Two years ago, just after the last match at Medinah, Stephen Gallacher bought a notebook as he waited for a connecting flight at Heathrow and used that to plot his way into a new golfing galaxy.
He wrote down a list of goals, all of which have been achieved. He jotted down thoughts on how he could stay injury-free, which has also been accomplished. He scribbled down changes that he felt needed to be made, all of which were implemented.
None if it was rocket science and the notebook in question certainly won’t become part of Ryder Cup folklore. For Gallacher, though, it played a massive part in him being one of the 12 European players congregating at Gleneagles today in preparation for Scotland’s first staging of the transatlantic tussle in more than 40 years.
“I was in Terminal 5 at Heathrow coming back from a tournament and was waiting on a delayed flight when I went into a shop and bought a notepad,” revealed Gallacher as he recalled the journey that has seen him join two fellow Bathgate members, his uncle Bernard and Eric Brown, in earning the chance to face the Americans in the third biggest sporting event in the world.
“When I worked with Adam Hunter, I always remembered him being a man who had a little black book to write things down in and that’s what I did. I used the same ethos as the cycling guys – if it doesn’t make the bike go quicker, then you don’t do it.
“In my case, it was if I was doing something that’s not working, then stop doing it.”
At that point in his career, Gallacher would have been the first to admit that he’d under-achieved since joining the paid ranks in 1995. His sole European Tour triumph had come in the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship and, on and off, he’d been hampered by injuries.
“One of the things in it [the notebook] was ‘don’t get injured next year’, that’s for sure,” he added, knowing that if he was to have any chance at all to make Paul McGinley’s team in Perthshire he’d have to have the best year of his career and that, first and foremost, this would require him to stay fit and healthy.
“It was an accumulation of everything, really,” he continued as the notebook came under scrutiny by members of the Scottish golf press pack. “It was a case of taking every aspect of my game and improving it by a small margin.
“I made a conscious effort to stay injury-free. I started working with a guy towards the end of last year, Kevin Duffy. He’s a strength and conditioning coach and works with [Lee] Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen.
“It’s more postural restoration that he worked on with me and it took me four or five weeks to find my feet. But I’ve not had an injury this year and that was a goal as I didn’t want to have a tournament off with injury.
“I wanted to have a tournament off when I felt I needed a break – and the notes were even down to the scheduling I was thinking of.”
No stone was left unturned. By that point, Gallacher was already complementing the coaching he received from Bob Torrance with additional input from Alan McCloskey, the PGA professional at Bothwell Castle who is now in big demand among Gallacher’s fellow Tour players.
“Hit the ball higher and hole more putts,” he added while revealing two more things that were scribbled down in black and white. McCloskey has helped achieve the former; the latter eventually led to Gallacher making a trip to visit short-game guru Dave Stockton, the man who’d locked horns with his uncle Bernard as opposing Ryder Cup captains at Kiawah Island in 1991, in California in between tournaments just under a year ago.
“The management team that I changed to three or four years ago, it was geared towards the Ryder Cup, as was changing the clubs I used to hit the ball higher. It was everything,” said Gallacher.
Victory in the 2013 Dubai Desert Classic was the first sign that these changes were paying dividends. Becoming the first player in the event’s 25-year history to retain that title was definitely evidence that his career was beginning to take off.
Now, as he arrives at Gleneagles among the elite of European golf, Gallacher has earned the ultimate reward for making some tough decisions, putting in the hard work that came with them and staying focused on the biggest goal of all in that little black book – playing in a Ryder Cup less than 40 miles from his home in Linlithgow.