongst the members.
“Magnus Ohlsson and Frode Valle (club manager) have been very helpful in getting me up to speed.”
Golf is a sport that continues to grow in Nordic countries, with Denmark and Sweden having produced a host of world class players, including 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson (above) and 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.
“Of course every country has a slightly different 'golf culture'. The golfers I have met so far have that same passion and enthusiasm for playing the game well.
“In Norway, like in other parts of the Europe, you needed a green card to play, almost like a driver’s licence. Now that has changed to a short three-day course called the ‘Road to Golf’.
"It provides them with a grounding in the fundamentals of the game, especially its rules and etiquette. “It creates a great pathway for professionals to build relationships with beginners and ensures they enjoy the game.”
Isaacs’ new adventure in Norway would not have been possible had he not made that bold decision at 17 to turn his back on university life and join The PGA.
Asked if he had any advice to any other PGA Members considering a move abroad, he advised: “Don't be afraid to reach out to fellow professionals.
“Communication is easy these days and it can open many doors. And my thinking is that if you enjoy travel and enjoy helping others it will feel very normal to coach abroad.
“I haven't thought too much about the future if I’m honest, I just want to do a really good job for the club here at Oppegård.”
To find out more about what opportunities lie abroad within the PGA click here.