Like most of us, David Orr had never heard of Zoom this time two months ago.
Jump to the present day, and the Whitecraigs pro has become something of a virtual golfing Michael Parkinson, interviewing the likes of Paul McGinley, Robert MacIntyre and Richie Ramsay via the online video communications platform.
These live sessions started out as part of Orr’s strategy to keep the Glasgow club’s 1000-plus members engaged during the coronavirus lockdown.
In just a matter of weeks, however, they’ve become a hit with members and non-members alike and are on track to help raise an incredible £12,000 for the NHS.
“Whitecraigs has been great to me throughout all this by continuing to support me, so I was keen to repay the favour and find a way to give back,” Orr tells bunkered.co.uk. “With no golfers passing through my shop, I decided to park my retail operations until such times as restrictions are lifted and, obviously, there’s nobody to teach and no events to play in. That has meant that I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands. So, very early on, I had a chat with my wife Rona about what I could maybe do.”
That’s when Orr first heard of Zoom.
“I didn’t know it existed until March 25 when I was looking into video conferencing tools that I could use to communicate with the club’s members online,” he laughs. “It seemed like everybody else in the world was using it and it looked easy enough to set up so I decided to give it a go.
"I organised our first members’ session on Monday, March 30, which was all about how to stay active in lockdown. Around 14 people tuned in for it, which was more than I’d expected, and so I decided to make it a regular thing.”
Further sessions followed on the Wednesday and Friday of that first week but, heading into week two, Orr decided he needed more content. Primarily, he needed guests.
“The Scottish Golf national coach Ian Rae got Richie Ramsay - who has been a brilliant help - to come on that week to talk to the members and do a bit of a Q&A with them,” he explains. “Then we got Robert MacIntyre. Both of those sessions were really well received and the number of people tuning in kept going up and up.”
It was at that point that Orr decided to introduce a philanthropic element.
“All of the sessions are totally free to take part in but I wanted to see if we could try to raise some money for a worthy cause whilst we were making them,” he says. “Our lady captain’s daughter works in the critical care department of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and I know that they’ve been really struggling throughout all of this. Even just simple things like having the fridge stocked with snacks has been a challenge. So I decided to set up a JustGiving page to raise money for them.
“The message was, ‘These sessions are 100% free but, if you’ve enjoyed them and you’re in a position to contribute, here’s a worthy cause that we’re supporting.’”
Orr’s goal was to raise £2,000. To date, the fundraising total stands at almost £10,000.
“I’m pretty astounded at how generous people have been to be honest with you,” he says. “It has been really heartening to see our members all rally around a brilliant and deserving cause, particularly in a real and present time of need.”
In the meantime, with no end to the lockdown in sight, the online sessions continue to get bigger and bigger.
“I actually had to increase my Zoom capacity to keep up with demand,” says the pro. “I’ve got a great relationship with TaylorMade [David is actually a TaylorMade Master Fitter] and they kindly arranged to have Paul McGinley come on last week, which was brilliant. We’ve also had the likes of Martin Kaymer’s caddie Craig Connelly, the European Tour’s chief referee John Paramor, and TaylorMade tour fitter Adrian Rietveld make guest appearances.
"Next week, we’ve got Iona Stephen from Golfing World and GOLFTV lined up, as well as our head greenkeeper. I think it’s important that, as well as providing access to people from the tour, we make sure key figures from the club are accessible, too.”
Orr sees the sessions winding down in the coming weeks as playing golf inches closer to a return and takes precedence over talking golf. However, he has already taken steps to make sure he goes out on a high.
“We’ve got Catriona Matthew and Paul Lawrie making guest appearances soon, which will be fantastic,” he says. “It’s hard to think of two bigger names in Scottish golf than them. They’re the country’s two most recent major champions and have played pivotal parts in recent Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup victories, so I’m sure our members will love the opportunity to ask questions of them and to hear some of their memories.”
Orr readily admits that the Zoom sessions have forced him to step outside of his comfort zone. However, that, he says, is the least he could do.
“For me, it’s all about customer service,” he insists. “In an ideal world, I’d be providing that from my shop at the club but, in the absence of that, you’ve got to find other ways to maintain relationships, keep people engaged and add value to their memberships at a time when they might not feel that they’re getting as much from it as they want. Every golf club member wants to play golf. But if they can’t do that, through no fault of anybody’s, you’ve got to find other ways to satisfy them.
“It’s been really encouraging to see how much people have enjoyed these sessions and The fact that we’ve been able to raise so much money for a really worthy cause has been the icing on the cake.
“Whilst it will be nice to get back to normal, part of me will be sorry to wind the sessions down. It’s been a lot of fun at a time when there hasn’t been a huge amount of that going around.”