Bernard Gallacher’s Ryder Cup memories at Bathgate

Bernard Gallacher with Martin McClory and Helen Gallacher, wife of his nephew Stephen. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Bernard Gallacher with Martin McClory and Helen Gallacher, wife of his nephew Stephen. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AFTER the drama at Medinah, there should really be no need. But, if appetites still need to be whetted for the first Ryder Cup in Scotland for more than 40 years, then a visit to Bathgate Golf Club should do the trick.

It’s a mini museum for golf’s biggest team event and rightly so given that it spawned two players – Eric Brown and Bernard Gallacher – whose careers were illuminated by the Ryder Cup.

The pair’s achievements – both as players and captains – decorate the clubhouse walls as well as a special “Ryder Cup Cabinet”. The artefacts and memorabilia include a picture of the 1969 Great Britain & Ireland team at Royal Birkdale, where Brown was skipper and a young Gallacher one of his charges.

“I was brought up in and era when Eric was a great player and my father [Barney] used to take me to tournaments just to watch Eric,” recalled Gallacher, speaking as he returned to his hometown club to hand over a defibrillator as part of the campaign being fronted by the former Wentworth professional to have one available on every course in the United Kingdom in the wake of his own dice with death after suffering cardiac arrest last year.

“I remember going to the Burgess, for instance, to watch him [Brown] play in the Swallow Penfold event. We also went to mini-Ryder Cup matches at Dalmahoy and I was gutted to see Eric lost to Ray Floyd in that. We always had a strong Ryder Cup history here so, as a kid, I always wanted to follow in Eric’s footsteps and play in it. It’s unlikely now that you’ll ever see two players from the same club be Ryder Cup captains but I suppose it was a bit easier for that to happen in our day.”

The defibrillator at the West Lothian club has been funded by an anonymous donation by one of the main backers of the Stephen Gallacher Foundation and Bernard was joined by wife Lesley, mum Millie, brother Jim and nephew Stephen’s wife, Helen, as he presented it to vice captain Martin McClory.

“It doesn’t look much – but it saves lives,” said Gallacher, earning a friendly rebuke from a group of elderly members – they included Eric Mackay, who used to caddie for Stephen – as he glanced in their direction.

Tomorrow night in Glasgow, Gallacher will be centre of attention as he receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Golf Dinner and, after “dying” three times when he collapsed at a function in Aberdeen last August, it’s an occasion he intends to savour.

“I’m keeping fine now,” reported the 65-year-old. “I wouldn’t say I’m back to normal but I’m slowly getting back into everything and am back playing some golf again. I had a couple of scares last year, but they think the defibrillator fitted in my chest may have had the paramaters set too sensitively, so they tweaked my medication and I’ve been fine since.

“Bathgate have been quick off the mark to get a defibrillator thanks to the donation through Stephen’s Foundation and it’s always good to be back here. The course has changed a lot but every time I come through the tunnel I think back to the time when I played here as a 12-year-old. It’s always nice to come back and see the pictures of myself and Eric on the walls.”

The only Gallacher on the club champions’ board, though, is neither Bernard or Stephen. “That’s me,” pointed out Jim, “though it took five attempts!”