Stephen Gallacher dedicates 'very good' Dunhill Links day to Alan Steel

Former winner Stephen Gallacher admitted his surge up the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship leaderboard had been tinged with sadness due to the fact it had come on the day his long-time sponsor, Alan Steel, was being laid to rest.

Stephen Gallacher in action during the 20th Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

Steel, a financial advice expert, died from Covid-19 last month, his passing hitting Gallacher hard due to the fact he was a personal friend on top of carrying ‘Alan Steel Asset Management’ on his clothing, as had been the case for three of his European Tour wins.

“It was his funeral today,” said Gallacher after finishing with a birdie for a four-under-par 68 at St Andrews to move into the top 20 at the halfway stage in the $5.5 million event. “I missed it.

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“He was my sponsor for 11 years. He passed away with Covid. My daughter worked for him. I’m happy I had a good score for him. He was 74. He didn’t play golf. He loved music and his red wine. I enjoyed a few of them with him.”

Gallacher landed his breakthrough win on the European Tour in this event when he beat Graeme McDowell in a play-off in 2004.

The 46-year-old handed himself a timely confidence boost with a top-25 finish in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month and is looking to kick on here following a “very good day” in a testing wind.

“I was delighted with the way I struck it,” he said. “I love the three courses, probably my favourite three in Scotland.

“It’s always nice coming back to play here, the family is up, the dog is here. It’s a home from home. I’m in an Airbnb just 100 yards from the first tee. It’s braw.”

Ewen Ferguson, who had opened with a 64 at St Andrews, added a 73 at Carnoustie to cement his position as the leading Scot after 36 holes.

“I must admit I was struggling the full day,” said the 25-year-old, who sits joint-seventh on six-under – four shots behind the leader, two-time winner Tyrrell Hatton. “It's just such a hard course, you need to focus so hard.

“You make a good putt or a good two-putt and the next hole you're on the tee thinking, 'right, another hard hole'. You look at the strokesaver and you see 380 next hole, you think, great, then you hit in the bunker and you're done. You make a double or whatever.”

The highlight of his round was an eagle-3 at the 14th, but the shine from that was taken off by two bogeys in the last four holes.

“Those last few holes on this golf course…just brutal,” said Ferguson, who is viewing this event as a “free hit” due to the fact he’s on course to secure a European Tour card next season from the Challenge Tour.

“It’s even that hard when it’s not windy, but with that wind it felt really tough. I was just grinding, grinding as much as I could.”

Richie Ramsay (72) sits alongside Gallacher on five-under, but it was a day to forget for Bob MacIntyre as a 77, which included a triple-bogey 8 at the 12th, at Kingsbarns left him on two-over.

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