Stephen Gallacher talked about a big run of events on the horizon and called for slow-play penalties every week. He also licked his lips at the prospect of Shinnecock Hills being a “brute” of a test in this week’s US Open. But there was no disguising what he enjoyed speaking about most during his visit to Leuchie House, near North Berwick.
Joining Doddie Weir and Gavin Hastings at the announcement of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and Leuchie House, a respite centre for people with long-term neurological conditions, as the charity partners of next month’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane, was a diary date Gallacher simply wouldn’t have missed.
The three-time European Tour winner knows his rugby and had already become close with former Scotland international Weir through the pair sharing the stage on Q&A panels at Kingsfield Golf Centre, near Linlithgow, before the charismatic and colourful Borderer was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
As recently as last week, Gallacher joined two of his fellow European Tour players, Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren, at a fund-raising event at Kingsfield for the foundation set up by Weir in a bid to try to raise awareness of his debilitating condition, and now he is delighted it is set to benefit along with Leuchie House from the second Scottish Open to be staged in East Lothian in four years. “Doddie’s a good mate of mine and also [Kingsfield owner] Robert Arkley,” said Gallacher, who has promised Weir to wear trousers in the tartan that now bears his name in the pro-am ahead of the $7 million Rolex Series event.
“When you see the spirit and enthusiasm he has got to help other people it’s very humbling. We did a day for him at Kingsfield last week and we try to help as much as we can because he is so inspiring to everyone.
“I am proud as punch the Scottish Open is supporting Doddie and Leuchie House. That’s the thing now, each week we will help a local charity wherever we go through the European Tour Foundation. Leaving a legacy and giving back, that’s what we have got to do. We’re playing for millions, we may as well help out local charities as well.”
While Gallacher failed in his bid to qualify for the US Open, he’ll be glued to the action at Shinnecock Hills. “I remember the last one there [in 2004, when the USGA were heavily criticised for extreme conditions in an event won by Retief Goosen] and it could be a brute this week,” said the 2014 Ryder Cup player.
“It depends on the weather. The only reason the scoring has been half decent the past couple of years is because it has poured down so it was playable, that’s how you can score. But Shinnecock is always windy and if the course stays firm the winning score could be over par. And that’s what they want.
“Do I like that? It’s a once- a-year-thing – like the Shot Clock Masters at the weekend. You would never want it all the time. But punters like to see the top guys struggle in a perverse way. It’s more psychological than anything; you just have to have high acceptance levels and know that eight over par might make the cut!
“The toughest course I ever played was Valderrama. Over par wins around there. The elements make a difference. Carnoustie in 1999 was outrageous, I have never seen as many top guys shooting in the 80s. The majors are tough because they’re the toughest tests of the year. There’s only four of them. You wouldn’t want it to be like that every week.”
In the first event of its kind in professional golf, the Shot Clock Masters in Austria, the average time for rounds was reduced dramatically from the average on the European Tour as players were timed on every blow. Four players were penalised and Keith Pelley, the circuit’s chief executive, hailed the innovative event as a huge success.
“I think it’s a one-week thing, it’s too severe to do every week because the top guys won’t play in it,” said Gallacher in offering his view. “I would rather have penalties for bad times in all tournaments. If you have a bad time, you get a one-shot penalty.”