AFTER Sandy Lyle and Colin Montgomerie, he was arguably the third most recognisable figure in Scottish golf over the past 20 years. OK, it was probably a close-run thing with his son, Sam, and Paul Lawrie, too, but everyone worth their salt in golf knew Bob Torrance.
Legend is a word bandied around way too freely in our over-the-top era. In this case, however, it is entirely fitting. Torrance, who died on Friday aged 82, was a genius when it came to looking at golf swings with a naked eye and coming up with solutions.
It was always a pleasure to be in his company, as I first discovered more than 20 years ago. Torrance was the Scottish Golf Union’s national coach at the time and I was editing that organisation’s newspaper.
We met in his home in Largs to discuss a tuition series – the “Torrance Tip”, of course – and I remember sitting there feeling mesmerised. In a relatively short space of time, he came up with so many ideas that we could have filled a book, never mind a page in a publication that came out around eight times a year.
It was on the same day that I also met the other remarkable person in the Torrance household for the first time, his wife, June. A truly wonderful woman, as the likes of major winners Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh also discovered when they stayed in that very house during visits to nearby Inverclyde to batter ball after ball under Bob’s watchful eye.“He was not into quick fixes,” reflected Harrington, who won two Open Championships and a US PGA Championship when he worked with Torrance. It was “difficult” when the Irishman decided to end their working relationship.
“I always liked his coaching to the extent that he didn’t put the same swing on everybody,” added Harrington. “Even if he was trying to get two people to do the same thing with the golf swing, and this could be frustrating for a player, he would tell one to do the opposite of the other.
“You would go: ‘What is that all about?’ He would say: ‘Well, he has to go this road first and go down this way before I can get him to go back’. He really knew where to start. I think a great coach knows the starting point of any lesson. That is the big difference with other coaches.
“You can pick up a book or go on YouTube today and see how to swing a golf club. But a great coach knows at what point to start, what needs to be worked on first and the progression after that.
“I think Bob, through experience, and he would tell you himself it was experience, not a natural gift, realised that. He was coaching since he was 15 or 16. It took him 30 or 40 years to learn his art.”
He helped guide Ian Woosnam to world No.1. Sam didn’t do badly in his playing career, either, while others to reap rewards from working with Torrance included Paul McGinley, Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren.
It wasn’t only the big names that he’d devote countless hours to, though. Jason McCreadie, for example, enjoyed a purple patch on the Tartan Tour when he worked with Torrance and, more recently, he steered Chris Doak on to the European Tour.
Torrance was a disciple of Ben Hogan. Getting an audience with Hogan at his home in Fort Worth was one of those money-can’t-buy experiences for him. Chewing the fat with Torrance many times over the years since our first meeting came into that category for me.