STEPHEN GALLACHER was setting out in today’s third round of the 143rd Open at Hoylake today with a heavy heart.
It followed the Lothians star coming off the course at the halfway stage to learn that his long-time coach Bob Torrance had died at the age of 82 after a long illness.
Gallacher had worked with Largs-based Torrance since he was a young amateur and enjoyed huge success with him.
“I’m gutted,” admitted the 39-year-old. “He was a massive influence on my career from a young age. He was like a father figure to me.
“Everything I know about the game is probably through Bob.
“The first time I met him was down at Inverclyde and the snow was hitting the back of the bay.
“He would teach you for as long as you wanted to be there – even if it was in the dark.
“He was one of the hardest workers I have ever known.
“He had an eye for a golf swing and knew how to fix it without becoming too technical.
“He was never one for using a camera – he just used his eyes. He also had such a knowledge of the game.
“He’s seen it all and done it all. Working with Ian Woosnam, for instance, and (son) Sam, of course.
“He also went to see Ben Hogan so he knew what he was talking about.
“I probably wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for working with Bob over the years. He was such a positive guy and I loved working with him.”
Gallacher travelled down to Ayrshire within the last few weeks to pay both Torrance and his wife, June, a visit.
“It was sad to see him, to be honest, and I really felt for June, Sam and the rest of the family,” he added.
“I’ve got millions of stories about him. He was larger than life. He was always positive and funny, too.”
Torrance would have been proud to see Gallacher sitting in the top 20 in the game’s oldest major after opening efforts of 70 and 72.
“It was tough today, even though it was a different wind,” he said after a level-par second circuit. I’ve been in four bunkers and not had a stance in any of them – but that’s links golf.”
After Rory McIlroy’s magic over the first two days, Gallacher found himself ten shots off the pace at the midway point.
“I wanted to be not too far away and get in contention on the last day, if possible,” he said. “But there’s nothing you can do when Rory plays like that – we have seen it before.”
Two other Scots are still standing on Merseyside – Marc Warren, whose wife Laura is an Edinburgh girl, and Bonnyrigg-based Jamie McLeary.
Warren came home in 33 – four-under – to sit joint-ninth on five-under while McLeary celebrated his Open debut by making the cut on the same two-over-par mark as Tiger Woods. “I am quite proud of myself,” admitted McLeary after picking the perfect event to end a wretched run of nine consecutive missed cuts.
“I played really well these two days. I could have shot mid to high 60s yesterday and then today I played really well.
“I only made three bad shots and made three bogeys. I hit it out of bounds at the last, which was a bad shot, but I managed to birdie the second ball.”
In doing so, he earned an outing today in the company of two PGA Tour winners – Brian Harman and Charley Hoffman.
“I have absolutely loved it,” said the 2010 Scottish Challenge winner of his Open experience so far.
“It has been brilliant and like nothing else. I actually didn’t think it would be much different from Wentworth (venue for the European Tour’s flagship event) as the crowds have been big there and I have played in a couple of big events in Ireland and Sweden. You think it is going to be like that – but it is nothing like it.”
Despite a brave effort – he birdied two of the last four holes – Braid Hills-attached Paul McKechnie agonisingly missed out by a shot.