After enjoying a renaissance last year with victory at the Hero Indian Open – his first since 2014 – and making a solid start to this season, four-times European Tour winner Stephen Gallacher is raring to go and ready shine at this week’s Betfred British Masters. Here the 2014 Ryder Cup player explains how his son, Jack, came to caddy for him and shares some inside knowledge of what went on behind the scenes to make the Tour’s UK Swing a reality.
Your son, Jack, was on the bag for your win at the Hero Indian Open last year and has got the job full-time now, but what’s the success story behind him caddying for you in the first place?
SG: When Jack started caddying for me, I didn’t have a regular caddie, so I was looking around for someone on a more permanent basis. I had been speaking with my Dad and my wife, Helen, and we all thought that Jack could do a good job. Jack plays to a high standard in his own right, and, at the time he was a 1- handicapper, but more importantly, he had been following me on Tour ever since he was a boy, so he knew my game as well as anyone. At 17, he was still developing, but he worked on his strength and fitness to make sure he could cope with the role on a weekly basis. We started off well, managing a top 10 at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in only our second event. Since then, it has worked out really well, and the win in India was a special moment for both of us.
During lockdown, did you work hard on any particular aspect of your game and how prepared are you to get back to work at the Betfred British Masters?
SG: I spent a lot of time working on my fitness to make sure that, regardless of how long this unexpected break might be, my body would be ready for the restart. I would do four gym sessions every week, and, early on, I was really only working on my putting at home, because I didn’t get myself a net set up until quite well into lockdown. I’ve used the break well, and I’m definitely ready to get back playing again.
You carded all four rounds in the 60s at Close House in 2017 – what’s the key to scoring well on this relatively new course?
SG: You have to drive well and make sure that you are hitting fairways. The rough and the trees can really penalise any wayward drives, so to give yourself any chance you need to be consistent off the tee, to take on some tight pins. I’ve played well here in the past and I like the course, so I know that if I can take my opportunities, then it’s a course I can score well on.
You’re on the European Tour tournament committee – can you give us a little insight into just how much work has gone on behind the scenes to make the UK Swing happen?
SG: The Tour have done a fantastic job over the past three months. Keith Pelley and his team have dealt with the impact of the virus remarkably well and they have worked hard to get us all back, playing as quickly as possible. I’ve really enjoyed being involved on the Tournament Committee, and the work required to get everything set-up correctly for the restart has meant that we’ve been getting together (via video conferencing) more often that we would normally. The planning and detail that has gone into setting up the UK Swing, together with the health and well-being work that Andrew Murray and his team have been developing, has been immense. This gives us the best chance possible for the restart to be a success. All we need now is for everyone to stay fit and well.
How much are you looking forward to playing in the UK Swing and how strange will it seem to not have to catch a flight to go to the next event for a few weeks in succession?
SG: I can’t wait to get back playing again, and whilst the UK Swing will be hugely different to normal European Tour events, all of the requirements that are in place for these events are necessary, and I realise that this is just what we have to do in these difficult times. I won’t miss having to take flights every week, and for these events, my car is going to become my transport, my second home and my locker. It will have everything I need and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again and experiencing everything that the UK Swing will bring.
Your Stephen Gallacher Foundation seems to have been busy over the last couple of months with virtual tournaments before a safe return to the golf course in recent weeks. How important is to you to be involved in this project and share you knowledge of the game with the next generation of golfers?
SG: I am very passionate about my Foundation and giving kids the chance to take up the game I love. It has been running for almost a decade now, and every year we are trying to improve and develop what we can offer. We continue to grow the number of boys and girls playing and the schedule of events and coaching programmes we run. Our schools’ programme in West Lothian is developing, and we use PGA-qualified coaches to give the kids the best experience they can get. Golf has so much to offer at every level, and whether it’s competitively or socially, I’m keen to do as much as I can to give as many kids as possible the opportunities that I was very fortunate to have.
You’ve enjoyed a long and successful career, aside from playing in The Ryder Cup in your homeland, what are your most outstanding memories?
SG: Obviously, my European Tour victories are all memorable, and my first win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2004 will always be something that I love to look back on. To win in Scotland on the Old Course is very special, and to have all my family and friends there supporting me is something that I know I am very lucky to have experienced. However, my most recent victory in India with Jack on the bag is certainly on a par with that. Jack had watched me win twice at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, but to have him there as my caddie was a special moment for both of us.
With those two wins at the Desert Classic you’re very familiar with what it takes to win there. Is there any specific aspect to the course at Emirates Golf Club that suits your eye – or courses in the Middle East in general?
SG: I feel very much at home in Dubai and especially at the Dubai Desert Classic. The shape and set up of the Majlis Course suits my game, and I always look forward to playing there. The weather at the time of the Desert Classic is not too hot and there is normally a little bit of wind too, so that all helps. I have many friends out there now, and I get a great deal of support whenever and wherever I play in the UAE. There is an ever-increasing number of excellent courses in the Middle East, and it will only be a matter of time until we see a growing number of young players from these countries competing on the European Tour.
How impressive has the growth of the game in the Middle East been to witness? You played your first Desert Classic 20 years ago and, recently European Tour events in Oman and Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been created.
SG: The investment across the Middle East has been a significant development for the European Tour over the past couple of decades. The number of events we play there keeps increasing, and these events very quickly become established on the Tour Schedule. I can only see this trend grow further. The events in Oman and Saudi Arabia which are both still relatively new events will follow the successes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. As a sport, we have to have a real focus on growing the game into new countries and continents, and the growth in the Middle East is an example of how this can work well.
Driver Titleist TS3 – 9.5°
Fairway Wood Titleist TS2 – 15°
Rescue Titleist TS2 – 17°
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