STEPHEN GALLACHER has heaped praise on Lothians golf officials for blooding youngsters at an early age, insisting it can only help them “hit the ground running” further up the ladder.
Gallacher’s own son, 12-year-old Jack, was handed his Lothians debut in a recent boys’ match against Perth & Kinross at Muckhart.
He was joined by fellow 12-year-old Aaron Hall from Kilspindie and David Rudd, a 13-year-old from Longniddry in a match the visitors lost narrowly.
“I take my hat off to (coaching convenor) Paul Gibson and the Lothians guys for being pro-active in putting young guys in at 12 years old.
“I think there were three guys under 13 in the team, even though the county they were playing against were playing their 16 and 17-year-olds.
“My wee man was getting outdriven by 120 yards but he played this guy around his home track and only lost 2 and 1, so I was absolutely over the moon with that. I think you’ve got to start them young, get them used to playing competitively younger so that they are not fazed by it when they are 17 years old and they can hit the ground running.”
Gallacher is heavily involved in the junior game himself these days following the launch of his Foundation around 18 months ago.
“It gives a bit of pleasure putting something back and just being able to help,” he said of that. “I’ve learned a lot from Paul Lawrie and the work he has done with his Foundation.
“We were actually playing together yesterday where we had auctioned a game between us with both Foundations benefiting from the proceeds. So even on our weeks off we are still playing golf and working hard to get funds in place so that we can help the youngsters.
“When I see the kids turning up in their droves – sometimes as much as 60 coming along on a Sunday afternoon – you are hoping that maybe one day a couple of girls or boys will go through the proper pathway to play on Tour.
“If they don’t then we’ll give them the chance to go down the academic route with scholarships to Stirling University or to the American colleges.
“It’s not just get to the Walker Cup and if you don’t get your tour card, that’s you. There are more aspects of the game that need help. We do work with assistant pros because guys like Paul, Ian Poulter and Robert Rock came through the PGA system.”
Gallacher, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic earlier in the year, is in the middle of a welcome break before getting down to some serious business over the next few months.He’s off down to Sunningdale in a fortnight’s time to try and qualify for The Open at Muirfield, an event that would be the icing on the cake in a run that will also include the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
Then, at the end of August, he’s hoping to get off to a flying start when the points race for next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles starts in the Wales Open.
“I’ve been everywhere at the start of the year, long haul flights and whatever. It was even a full day to get to Bulgaria (for the recent World Match Play Championship),” he said.
“I’ve had a slight niggle in my back and it’s been getting a bit worse, so I want to address it now before the big run – and before the Ryder Cup points start. So I’m having a wee break, playing a bit of links golf and I’ll be going down to play Sunningdale before Open qualifying.”
Asked if the Ryder Cup race makes this the biggest 18 months of career, he added: “It’s not really. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it.
“Obviously I would love to be in it but I’m not going to give up if I don’t make it.
“I don’t want to put too much emphasis on trying to get in it because you get side-tracked from the day-to-day stuff, the boring stuff that makes you good.”