Scottish Open: Bernard hopes nephew can emulate him

Stephen Gallacher finished fourth at the Scottish Open a year ago. Pic: Getty
Stephen Gallacher finished fourth at the Scottish Open a year ago. Pic: Getty
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LOTHIANS legend Bernard Gallacher is hoping his nephew, Stephen, can follow in his footsteps by tasting Gullane glory this week.

Bernard’s victory in the inaugural Scottish Stroke-Play Championship was partly achieved at the venue for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open starting tomorrow.

“When they held the first Scottish Stroke-Play in 1967, they played one round at Gullane and three rounds at Muirfield,” recalled the former Ryder Cup captain.

“I think I scored 65 or 66 at Gullane and that gave me a substantial lead heading over to Muirfield and I managed to hold on for the win.

“Ronnie Shade and Charlie Green were second and third so there were some pretty good players behind me.”

Like Stephen, pictured 
below, Bernard, of course, cut his golfing teeth at Bathgate, but his game was also honed on some of the East Lothian links.

“I got some lessons from the Golf Foundation when I was at Bathgate,” he added. “It didn’t have a pro at the time and a few guys thought I should go to Gullane to get a lesson.

“I used to get the bus from Bathgate to St Andrew Square, then get another one down to Gullane. I used to do that in the winter and did it for a while when I was 14-year-old.

“I also used to play down there quite a bit in the winter because Bathgate was affected by frost quite a bit. We played at Gullane, North Berwick and Luffness. It was a favourite spot for a lot of Bathgate golfers.”

It has been for Stephen’s generation, too, and now he’s heading into the first European Tour event to be staged at Gullane as Scotland’s top-ranked player.

“Gullane, of course, has staged Open Qualifying in the past and the only reason it’s not staged a European Tour event until now is down to sponsorship,” said Bernard.

“The sponsors were Glasgow-based, for instance, when the event was held at Haggs Castle and Downfield. The course is definitely good enough to have a tournament on it, put it that way.

“The second, which is being used as the first this week, is a good hole up through the valley. But once you get over the hill it’s terrific with views of the Forth and over to Fife.

“It’s normally a fast-running course and the greens are quite undulating. It takes a bit of tactics to get round it, to be honest.”

Stephen closed with a 63 at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago to finish fourth – a spot behind compatriot Marc Warren – as Justin Rose claimed the title. Now Bernard is hoping the 
home galleries can inspire the same pair to make their presence felt on the 
leaderboard again in the £3.25 million event.

“I think it’s about time some of the Scots boys started to do well again,” said the former Wentworth pro, who still lives in Surrey.

“It would be a good time for Marc Warren and Stephen, for instance, to find their games heading into The Open. They’ve not really hit form this year and this would be a good week to find that. It’s a course they will both have played a fair bit and the conditions should suit them. It is a good chance for them.

“I always enjoyed playing in front of the Scottish fans and it will be the same for the current crop. Indeed, both Marc and Stephen have played well in Scotland in the past.

“It might inspire them 
a bit. They both played 
well last year at Royal 
Aberdeen so this would be a good time to kickstart their season.”

Normally at this time of the year, Bernard is doing his homework in preparation for being part of the Radio Five Live commentary team at The Open.

However, he won’t be at St Andrews for the latest Claret Jug joust next week, having hung up his earphones following last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

“I had done it for ten years, but there comes a time when you feel that going round the course twice in a day can be a little bit tiring for an old man,” he said.

“It will be the first Open I’ve missed for a long time – either as a player, spectator or radio commentator.

“It gives us (him and wife Lesley) a chance to go on holiday a bit earlier than normal so we will be watching the golf from afar.”