Stephen Gallacher’s caddie heaved a sigh of relief when he discovered his eyes had deceived him during the Lothians star’s historic defence of the Dubai Desert Classic title.
Englishman Damian Moore, who lives in Mid Calder, was convinced he saw ‘-16’ alongside Argentine Emiliano Grillo’s name on the giant scoreboard as he walked up to the 18th green at the Emirates.
If that had been the case, Gallacher would probably have taken on the water with his second to secure a birdie to overtake the clubhouse leader.
With Grillo having posted a 15-under target, though, he only needed a par so a decision to lay up was the wise one, even though the player, caddie and lots of supporters were relieved when Gallacher’s third stopped just short of spinning back into the water.
“My eyes must be getting a bit dodgy because I swear that I looked at the big scoreboard at the last and saw that Grillo was -16,” Moore told the Edinburgh Evening News in the locker-room afterwards.
“I thought it was going to be a play-off if that had been the case, but then I got closer to the board and saw he was actually -15 and thought, you beauty’.”
Moore is into his fourth season on Gallacher’s bag, having previously worked for Jose Maria Olazabal, Robert Karlsson and Jesper Parnevik, among others.
It’s a great partnership and, having been granted maternity absence from Gallacher’s opening three events of 2014 after becoming a father on January 30, Moore picked the perfect time to return.
“I can’t believe it,” he admitted after helping Gallacher, who’d led by two shots heading into the final round, recover from a shaky start to claim a winner’s cheque for just under £250,000.
“It seems surreal, as was the case when he covered those last ten holes on Saturday in ten-under. You don’t realise when you are in the zone like that. It’s only afterwards that you think ‘that was amazing’.
“For Stephen to be the first player to defend the Dubai title in the event’s 25-year history is incredible.
“I thought our chance was gone, to be honest. It was the same as last year as we bogeyed the first two holes and I thought we had a fight on our hands just to finish second.
“After eight holes, I thought it was definitely gone. But we then looked at the leaderboard and it was a bonus that everything was still so close.
“It was only needing one birdie to spark something and he rolled a good putt in at the 11th. That got him going and we knew that we had the par-5 13th, which he loves and destroys, coming up.
“He could stand up there all day and almost hit it 400 yards down there so it was almost a gimme birdie. And, when you’ve got a gimme like that so late in a round, that is great as they are few and far between.”
So, too, are any on-course disagreements between Moore and Gallacher, who is now almost certain to play in his first Masters in April after rising 30 places to 37th in the world rankings on the back of a third European Tour triumph.
“I don’t have to say much to him, to be honest,” revealed the caddie. “We are both laid back. We have a saying that ‘it won’t beat us’ so we just keep doing the same things all the time.
“As for what lies ahead for Stephen, I think he’s got six or seven years where he can make £2-£2.5 million every season as he’s in his prime. He’s been a bit of an under-achiever and I think he can really kick on now.”
From working out yardages and reading lines, Moore is set to return to nappy-changing duties for the next week or so as Gallacher’s next appearance is the WGC Match Play in Arizona in a fortnight’s time.
“It was nice to get back to work this week and get some sleep as I hardly slept at all for two weeks back home due to the new baby,” he said.
“My missus, Susan, who originally comes from East Calder, and I had baby boy called Harris on January 30 and it was the greatest thing in the world.”
Another proud parent at the moment is Jim Gallacher, Stephen’s dad, who walked all 72 holes along with wife Wilma as their boy became a golfing legend in the UAE. “It’s unbelievable that he’s become the first player to win this back-to-back,” admitted Jim, a former Bathgate Golf Club captain. “Plus, look at the field that was here this week – world No.1 [Tiger Woods], No.3 [Henrik Stenson] and No.6 [Rory McIlroy].
“He just hung even though he wasn’t swinging well on the back nine. He’s a fighter – he just gets on with it. The way he conducts himself is also a joy to watch as he never loses the head.”
Up to 14th on the European points list, Gallacher has now given himself a chance of making the Ryder Cup team for September’s match at Gleneagles. His dad broke down in tears as he tried to sum up what that would mean for the family, especially Stephen’s late grandad, Barney.
“It would be brilliant,” added Jim. “That would have meant so much for my old man as he was so proud of Stephen.”