ON SUNDAY afternoon, in the splendid La Parmigiana restaurant on Great Western Road in Glasgow, Paul McGinley hosted a lunch for a small group of Scottish golf writers.
It was his way of saying “thank-you” for the support he’d received from us during his Ryder Cup captaincy, which earned a fitting reward later that day as the Irishman was voted Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year bash.
For around three hours McGinley held court and I swear there were times you actually felt you were in the European team room at Gleneagles.
Put it this way, it was easy to see why the Dubliner earned so much respect from his players in Perthshire as they beat an American side that, in comparison, was exposed as being rudderless under Tom Watson.
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McGinley knew that people had looked at the respective playing records of the two captains and saw a staggering gulf. He didn’t care because, in terms of man management, he was confident he’d hold the upper hand.
That’s not a dig at Watson. McGinley doesn’t do digs. Rather, it was because he felt ready to be a Ryder Cup captain, having been groomed for the job through vice-captaincies and, of course, getting a taste of leadership in the Seve Trophy.
It was fascinating to sit there and listen to McGinley as he reflected on some of his big decisions, one of which was pairing Stephen Gallacher with Ian Poulter in the opening fourballs. It still pains McGinley that it didn’t come off and led to Gallacher sitting out until the Sunday singles.
However, look at the masterstroke he pulled off by pairing Victor Dubuisson with Graeme McDowell. Look at how well Jamie Donaldson did in the company of Lee Westwood before going on to become Europe’s match-winner.
McGinley got just about everything right, in fact, and that’s why he was honoured on Sunday night.
It tells you everything about the man though, that, on leaving the restaurant to go and get ready for the glitzy event at The SSE Hydro, his last words were: “The team award is the one I’d like us to get above any other”.
That it went to the English women’s rugby team is a sign, unfortunately, that the public are starting to take Europe’s recent great record in the Ryder Cup for granted.
As for Rory McIlroy being well and truly beaten into second place by Lewis Hamilton for Sports Personality of the Year, it’s the latest example of golf suffering due to the BBC downgrading the sport so crudely in recent years.
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