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Top accolade for the clubmaker who has proved a cut above

The humble wooden shed at the bottom of Willie McNair's garden may not look like much, but it is a place where champions are made.

Armed only with a set of plumber's pipe-cutters and a selection of second-hand golf clubs, he cuts the irons down to size, fit for a new generation to take to the fairways of Fife.

For more than three decades, Mr McNair has gone quietly about his voluntary work. He has a love of the game, and hopes that in some small way he might aid the progress of future stars. Now, having helped hundreds of players to take their first swings, the 74-year-old's efforts have won national recognition.

Mr McNair has been named winner of BBC Scotland Sports Unsung Hero 2009 Award, an honour that acknowledges those who go the extra mile to change the lives of others through sport.

Since 1975, he has been devoting his free time to helping youngsters come through the ranks at Saline Golf Club, a nine-hole course near Dunfermline.

Such is his renown in the area, golfers who buy new clubs donate their old sets to Mr McNair. Then, in the confines of his shed, he cuts the irons and woods down to size for youngsters. On about three nights a week he passes on coaching tips to them, often taking them to a local driving range to try out their new clubs.

It is thought more than 30 club champions, Fife county champions, and county players have started out with his clubs.

They include Callum Macaulay, who was part of the Scotland team who won last year's World Amateur Team Championship.

On being told of his win, Mr McNair said he simply had a deep and abiding love of golf, and planned to continue helping new generations: "I am delighted to win the award. I have never expected anything like this. I have always helped the young players because I love the game and I'd like them to get as much out of it as they can."

Mr McNair, who lives in the village of Oakley, added: "I take practice sessions about three nights but I am on call all the time. I'm always willing to help when anybody needs anything done."

The former electrical engineer was nominated for the award by Don Deveney, youth convener with the Fife Golfing Association. Paying tribute, he said: "Willie has tremendous enthusiasm and has provided so much support to many young players down the years. People like him are few and far between."

Mr McNair will now progress to the Unsung Hero UK final. He will be joining winners from Wales, Northern Ireland and England at the star-studded BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony at the Sheffield Arena on 13th December, when an overall winner will be announced.

Source: Martyn McLaughlin,
The Scotsman, Saturday, 5th December, 2009