Golf: ‘Race to Dunbar’ set for winter spin-off

Stephen Gallacher

Stephen Gallacher

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THE first season of events run by the Stephen Gallacher Foundation reaches the end of the road when the “Race to Dunbar” crosses the finishing line on Sunday. But, such has been the success of the tournaments, the European Tour star is already looking at staging a winter campaign in the Lothians.

“The way things have gone so far has exceeded our expectations,” said Gallacher, who launched the Foundation this year in a bid to give something back to the area where he learned to play the game.

“We didn’t really know how many people would turn up at tournaments, but the younger events especially have been very well supported. They’ve had 40-50 kids almost every time, which is fantastic.

“There’s a demand, in fact, to keep the events going through the winter and we are looking at that. Hopefully we can get courses like Kingsfield, Swanston New and the short one at North Berwick to run an event every week or two.”

The “Race to Dunbar”, Gallacher’s twist on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, is the end-of-season finale for the older age groups. A similar event for the younger competitors, including Gallacher’s two kids, Jack and Ellie, was held last weekend at Kingsfield.

Ruaridh McKenzie and Aamar Saleem, both received membership of Kingsfield as their prize.

“Both these events are a nice way to end the season,” added the former Dunhill Links champion. “It’s great that the Dunbar one is being held at the same time as the Ryder Cup and also when there’s a feelgood factor in Scottish golf.

“The competitors will be getting a whole bunch of goodies on the day and I’ll be doing a couple of clinics, which will be good fun. We’ll do anything we can to help these young golfers – that’s what the Foundation is all about.”

Like Paul Lawrie, who launched his Foundation in the Aberdeen area on the back of becoming Open champion, Gallacher has attended events whenever he’s been available.

“I spoke to Paul and he made me aware how important that was,” he admitted. “It would be wrong for me to be sitting at home when the team were running events for me.

“My son and daughter have both played in them, so that’s been another good reason why I’ve been as long to as many as I was able to.

“(Foundation manager) Scott Knowles has done a great job, as have Jane Connachan and Davy Burns in providing free coaching at the events.

“Scott Johnston has helped out and so, too, has Graham Ewart. He’s been involved in registration and starting and is going to do some rules nights for us over the winter. As well as coaching them, we want to teach the youngsters about etiquette and get them aware about course management as they get older.”

Kingsfield, where Gallacher is based himself, has proved the perfect base for the Foundation as it has a cracking nine-hole course as well as oustanding practice facilities.

“We are looking to extend the coaching we’ve done so far into the winter,” said Gallacher. “Ian Young up at the Braid Hills Golf Centre has already said he’d help us cope with the demand we’ve had and that’s great.

“You can’t beat two golf centres of the quality of Kingsfield, which is a fantastic base for the Foundation, and the Braid Hills helping you out.”

After presenting the prizes at Dunbar, Gallacher will be eager to get home to see the conclusion of the Ryder Cup. He has spent a lot of time in recent years in Lawrie’s company and is confident the sole Scot in the European team at Medinah will be a strong player.

“Paul is not there to make up the numbers, that’s for sure,” he said. “He might be the oldest player in the European team at 43, but I think he’ll play just as much as some of the young boys.

“He is a great partner for anyone. He’s a great putter and is driving the ball much better now. I think he’ll play in four of the five sessions in Chicago.”