LINLITHGOW, SCOTLAND | More often than not, people will make way for the professionals but, at the launch of Stephen Gallacher’s new Centre of Excellence near Linlithgow, Scotland, things were a little different. Gallacher was chatting outside the entrance to the academy when his eye lit on a couple of older women who were dressed for a clubhouse lunch rather than golf.
Straightaway, Gallacher steered his little group off the paving stones so he could call the women through.
It also tells much about Gallacher that six of his fellow players on the DP World Tour, along with Louise Duncan, a member of the same Bounce Sports Management Group as Gallacher himself, had all come along to wish their friend well on the big day. “We’re thick as thieves,” said Gallacher of this golfing gang.
Scots always have hung around together on tour, but never has their collective attitude been so good. To quote Derek Ritchie, a former Scottish No. 2 in the realm of squash and a director at Bounce Management, “They genuinely want the best for one another.
“It’s probably easier in golf than in tennis or squash, where it’s man against man, but when one of these golfers wins a tournament, it makes the rest of them feel good. ‘If he can do it, so can I,’ tends to be the attitude.”
For a few examples from this year’s results, Bob MacIntyre and Richie Ramsay have won a tournament apiece – the DS Automobiles Italian Open and the Cazoo Classic, respectively – and Ewen Ferguson has bagged the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the ISPS Handa World Invitational. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Gemma Dryburgh achieved the signal feat of making off with the winner’s cheque at the LPGA’s recent Toto Japan Classic.
Gallacher was able to show off the best in modern technology at the launch, the range including a Huxley putting green, a PuttView and two TrackMan bays. Yet the way in which owner and team are bringing on the local primary school kids is even more the stuff of the future.
“Kids,” said Gallacher, “usually play because their parents play, but we’re taking aim on kids whose parents don’t play. If you don’t do that, the pool of children playing golf is never going to get any bigger.
“We start off with the things which they find fun, like nearest-to-the-hole competitions and long-driving contests. Another thing to appeal is that they can have their birthday parties here.”
The Oban professional is all for having a centre of excellence of his own when his playing days are done, only the one he has in mind will not be restricted to golf. With Oban a scenic town but a relatively poor one, he would like to help all talented children to make the most of whatever their talents might be.
Nor do things stop at merely giving the children an introduction to the game. Instead, Gallacher and his team are offering free coaching for these children all through their schooldays, along with a run of tournaments through which they can even play their way on to the world amateur ranking.
Gallacher always listened to Bernard Gallacher, his uncle, and today he likes being in a position where he can do as the former Ryder Cup captain did in passing on the knowledge he has accrued since he joined what was then known as the European Tour in 1996.
“When I wanted to turn pro at 17,” Gallacher said, “Bernard said, ‘No.’ He told me to take aim at the Walker Cup, and that’s what I did. For me, it was absolutely the right preparation for turning professional.”
Gallacher gives the credit to Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, for leading the way in helping the next generation. Last week, Gallacher talked about how much it would mean for the future of Scottish golf if all the players who had come to his opening day would pick up on the idea. “This centre,” he said, “is all pretty much funded personally and privately. I’ve gone ahead with it because I’ve always wanted to give back to the game which has given me so much fun down the years.”
MacIntyre, who won a Gallacher tournament in his junior days, said the new golf facility outstripped any he had seen before. “So much space,” he said in wonder.
The Oban professional is all for having a centre of excellence of his own when his playing days are done, only the one he has in mind will not be restricted to golf. With Oban a scenic town but a relatively poor one, he would like to help all talented children to make the most of whatever their talents might be. “Maybe sports related, maybe music,” he said.
Barely had that day in Linlithgow passed than news started to filter back of Dryburgh’s success in Japan. The Aberdonian, who had started the week at No. 199 on the Rolex Women’s World Ranking, shot up 107 places when she signed off with a couple of 65s and a winning score of 20-under-par.
Dundee’s Kathryn Imrie was the first Scot to win on the LPGA Tour, followed by Glasgow’s Janice Moodie and then North Berwick’s Catriona Matthew. Dryburgh, for her part, hinted of what was to come when she won three events on the much-heralded Rose Series across 2020 and 2021.
Currently, two more young women are waiting in the wings in the persons of Hannah Darling, who is the beneficiary of a golf scholarship at the University of South Carolina, and Grace Crawford, who this year had her name etched on the same R&A Girls’ Under-16 Amateur Championship trophy as Darling.
When, in addition to all of the above, you factor in the thought that all three of the Open, the Women’s Open and the Senior Open were played in Scotland this summer, it is easy to see why the Scottish newspapers of ’22 have been overflowing with good golfing news.
Top: Joining Stephen Gallacher (left) at the launch of the Centre of Excellence are DP World Tour professionals Richie Ramsay, Calum Hill, Connor Syme, Grant Forrest, Robert MacIntyre, LET pro Louise Duncan and DP World Tour pro Marc Warren.