FITTINGLY on a night when it was a focal point of the celebration, last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was at the heart of two of the main prizes handed out at the Scottish Golf Awards in Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange.
For Stephen Gallacher, his gut-bursting effort to make the European team – he had world No 1 Rory McIlroy rooting for him as the qualification campaign drew to a close – helped earn the Bathgate man the Player of the Year award.
Voted for by golf fans, Gallacher’s feat in becoming the first player in the 25-year history of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to win it back-to-back also played a part in him securing the main prize. Other contenders included Kylie Walker, a two-times winner on the Ladies European Tour, double Senior major champion Colin Montgomerie and Bradley Neil, the first Scot in a decade to claim the Amateur Championship.
“To win this award in such a memorable year for Scottish golf, with so many other players achieving great success, is even more special,” said Gallacher, the home of golf’s top-ranked player who received the prize from his equivalent in the women’s game, Catriona Matthew.
“It was a special year for me in 2014, one that will be hard to beat,” he added, “but I’m working hard to achieve more and look forward to competing in all four major championships this year, starting at The Masters at Augusta National in a couple of weeks’ time.” Scotland’s first Ryder Cup in more than 40 years also produced the Shot of the Year – a majestic wedge from 146 yards to a foot at the 15th hole on the PGA Centenary Course as Welshman Jamie Donaldson secured Europe’s victory in Perthshire.
“The best shot of my life,” said Donaldson of the blow that was every bit as worthy a winner as Phil Mickelson’s chip to clinch the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2013.
As well as receiving one himself – it completed a double after his European Tour Caddie of the Year accolade – Donaldson’s award was picked up by Craig Connelly, who was on Martin Kaymer’s bag at Gleneagles, while two of Paul McGinley’s vice-captains from the 16½-11½ triumph, Sam Torrance and Des Smyth, were also among a 600-strong audience in the capital.
It was an emotional night for Torrance as the legacy of his father, who died during the Open Championship last year, was marked with the presentation of the inaugural Bob Torrance PGA Coach of the Year Award. It went to Gallacher’s coach, Bothwell Castle professional Alan McCloskey. While pipped for Player of the Year, there was compensation for both Walker and Neil as they picked up the Inspiration Award and Amateur Golfer of the Year prizes respectively.
As he prepares to make his Masters debut, Blairgowrie teenager Neil also claimed the prize for topping last season’s SGU Order of Merit. Two awards also went to the rising star in the Scottish women’s amateur ranks as Troon’s Connie Jaffrey secured both the SLGA Ladies’ and Girls’ Order of Merit awards.
The SGU Boys’ equivalent prize, as well as the Adam Hunter Award, went to Cawder’s Calum Fyfe while Ian Brotherston (Dumfries & County) won the SGU Seniors’ Order of Merit title.
Marking the sterling efforts at the grass-roots level of the game in Scotland, Peebles won the RBS Junior Club of the Year, picking up a cheque for £1,500 to boot, while the RBS Volunteer of the Year award was shared by Lochmaben’s Maitland Pollock and Evan Sutherland of Reay.