Comment: Why we all need to share our passion for golf

I bet there are people around the world who think us Scots drop straight from the womb on to the first tee on a golf course, such is our passion for the Royal & Ancient game. In truth, of course, that passion is mainly inherited, something I've been reminded about over the past week following the death of my own father, William Dempster.

William Dempster was a proud member of Dunbar and Eyemouth Golf Clubs and his other sporting passion was football.
William Dempster was a proud member of Dunbar and Eyemouth Golf Clubs and his other sporting passion was football.

If it hadn’t been for him and, in particular, his love of golf, I’d have missed out on so many memorable occasions, both playing the game and watching it. And, of course, I wouldn’t be in the privileged position, either, of being this great newspaper’s golf correspondent but for him introducing me to the sport.

That introduction took place at Eyemouth, his beloved hometown, and I still remember that Christmas Day when, having been bought my first set of clubs, we were out on the nine-hole course, as it was at the time, for a few holes before sitting down with the rest of the family for dinner. From that moment on, I’ve been addicted to the game, my passion for it being fuelled by so many great experiences shared with my father.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

For example, I remember us going to the Jimmy Tarbuck Pro-Am at Dalmahoy in the 1970s, when the crowds used to be massive for an event that featured the likes of Tony Jacklin and Bernard Gallacher, as well, of course, as Ronnie Corbett showing off what became his trademark outsized bunnet for the first time.

Armed with an autograph book, I was like a pig in mud and often find myself recalling those times, wishing that youngsters these days would feel equally content securing a simple but cherished signature instead of giving the impression they’d rip clothing off players as they scream and shout at them coming off the 18th green.

It was around the same time that he took me to my first Open Championship, making the journey from Berwickshire through to Turnberry in 1977. Unfortunately, we were there on the first day, so missed out on witnessing that epic “Duel in the Sun” over the weekend between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

At the time, though, that didn’t really bother me as the main reason for being there was to get a glimpse of my own golfing hero, Ben Crenshaw, and what a thrill it was to see “Gentle Ben” in the flesh for the first time. I sincerely hope young golfers today have their own heroes because it definitely makes you have dreams of your own.

Alas, despite all the hours I spent during the summer months at Eyemouth, my own particular dream, which was to get my handicap low enough – and back then the cut-off was around three – to play in the Scottish Boys Championship at either Dunbar or North Berwick, never materialised.

I had a chance to represent Eyemouth High School in what was the Aer Lingus Scottish Schools Team Championship, and only realised how proud that would have made my father when he couldn’t hide his disappointment that I didn’t do myself justice in a play-off for the final spot due to the fact I was a bit hungover from the night before.

It didn’t really need any achievements, though, to make me cherish the Sunday mornings I spent with my father and his mates – a group made up of similarly humble and grounded individuals from Coldingham in particular but also Eyemouth and Ayton – for their weekly game at Dunbar.

It was there, after all, that I received my lessons in life skills, which really are so important yet appear to be missing at times these days. It wasn’t rocket science, by any means, but, believe me, to be a young teenager spending a few hours each week in adult company was probably the making of me.

Particularly enjoyable in those days were stagings of the “Cowjum Cup”, an annual outing that took me to courses like Ratho Park, Newbattle, Broomieknowe and West Linton for the first time, as well as to equally splendid venues such as Alnmouth, Bamburgh Castle and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland.

It was also in that neck of the woods where I used to accompany my dad when he was involved with Eyemouth Amateurs in the local football club’s early forays, with my education in that sport continuing as he enjoyed his other sporting passion as they transferred to the Lothian Amateur League before entering the Border Amateur League as Eyemouth Legion.

Those were all great days, ones I will always cherish. It’s those golfing experiences in particular, though, that will remain special and, having been guilty myself by not encouraging my two daughters beyond a few lessons and visits to a driving range, we really should all try to ensure that family members inherit our passion for this great game.