Why it hurts losing Jock MacVicar, a long-time friend and Scottish legend

“He’s gone,” said one of my closest friends, Nick Rodger, as I answered the phone on Saturday night before waiting for a short pause to be followed by “I’m only kidding”.

Martin Dempster, The Scotsman's golf correspondent, presents Jock MacVicar with a lifetime achievemet accolade at the Scottish Golf Awards in Edinburgh in 2017. Picture: Kenny Smith

Sadly, he wasn’t. Jock MacVicar was indeed gone, passing away peacefully in Glasgow Royal Infirmary at the age of 83 after being admitted a couple of days earlier following a fall at his home in the city.

Like so many people, I first came across the great man at the Scottish Boys Championship after starting with the Glasgow-based David Begg Sports Agency in 1989.

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I’d sort of been in his company two years earlier when, during my fledgling days in journalism with the Berwickshire News & East Lothian Advertiser, I spent some time in the press tent at The Open at Muirfield, but didn’t have the courage back then to speak to many people.

One of my first memories of spending time with the Scottish Daily Express legend was when we headed for a game at North Berwick one morning during that Scottish Boys event at Dunbar.

His car boot must have had 20 putters in it and I soon found out why out on the course, though I think after all these years he’d have a chuckle to himself to hear that I think he afflicted me on the greens.

I count myself very lucky indeed when I think about the people I shared press rooms in Scotland with in my early years covering this great game, the list including Renton Laidlaw, Ian MacNiven, Alister Nicol, Ian Wood, Norman Mair, Raymond Jacobs, Jack Robertson, John Campbell, Bob Jenkins, Colin Farquharson and Peter Donald.

It was an honour and pleasure simply to be in the company of greats in the golf writing industry and the same certainly applies to the man who was known by so many in the game as “The Doyen”.

My numerous trips with MacVicar to events included four Ryder Cups in the US, where, incidentally, he’d enjoyed one of the busiest but also most enjoyable days of his career when filing an inside spread plus pieces for the front and back pages from the 1995 event at Oak Hill at the time he was the golf correspondent for the English edition of the Daily Express as well as his beloved Scottish title.

Our first trip across the pond together was for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Detroit, and I will never forget what happened one morning as we were walking out of the media centre en route to the course.

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Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a bloke making a beeline for us and, sporting the biggest smile you could ever think of, he shouted out: “Jock MacVicar, how the heck are you?” It was none other than Billy Casper, the 1970 Masters champion and three-time major winner.

Even more impressive, and this, to me, summed up his standing in the game, was the sight of Tom Watson walking into a Senior Open media centre on more than one occasion and heading straight for MacVicar to say “hello” before conducting his interview.

Jock loved Watson and was equally fond of Paul Lawrie while, in recent years, he’d taken a real shine to young Bob MacIntyre, the pair hitting it off instantly through both being Argyll & Bute boys.

On our last trip to a Ryder Cup, we ended up in an ambulance together as he fell ill the day after we arrived in Paris for the 2018 event. After requiring stomach surgery, we had to leave him in the hospital in Versailles on the Monday after the match finished before staging a successful rescue mission a couple of weeks later through assistance from the European Tour and Aberdeen Standard Investments.

We did that because we loved Jock and we cared about him. He had no immediate family. His colleagues - myself, the aforementioned Nick Rodger, Steve Scott, Jim Black, Euan McLean, Bernie McGuire, Scott Crockett and Stewart McDougall - were his family, I suppose, and that’s why we are all hurting at the moment.

He was a stubborn old bugger. Despite being urged to think seriously about calling it a day after his scare in France, he was still working for the Scottish Daily Express, having been on a video call with MacIntyre last Monday following his success in securing a Masters debut.

He never married but showed real charm in the company of women, though tears will have been shed by grown men as well over the past couple of days amidst a staggering outpouring of sadness.

Golf has lost a great man and some of us have lost a great friend. Angus John MacVicar, though, will never be forgotten by the vast majority of people he came across in life and that says it all.

Rest in Peace, our Doyen.

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