FRIDAY night’s Scottish Golf Awards didn’t get off to the best of starts for me. Within minutes of arriving at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, I spotted something that makes me cringe. They may call themselves the “Guardians of the Ryder Cup” [self-proclaimed, self appointed – and a barber shop quintet to boot] but the plonkers who were, in my humble opinion, responsible for a somewhat subdued first-tee atmosphere on the opening morning at last year’s event at Gleneagles have become my sole pet hate about the inter-continental contest.
Thankfully, they were sparingly used by the organisers of Scottish golf’s Oscars and, apart from an opportunity being missed to hear from Bernard Gallacher as he presented one of the awards in his native Lothians, their presence was my only grumble about an excellent night for the event’s first staging in the capital.
The highlight was undoubtedly a tribute in memory of Bob Torrance, which preceded an inaugural coaching award in his name being presented. The majority of the talking in a pre-recorded clip was done by Chris Doak. The former Tartan Tour player may have been a late addition to the lengthy list of players coached by Torrance over the years but, boy, did he do a splendid job in getting the message across about why the man in question will always be remembered as one of golf’s legendary figures.
A long lingering applause from a 600-strong audience certainly made the hair on the back of my neck bristle, so goodness only knows how both Sam, Bob’s son, and Stephen Gallacher, a long-time disciple, managed to keep it together sufficiently to pay their own tributes on stage as they were interviewed by the excellent Andrew Cotter.
Over the weekend, a fellow golf writer pronounced the event as being “self-serving”, but – and please bear in mind that I don’t agree with everything we do in the game in this country because results often show we’re not as good as some people think we are – I don’t see anything wrong with it, though it would be better if it could be held a little bit closer to the year it pertains to.
What’s wrong with celebrating notable achievements by Scottish golfers? In 2014, there were plenty of those and, coupled with the spectacle of a Ryder Cup on our soil, it was enjoyable to reflect on an excellent year for the sport in the company of many of those involved in successes.
You only had to be in the building on Friday night to realise that Scotland has a passion for the game that is probably unrivalled. We should be proud of that and also for the fact that we continue to produce key figures in the golf game and golf industry as well as players making their mark on circuits around the globe.
Take Craig Connelly, for instance. The Clydebank man is now one of the world’s top caddies, having enjoyed the bulk of his success with Martin Kaymer. And, even though it may have been an add on, it was nice to see him pick up a special award to go with his 2014 European Tour Caddie of the Year accolade.
In attendance, too, was a man who is well known to many Scottish golfers and officials from his stint covering the sport, first for the Courier and, later, the David Begg Sports Agency. These days, Scott Crockett is the media communications director for the European Tour and Ryder Cup and, take it for me, he’s a credit to his country, too, on the global stage.
Events like this are about meeting up with old friends – I particularly enjoyed a chinwag over dinner at our Aberdeen Asset Management table with Catriona Matthew and her husband, Graeme, as well as a chat with Colin Wood, a former Scottish Golf Union president who currently holds the same position with the European Golf Association – and also making new ones.
Before the night became a bit of a haze, I also remember telling Rodney Neil, Bradley’s dad, to make sure he goes to Augusta National in a fortnight’s time and enjoys the experience of seeing his talented boy appearing on one of the game’s biggest stages rather than looking too much into his scores. Of course it would be great if he made the cut, for example, but there’s so much for the whole family to soak up and savour before even thinking about how Bradley fares in The Masters.
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