PGA chief Sandy Jones has recalled the “great days” of the Scottish PGA Championship being held at Dalmahoy. The Tartan Tour’s flagship event was held nine times at the Kirknewton venue over two separate spells in the 80s and 90s.
Brian Barnes emerged as champion in 1981 and 1982 before Bernard Gallacher and Ian Young, two Lothians men, delivered popular victories in the next two years.
Sam Torrance then recorded the third of his title triumphs in 1985 before repeating the feat when the event returned after a seven-year absence in 1993. The Ryder Cup star was then followed on to the roll of honour at Dalmahoy, where the tournament attracted crowds comparable to some European Tour events, by Andrew Coltart, Colin Gillies and Brian Marchbank. “They were great days and people still talk about them,” said Jones, who was the Scottish Region secretary at the time before stepping up to the PGA’s top post at The Belfry.
“They are probably the most satisfying comments I get. When I come up to Scotland for dinners etc, people still remember and reminisce about the Scottish Championship when it was at Dalmahoy. We were getting 10,000 to 15,000 there some days. We didn’t have stewarding or proper roping. We just got on with it.
“Brian Barnes connected with it. So did Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance and Ross Drummond. With that happening, the whole thing got a lift.”
On the way to the second of his victories on the outskirts of the Capital, Barnes famously used a beer can as a ball marker on the 18th green of the East Course. “The guy who gave him that can of the sponsor’s product was John Gilligan, who is involved with Rangers now,” added Jones, who was speaking during the PGA Cup at CordeValle in California. “John was a young salesman with Dryburghs at the time and he handed Barnsie the can to mark his ball. It was only years later that I found out that it was John Gilligan, who I got to know.
“I always remember going on to the green and saying to Brian, ‘you need to pick the can up, the rules say a small round object (to mark your ball). I know it doesn’t say how small, and that is round when you look at it from the top. ‘But would you please replace it with a coin’, and he did, so he didn’t get into trouble for it.”
That wasn’t the case when Gallacher once refused to wear a tie for a prize-giving at a Tour event. “I was at that event at Drumpellier, where David Begg (the Scottish Region secretary at the time) got involved in a row with Bernard for wearing a polo neck shirt in clubhouse,” recalled Jones. “I actually saw the incident and, of course, there was a big row in the paper. Little did we know where that was going to go! So I have often thanked Bernard and told him, ‘it was really you that got me the job!’”
Celebrating his 25th year at the helm of the PGA, Jones said he had learned valuable lesson from that incident, even though he wasn’t directly involved.
“I say to the guys that everything isn’t written in concrete, they are sort of guidance rules, and they are rules you’ve got to manage,” he added. “Sometimes you don’t need to make your own fight. It’s just common sense.”