Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club teenager Jack Mann hopes Junior Tour Scotland captaincy will help him towards scholarship in USA in 2024
A Fortrose Academy pupil is hoping that a leadership role with a Scotland squad in Spain can help build a launchpad to the USA next year.
Jack Mann went over to Madrid last month having topped the Junior Tour Scotland order of merit leaderboard for 2023 and being named captain of a Scottish squad taking on the Madrid Golf Federation select.
Competing over the Golf Santander course, 17-year-old Mann would end up third in the order of merit finals.
The Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club member had to keep his head high, though, as he had to set the example for teammates going into the Ryder Cup-style format against the best young talent Madrid had to offer.
Having that responsibility was a whole new experience for Mann, who has played golf since he was seven, to deal with, but he relished the opportunity to play a major role on and off the course.
"It was nice capping the season off with a phone call from (Junior Tour Scotland's) Paul Gibson telling me he wanted me to captain the Scottish team against the Madrid Golf Federation," Mann recalled.
"Obviously we're all young, we're quite hard on ourselves when it comes to golf, and we always want to strive to be better, so it was a nice thing to get.
"It took a while to actually settle in. I had a few people around me talking about the article that went out saying I was going to be captain, teachers at school and pals, but it didn't really sink in until nearer the time.
"I had to pick the team, pick the order that the boys would go out in, and decide who was going to play with who – it was only when I was doing that stuff that it hit me.
"I had a few ideas going in, but suddenly I was the captain and responsible for making decisions and hearing everyone's opinions.
"I learned a lot as a person about how to cater for other people's needs and who they wanted to play with, and if anyone needed help then I was there.
"I wasn't telling people what to do, but I could voice my opinion, and it was my decision who would be playing with who, and what order we would be going out and playing our singles matches. It was a great experience to be named captain."
As skipper, Mann took on the responsibility himself of playing Madrid's star player – who was ranked much higher than the Fortrose teenager's 2729 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
Going in as the underdog, Mann took his opponent to the 16th hole before conceding defeat, and it proved to be an insightful match that will inform his development in the coming months.
"A lot of boys wanted to play him because we all felt we could learn from how our game compared to his," Mann explained.
"One against one, anything can happen, so I still had to go out thinking I could win rather than accepting defeat straight away.
"I played great, but I just got beaten by the better player on the day. I could reflect afterwards on what he did better than me, and what the turning point was and why he won.
"Maybe if I had done different aspects of it better, could I have won? When you're playing such a higher ranked player you also have to say 'ok, my putting was better than him but his iron play was better, and that's why he won'.
"It was a great game the whole way. We got to the 16th hole, so I played well, he was just better.
"Our weaknesses could be different, but you look at your strong points too and assess how strong they actually are. His strong points were stronger than mine, and his weaknesses were stronger than my weaknesses.
"He was just better on the day, and golf is just about who gets around the course better. It just comes down to fine margins."
With his golf in a better place on and off the course coming out of Spain then, Mann has high hopes for 2024.
It will be his last year at under-18 level, and as the youngster gets set to leave school next summer he has eyes on going Stateside to continue his golfing development.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure – he will be better for the experience of leading the Scotland squad in Spain.
"I came home thinking I just played this better player, so I need to get better – it made me more determined," Mann added.
"Next year is going to be my final year at under-18s, so I really want to finish it off well and say goodbye to junior golf.
"Reflecting on this year, I'd like to start off a little bit better and come out of the gate firing. I was a little bit slow out of the blocks in 2023 and took a while to get going with some good results.
"There are early selections for the Scotland squad at some tournaments all across the world, so I want to come out firing and maybe get into one of those selections.
"If I do get a call-up for Scotland, I'll be playing in different countries and I've done that now in Spain. It was warmer, the ball goes further and travels through the air differently, and if I was to go away next year I'm more mature in that I know how to play in that kind of heat and grass.
"That's something you only learn by playing, so that experience is definitely something I want to do more of next year, and we'll see how it goes.
"Then hopefully I'll cruise through from there. I'd love to win a bigger title, that's always the goal when you go to one of these bigger tournaments.
"I just want to get some recognition. I'd love to go to the United States for a scholarship, so I'm looking at getting myself out and about through social media, and with some good results maybe a coach will look at me and like my performance enough to offer me a scholarship.
"It's about playing consistently, practicing better and getting better overall, and hoping it's my year.
"I have to sing my praises for my sponsors too – Ross-shire Engineering, Highland Fuels, Burnside Garage and Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club – who have helped me achieve what I already have."
The Junior Tour certainly believe he has high potential, adding: "Jack can reflect positively on his 2023 season – he continues to improve, and is displaying consistency in the large majority of events that he competes in.
"His game is trending, very much, in the right direction, and hopefully rewards will come his way in 2024."