STEPHEN GALLACHER will have a fellow West Lothian man for company in next week’s USPGA Championship, the season’s final major.
Lee Rhind cut his golfing teeth at Uphall, winning the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play Championship in 1997.
But, like Martin Laird, he has carved out his professional career in America.
And, after coming through a qualifier last month, Rhind is ready to rub shoulders with the game’s big guns at Oak Hill next week.
“Having the opportunity to play in my first major feels surreal, almost like it’s happening to someone else,” the 34-year-old told the Edinburgh Evening News. “I’m enjoying the notoriety while trying not to let it go to my head.”
Rhind followed in the footsteps of both Andrew Coltart and Dean Robertson when he enrolled at Midland College in Texas in 2000.
It proved a life-changing decision as he has been in the States on and off since then and married an American five years ago.
“I decided to stay in America due to the opportunities to enhance my golfing future,” he added. “The town of Midland has been a great place for me personally due to the friendships and support I have had over the years. Currently, I am the second assistant at Midland Country Club, where I’ve been since June 2008.
“I completed my PGA/PGM programme in three years and was inducted into the PGA in March 2012. I consider this to be one of the greatest accomplishments in my golf career.
“One of the best things about my job is that I get to work with two-time British Open participant and good friend, Steven Young. We have a great working relationship and unique bond from travelling the US mini-tour circuit together in 2003. I probably still owe him gas money!”
Rhind, who lost in the Scottish Boys’ final the same year he won the stroke-play title at Downfield, secured his berth in next week’s event in Rochester by finishing 14th in the PGA Professional National Championship in Oregon.
He visited Oak Hill for a practice round earlier this week and is confident he can give a good account of himself, even though it’s a big step up from his bread and butter fare.
“I am lucky enough to be able to work and play golf in the PGA North Texas Section, which has great tournaments throughout the year,” he said.
“I will prepare for this event the same way I would any other golf tournament, simply because I have no clue what I’ve gotten myself into.
“However, I do believe in myself and believe that I have the skills to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
“The best part of qualifying for the USPGA has been the influx of good wishes and congratulations I’ve received via all social media outlets.
“This opportunity has reignited friendships with all of my junior golf friends and gives us a chance to reconnect. Also, my Facebook account has been flooded with messages from friends.”
He added: “I have no aspirations at Oak Hill whatsoever. I am just looking forward to the experience of being inside the ropes at a major championship.
“I have been lucky enough to tee it up in a web.com tour event, Challenge Tour event and on the Asian Tour, but none of those are on the same level as this event.
“My whole family are going to be there to support me. My wife Kenna, my dad and mum, younger brother Jordyn and sister Kaitlyn will all be cheering me on.”
Jordyn, who also cut his teeth at Uphall, now plays at Kingsfield, winning the club championship there earlier this week.
“I feel that Jordyn has the skill set to become a great professional golfer,” declared his older brother. “His long game is a lot more developed than mine to this day. With hard work and a short-game plan, I feel that the sky is the limit and I will be behind him all the way.”