Norman Mair – A unique writer who wanted perfection

Scottish sports writer Norman Mair. Picture: TSPL

Scottish sports writer Norman Mair. Picture: TSPL

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IT was during the 1989 Scottish Amateur Championship at Moray when I was introduced to a style of golf writing that earned Norman Mair the same legendary status in the Royal & Anicent game as he enjoyed in his beloved rugby.

After Ayr Belleisle’s Allan Thomson, who’d just beaten another Ayrshire lad, Alan Tait, on the last green to claim the crown, had been grilled about birdies and bogeys, this and that by the rest of us, he was asked by Norman for some additional time.

What followed was a real education as The Scotsman golf correspondent, a man I feel privileged and humbled to have had the opportunity to spend time with over the years, fired a string of technical questions at the new national champion. In truth, I was a bit baffled by some of what Thomson said – my fault, not his – but not when it appeared in print. In his peerless prose, Norman nailed the relevant points, as he did so frequently with his golf reports for this paper. Filed with incredible conscientiousness, too.

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As a young sub-editor at the time, I can relate to the story told by Norman’s wife, Lewine, an outstanding golf writer herself, to my colleague, Alan Pattullo, at the weekend about him turning up in our old offices in North Bridge after driving from, say, St Andrews or Troon to check over a first-edition proof.

I also remember the occasion when his weekly sports feature – perilously close to the deadline as ever – was way too long for the allotted space and Norman, on being told it had been chopped, dashed down from Colinton ready to explode only to quickly accept the sub had handled the cutting exercise with a tender hand.

Given his technical mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that Norman spent many an hour hitting balls on the range at Duddingston seeking perfection – a constant thread in his life – before retiring to the pro shop to regale Alastair McLean and his staff with stories. Both written and talked about, they were in a class of their own.

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