Monifieth legend Ian Hutcheon on still being a scratch golfer at 79

The word legend is often used loosely, but not when it comes to Ian Hutcheon in Scottish amateur golf and, in particular, his beloved Monifieth Links in Angus.

Ian Hutcheon offers his Great Britain & Ireland team-mate Pat Mulcare some advice about a putt during the 1975 Walker Cup at St Andrews, where they beat Dick Siderowf and Jerry Pate. Picture: TSPL
Ian Hutcheon offers his Great Britain & Ireland team-mate Pat Mulcare some advice about a putt during the 1975 Walker Cup at St Andrews, where they beat Dick Siderowf and Jerry Pate. Picture: TSPL

Hutcheon was one of the country’s top amateurs in the 1970s, landing four national individual titles, helping Scotland claim the European title twice and also being the leading light for Great Britain & Ireland in an Eisenhower Trophy triumph.

Now 79, he’s still playing off scratch and hits balls most days of the week, having not given up on his bid to win the Monifieth club championship in seven different decades.

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How did you get into golf?

Ian Hutcheon smiles at Mike Kelly after he had holed a bunker shot during the 1979 Walker Cup at Muirfield. Picture: TSPL

IH: I had a twin brother, Fred, but also another brother, David, who was a couple of years older than us and he was the first to start playing. Fred and I then got into it using his clubs and, if it hadn’t been for that, I’m not sure I would have taken up golf as I played a lot of football at that time, which was probably around 14,

Was it something you quickly realised you were good at?

IH: My brother was equally as good as I was as a teenager, to be honest. We were both off scratch by the time we were 20, having found out we were half decent at it. Living so near the golf course in Monifieth, we spent a lot of time there.

Do you remember your first big win?

Ian Hutcheon met his nephew, Chris, in the 2017 Monifieth Links club championship final. Picture: Monifieth Links

IH: The first thing I won of any note was the club championship at Monifieth at 20. I’ve won it many times since, but, around that time, I also won the Monifieth Links Championship and Carnoustie as well. In fact, I won them both in the same year. I played quite a lot at Carnoustie at that time as we were staying in Barry by then.

So what was your profession at that time?

IH: I served my apprenticeship as an electrician in Dundee and, along with my brother, I secured a Higher National Certificate in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. When I finished at college, I was looking to get off the tools (laughing), so I went to work for Hydro Electric as an assistant district engineer and I was there for seven or eight years helping look after the whole system up in Montrose and Arbroath. I finished going back to Dundee to work more or less for the same company I served my time in. I went there as maintenance manager and finished up eventually as production director of the company in the 1980s.

Your successes in the 1970s included three Scottish Stroke-Play Championships and a Scottish Amateur Championship. That must have been pretty special was that at the time?

IH: Yes, it was. That was sort of my hey-day from 1971, when I won the Stroke-Play for the first time at Lundin and Leven, then the 1973 Scottish Amateur at Carnoustie, which was a big thrill for me being a local lad. Then I won the Stroke Play another couple of times at Blairgowrie and Alyth in 1974 then Blairgowrie in 1979. And, of course, I sandwiched an Eisenhower Trophy triumph in 1976 between all of that, so that was definitely the time when I did most of my damage.

That must have been a memorable week for you in the Scottish Amateur at Carnoustie. Is there anything that still sticks in your mind from that week?

IH: David Greig, who has unfortunately not been very fit for the last 20 years due to an illness, and I were great rivals and great friends. We played against each other in the semi-final that week and it was probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. It was something I always remember, especially after being two down with three to play and ending up beating him on the last hole. It’s not so much the details of that match I always remember, but the match itself and we still remain friends.

You mentioned the Eisenhower Trophy. In addition to being part of a winning team, you also shared the individual honours that year?

IH: That was a great week for us as one of my great pals, Stevie Martin from Downfield, was also in the GB&I team. I still occasionally play golf with Stevie. Mike Kelley from Yorkshire and John Davies from Sunningdale were the two other members of that team. When I look back, I probably didn’t realise the pressure that was on me being the last man out and needing a good score for us to win. Back then, I just took things in my stride, but I don’t think I’d be able to do that now (laughing).

You also won the Lytham Trophy in 1980, adding your name to a list of impressive champions in that event?

