Behind the Byline – Martin Dempster
Writer for both The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, Martin Dempster is one of the most respected golf reporters and writers within Scotland. He spoke to ENRG Sport about his career covering the sport.
Questions by Gregor Kerr.
Q. Where it all begin firstly playing, then covering golf?
I have played golf since I was a youngster growing up in the eastern Borders, where I cut my golfing teeth at Eyemouth and was also a member at Dunbar, where I loved playing on a Sunday morning with my dad and his mates. It’s a fantastic sport and I learned some valuable life skills through playing the game at an early age. As a junior reporter for the Tweeddale Press Group, first in Alnwick then Berwick, I covered local golf as part of my general reporting duties. They also included covering agricultural shows, attending the sheriff court and council meetings – and I wouldn’t swap that as it helped me get where I am today.
My first full-time golf reporting role was with the David Begg Sports Agency in Glasgow. At that time, all the national newspapers took copy from all the Tartan Tour pro-ams and county events and that’s what we focused on most of the time. We’d sometimes be covering up to 10 events – over the phone – on a Sunday then blasting out that copy to all the papers in Scotland. Scott Crockett, who is now the European Tour’s communications director, also filled that role for a spell, as did Matthew Lindsay, who is now a football writer for The Herald.
Q. What is the usual working week like for a golf journalist?
Long! It is admittedly one of the busiest weeks of the year but play on the opening two days at The Open starts at 6.30am in the morning and doesn’t finish until 9pm. I always like being there on the first day to see the opening tee shots and you might still have to be there when the last group finishes as someone in that group could be the leader – and it is amazing how often that actually happens! As for how my week is structured, Monday is spent writing a column for the next day, Tuesday is when I write up my weekly page for the Evening News and then from Wednesday to Sunday you can be at a tournament.
Q. What was it like covering the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles here in Scotland? Was it any different to other events here or other Ryder Cups?
It was a fantastic event, helped by the fact the weather was fantastic as that had been a big concern to some people about an event being held in Scotland in late September. Paul McGinley, the European captain, went out of his way in the build up to get to know myself and the other Scottish golf writers and he was absolutely outstanding from a media perspective, as well as proving to be one of the best skippers in Ryder Cup history. As for the event itself, I remember starting my Tuesday column that week with the line ‘Scotland has delivered’ and that proved to be the case from start to finish.
Q. Which courses around the world that you’ve reported from have ranked amongst your favourites, and why?
Two of my favourite courses abroad are Augusta National and the Emirates Club in Dubai. Augusta National, home of The Masters, really is a magical place and we are now based in a fabulous state-of-the-art media centre that opened two years ago. I first visited the Emirates Club when Stephen Gallacher won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2013 – he won again the following year – and it is a fabulous golf course that has one of the most spectacular backdrops in sport. Medinah is another course that will always be one of my favourites as that’s where I reported on the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ – what a night that was with a five-hour time difference to deal with when trying to meet four deadlines!
Q. You’re often very active on Twitter with live reporting and updates on scores, how important a part of the job has Twitter become over recent years and has it affected how you work?
I wasn’t keen on Twitter to start with because I couldn’t see why people would give away something in a sentence that could be an exclusive story in the newspaper the next day. However, I realise now that the media world has changed significantly since I started out in the business so I have embraced it. It definitely adds to your workload, but I have to say that I enjoy Twitter and it is certainly where you can keep up to speed with things.
Q. You seem to cover local amateur golf as frequently as you do professional golf, what are the differences in reporting the two?
Influenced by the fact that Ian MacNiven, who worked for the Edinburgh Evening News for a long time, was my mentor, I love covering local golf every bit as much as covering the big stuff. What I like about the local stuff is that you aren’t worried about anyone else potentially having the same story. I don’t like the fact that, especially when it comes to football, a lot of the papers carry virtually the same stuff almost every day.