Obituary: Donald Armour, golfer and businessman
Donald Armour who has died aged 61 was a well known and highly regarded PGA golf professional both here and in Holland, where he had lived for more than 30 years. A full-time sponsored player on the European Tour from the late 1970s into the early 1980s, where he acquitted himself reasonably well, he also played with some success on the South African and Rhodesian tours in winter. He won the European Club Professional title in 1985 as well as the Dutch Professional Championship in 1984 and 1986 . In Holland he earned an excellent reputation as a teacher and became well known as a television commentator on golf on Eurosport and RTL 5.
His potential was first noticed when, as a pupil at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, he won the city’s Craigmillar Park Club’s Junior championship in 1971. The next year he was selected to play for Scotland in the Boys’ International against England at Moortown, Leeds in the same team as future professionals Steve Martin from Dundee, and Dunbar’s David Robertson, against a team including one Sandy Lyle. Had he remained amateur he would have been a candidate to captain the team the following year but he turned professional on leaving school in 1973.
He secured a coveted place as assistant professional at Turnberry under the experienced eye of head professional Bob Jamieson and spent four valuable years there alongside fellow assistants including future well-known tournament professional Ross Drummond and Duddingston club professional Alastair McLean, with both of whom he shared a flat.
In 1976 he won the James Gammack Clark Trophy for the Scottish Young Professional Golfer of the Year. Later in the 1970s he won the West of Scotland Professional Golf Championship at Helensburgh after a play-off against Prestwick’s former Northern Open champion, Frank Rennie.
Golf was in the family genes as his father James, now Sir James CBE, was British Boys’ Champion in 1947 and champion and captain of Royal Troon, where he still enjoys an occasional game with Colin Montgomerie’s father. Brother Craig was Scottish Universities’ champion in 1981 and is still a low handicap player at Bruntsfield.
The Armours were an all-round sporting family, with sisters Linda and Fiona representing Scotland at swimming, Linda competing in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, encouraged by their mother Irene, an enthusiastic coach. Donald himself excelled at swimming as a youngster, winning national under-age titles before switching his attention to golf.
He was born in Jos in northern Nigeria, where his father was working as a veterinary surgeon in the Colonial Service, and spent almost the first five years of his life there, the family returning to live in England before independence. After several years in Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire. the family moved to Paisley, where Donald attended the John Neilson Institute and became a junior member of the local golf club. They next moved to Edinburgh, where Donald attended Heriot’s for the final three years of school. The family lived in Warrender Park – handy for sister Linda’s swimming training at Warrender Baths for the Commonwealth Games .
Although there were some highlights in Donald’s career, on the European Tour, such as leading the qualifying in the Welsh and European Opens and leading into the final day of the South African Open, the breakthrough he hoped for never really came. While considered an excellent striker of the ball, his short game was perhaps not of the same high standard and when he sustained a back injury in the early 1980s he decided to call time on serious tournament aspirations.
About then, golfing development opportunities were springing up in Holland and he was one of the first British professionals to establish himself there. Initially he was head professional at the Hilversum club, before occupying the same position for many years at the Nunspeet club near Zwolle. He played occasionally with success in domestic competition but teaching and golf club development became his principal activities. He was an expert on the mechanics of the golf swing and an accomplished teacher who at one stage coached the national mens’ team and some of the country’s top lady golfers. He made his life in Holland, becoming a fluent Dutch speaker.
Latterly, along with business partner Bob Kruijs, he set up a golf academy and then became involved in online golf ventures providing coaching and communication software for professionals. According to Bob: “Donald was a real golf pro. He had unbelievable knowledge and loved the game. And he was a smart, really friendly guy with a good sense of humour,”
Alastair McLean added: “Donald was an exceptionally good and stylish player who I looked up to. He was very encouraging to me when we were at Turnberry, which I very much appreciated.”
He married a Dutchwoman, Margriet, whom he met through golf and with their son Callum they lived at Dronten. About seven years ago, after being diagnosed with diabetes, he set up the Donald Armour Foundation to facilitate golf for diabetics. He is survived by his wife and son, father, brother and sisters and daughters Yreen and Carlynn.