IH: I played the last two rounds with Peter McEvoy when I won that. In fact, I should have won it more than once. I had a caddie, a guy called Davy Smith, who belonged to Fife but stayed in Blackpool, and every year I turned up at Lytham for seven or eight years, he was there waiting for me. Two or three times in that spell, he said to me, ‘you know, if I was putting, we’d have won this half a dozen times’ ….and he was probably right (laughing).

You made four Walker Cup appearances but, unfortunately, they were all defeats. Was that simply due to the strength of the US team at the time?

IH: Well, we were up against the likes of Tom Kite, Craig Stadler, Jay Haas, Corey Pavin, players who went on to have lots of success in the professional game. All I would say about the Walker Cup is that I probably should have played four times, but I probably should have played in 1973 as opposed to 1981. It was probably my best year throughout a whole season in ‘73 yet, by the time ‘81 came around, I wouldn’t have been upset if I hadn’t been picked.

Was there ever a temptation to turn professional when you were enjoying those successes in the 1970s?

IH: When I was 18-20, when I was probably a good enough player to think about that, you couldn’t turn pro and earn money as you had to wait five years to do that. It was only when the European Tour started that things changed. It just wasn’t practical at all for me and, by the time I was in my mid-20s, I had a good job and also a family by then. It would have been a silly move, though, to be honest, I never really gave serious thought to being a professional golfer. It wasn’t something we jumped at like some of the young lads do now. There was no pressure on us to turn professional back then whereas now there is at it seems as though they can’t do anything else. All they know is golf and that tends to drives them more to golf despite some of them not being good enough, but it’s the only outlet they have. They don’t face the prospect of doing an ordinary job as an alternative.

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Did you ever play in The Open?

IH: No, I didn’t, though I tried to qualify a couple of times. It wasn’t something that was ever high on my list of priorities, to be honest. I got into a play-off the year at Panmure, where Doug Sanders qualified the year he should have won it at St Andrews in 1970. I didn’t really have the time as I used my holidays mainly to play representative golf. My employers were very understanding about that, though I think they got their pound of flesh in my later years working (laughing).

You landed three wins in the Scottish Seniors’ Open in five years?

IH: I enjoyed that spell as well. We won the European Seniors with a good group of guys and I could have gone a bit longer at that level, but I just got to the stage where I thought, ‘och, I’ve been doing this for so many years and it’s time to be taking it a bit easier’. Much as though I enjoyed seniors’ golf, it was becoming a bit demanding physically as they were still asking me to play six rounds in three days in matches. I was in my 60s and that was bit over-demanding, let’s say, and I didn’t feel I could play my best golf over six rounds in three days. That was the main reason I stopped. It’s like a lot of things, the younger guys were propping it up, which I don’t think was the intention with seniors’ golf. I didn’t consider myself a senior when I got to 50 (laughing).

How is your game these days?

IH: I’m still playing off plus one and I’m 79 now. I don’t play as often, I play twice a week. But I still hit balls six days out of seven just to keep myself fit as much as anything. I’m still able to hit the ball as far as I ever did. That’s not all down to me, it’s with a bit of help from modern equipment. I don’t hit it 300 yards, but I still hit it as far as I did when I was in my prime.

Have you had any successes in recent years?

IH: I still have aspirations to keep winning our club championship. I’ve already won it in six decades and I’m now looking for the next one (laughing). I got to the final a couple of years ago, but I lost. I still like playing in that and also the Links Championship. I’ve been a member of Monifieth since 1958 and I’m an honorary member here and also the club along the way, Grange and Broughty, as it is called these days.

Have you enjoyed watching some youngsters come through at Monifieth over the years?

IH: Well, we are a bit bare on the ground at the moment. I wouldn’t call him my prodigy, but a young lad called Philip Brown, I’ve played with him a lot over the years. He’s a guy I have a lot of admiration for as a player. I used to take him out when he was 13 and he’s the only youngster we have who I would say is potentially a very good player.

Sum up what golf has given you and meant for you over the years?

IH: It’s given me lots of things that I probably wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t played golf. I travelled the world and met so many people, some of them I am still very friendly with. It has given me opportunities and allowed me to see things that I would never have done if I hadn’t played golf. The first time I went abroad, believe it or not, was when I was 29-year-old and you can hardly visualise that happening nowadays. That was to play for Scotland in Spain - it was the first time I was ever on an aeroplane. It’s a changed world now. I wouldn’t say I came from the back woods, far from it. But we weren’t a wealthy family. I was brought up on a farm, where my father was the ploughman. To come from that to where I got to, it is difficult to believe sometimes.

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