GEORGE Macgregor, one of Scotland’s most-decorated amateur golfers, could be the first captain in the 260-year history of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to welcome women members through the door of the iconic clubhouse behind the first tee on the Old Course.
That scenario may unfold following the announcement that Macgregor, a five-times Walker Cup player and two-times skipper in the biennial bout, will take over as the R&A’s 2014/15 captain on 19 September – the day after its vote on admitting women members takes place in St Andrews.
As a member of the R&A since 1997, Macgregor, 69, will himself be involved in that poll, which is being held during the Autumn Meeting and is constitutionally bound to take place on that particular day, even though it clashes with the Scottish independence referendum.
If the R&A vote is in favour of women becoming members, a timeframe has still to be determined as to when that would actually happen but it seems logical that it would take place within the 12 months that Macgregor will hold the post.
Nominated by past R&A captains, the captaincy of the game’s most-famous club will be another notable addition to a glittering CV. Born in Roslin, Macgregor cut his golfing teeth at Glencorse, which remains his home club even though he is also a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
He served as captain of Glencorse in its centenary year, 1990, and was still turning out for the Milton Bridge club in the Edin-burgh Summer League until fairly recently.
A rare breed nowadays, Macgregor has been a career amateur, combining his golf – as a player, captain and official – with a full-time job as company secretary of Dalmore Paper Mill at Auchendinny until 2004.
His first notable success came in the Lothians Championship, which he won at Dalmahoy in 1968, 12 months after he’d lost in the final to Bernard Gallacher at Mortonhall.
His Scotland international career spanned 18 years and he won the Scottish Stroke-Play Championship in 1982, the same year he reached the final of the Scottish Amateur at Carnoustie, where he went down on the 36th hole to Charlie Green.
Macgregor made his five Walker Cup appearances between 1971 and 1987 before serving as captain for the 1991 and 1993 matches, at Portmarnock in Ireland and Interlachen in Florida respectively.
The first of those encounters ended in a 14-10 defeat to an American side that included Phil Mickelson and David Duval while the latter resulted in a 19-5 loss despite Padraig Harrington being in the GB&I ranks on that occasion.
A likeable but quietly spoken individual, Macgregor was awarded the OBE in 1996 for his services to amateur golf, although that was not a signal for him to disappear from the scene. Far from it, in fact.
In addition to serving on the R&A’s Championship, Amateur Status and Selection committees, he’s become a well-kent face to the next generation of amateurs through fulfilling the role of the director of championships at the Scottish Golf Union since 2010.
Maintaining tradition, Macgregor will drive into office by teeing off at the first on the Old Course accompanied by simultaneous cannon fire.
With two daughters himself, he could well find that task a touch uncomfortable if the vote on women results in a “no” the previous day.
For the sake of someone who has done nothing but good in the game over a long period of time, it’s to be hoped that isn’t the case.