Bernard Gallacher mourns long-time friend and fellow Hibee Renton Laidlaw
Having first come across Gallacher when he was making a name for himself in the amateur ranks in the Lothians, Laidlaw took immense pleasure from seeing his fellow Scot become a well-kent face around the globe.
Either in a journalistic or broadcasting capacity and both in some instances, Laidlaw covered most of Gallacher’s 10 European Tour wins and also a Ryder Cup career that was capped by a winning captaincy at Oak Hill in 1995.
At a time when Laidlaw had a house in Sunningdale and Gallacher was the professional at Wentworth, they socialised quite a bit and kept in regular contact even after Laidlaw had made Drumoig in Fife his home in recent years.
Laidlaw’s passing on Tuesday at the age of 82 has left Gallacher saddened but, along with so many others, he feels lucky to have known him and will treasure lots of great memories from their time together.
“I’m 72 and I was 15 when we first met,” Gallacher told The Scotsman. “Renton and Jock MacVicar (the long-time Scottish Daily Express golf correspondent who also died earlier this year) covered me in my boys’ and amateur golf and they were also there for everything when I turned pro.
“When Lesley, my wife, and I lived in Edinburgh before I got the job at Wentworth, we’d meet up with Renton for dinner. He came to our wedding and other family events and it’s been a long and happy association.”
Laidlaw was the golf writer for the Edinburgh Evening News when they first met and Gallacher, who was the rising star at Bathgate, his home-town club, at the time, went on: “We knew his father and mother and we are also very friendly with his sister, Jennifer.
“Though he did other sports for a spell, his first love was golf and he got a job with the London Evening Standard when his friend, Mark Wilson, decided to go and work for the European Tour.
"He loved the evening paper beat, having been used to that, of course, from being brought up on the Edinburgh Evening News and so knew how it worked.
“He gained all his television experience from working for BBC Scotland. He arrived on the scene when TV was coming more into golf and it worked well as he could combine his journalism and TV work. Later, of course, he worked for the Golf Channel and that was a very successful venture.
“He wrote my book, Captain at Kiawah, and he collaborated with all the magazine and newspaper stuff I did apart from The Sunday Post. He also collaborated with me on the foreword for a Royal Burgess Golfing Society anniversary book, having been asked to write that.”
Keen to share the news, Lesley briefly, and in a polite way, interrupts our conversation. “Carmen Ballesteros sent me a message to say she was very upset to hear about, Renton, saying how much Seve liked him as reporter,” she said of a text from the Spaniard’s wife.
After a brief silence as he let that sink in, Gallacher said: “Renton treated everyone the same. He was very straightforward with people. He was friendly with everyone.
"He never wanted to get people into trouble and I always remember a story about Brian Barnes in the early days at The Belfry. It had just opened and received a lot of criticism because it was a stadium golf course and we were not used to those here.
“When we played a first tournament on it, it probably wasn’t quite ready and Renton went up to Brian when he was holding court at the bar and asked him what he thought of the course. ‘It will never be a course in a thousand years,’ replied Brian.
“Renton said to him that, due to the fact he’d just come in off the course after a poor day, he’d come back later and ask the same question as Brian was an important player at the time.
“So Renton went back a couple of hours later and Brian was still at the bar and did indeed ask the question again. Brian said: ‘Renton, I have reconsidered it ….and I stand by my original comment, it will never be a golf course in a thousand years!’
“Renton killed himself laughing at that and, of course, Brian was wrong as it has become a great golf course. But that was a perfect example of how Renton always tried to take the nice angle. He never looked for trouble or to get people in trouble, and I think everybody appreciated that.”
Gallacher certainly appreciated Laidlaw’s love of the football team in Edinburgh that plays in green and white. “He was a very strong Edinburgh man and his leanings were always to Hibs, which is one of the many reasons we always got on great,” he said, laughing.
“And, of course, the Evening Dispatch had Ian Macniven, who was a rabid Hearts supporter, as the golf reporter at the time, so that meant there was a lot of great banter between them when it came to football.
“Renton was also very friendly with Jimmy Patino, the owner of Valderrama when he was alive. He was a big Arsenal supporter and Renton would often go to his private box to watch games.”
Gallacher said Peter Oosterhuis had been “nursed” by Laidlaw at the start of his broadcasting career after being a successful player, with Ken Brown another to have benefited from Laidlaw’s willingness to help others in the same way.
“To sum up Renton, you’d say he was a thoroughly good guy,” declared the three-time Ryder Cup captain. “He had the respect of everyone in every country. He enjoyed travelling, he enjoyed meeting people, he enjoyed everything about the golf environment.”
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