As his kids, Jack and Ellie, enjoy their summer holidays, Stephen Gallacher has been the one feeling as though he’s returned to school this week.
Ahead of his comeback from a two-month injury lay-off in the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play at Archerfield Links today, the Lothians star has been the target of playground banter from fellow players.
“It’s been like when you go back and see your pals at school again after the summer holidays,” said Gallacher, smiling. “I’ve been getting a bit of stick and all that, but it’s good.”
As revealed in the Edinburgh Evening News last week, the three-time European Tour winner has been forced to change his swing after being warned that a wrist problem he’s had since last May could prove career threatening.
It will be tested out in the heat of battle for the first time in the last of 32 opening-round matches at the East Lothian venue this afternoon, when Gallacher faces Italian teenager Renato Paratore.
“He’s a good player and a nice young kid,” said Gallacher of his opponent, noting that Paratore also likes to play “very fast”, something the Scot does, too.
“The nature of match play is that 63 of the guys could beat anyone this week,” he added. “It’s just about playing well at the right time and seeing how far you can go.”
How far can that be realistically for the 41-year-old in his first appearance since missing the cut in the Nordea Masters at the beginning of June?
“You still believe you can win,” he insisted. “It’s knock-out so anything can happen. I’ve been playing quite a few bounce games with my pals recently just to try to get into the habit of it.
“It’s a great tournament for me to come back in and I know the course now, having been down here a couple of times recently for practice rounds. It’s quite a relaxed week for me.”
Also sleeping in their own beds for the event’s first staging on Scotland’s Golf Coast are Edinburgh-based duo Richie Ramsay and Gareth Wright.
Ramsay, who is attached to the venue next door, The Renaissance Club, faces two-time Ryder Cup player and former Dunhill Links champion David Howell in the first round, where qualifier Wright is up against Englishman Daniel Brooks.
On his last visit to East Lothian, Brooks was in the mix all the way to the last day in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane last summer, so will be a tough opponent for Tartan Tour star Wright.
“I’m looking forward to it, especially as I have played a little match play in the last few years with playing PGA Cup,” said Wright, who made the cut in the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
“I feel like my game is in a good place and match play is slightly different you can play with a little bit more freedom. I also know the course really well as I joined here for a year.
“I actually played with Daniel in the BMW PGA at Wentworth so I know him, but it doesn’t matter who you play. I will be going out to try my best and see how far I can go.”