STEPHEN GALLACHER is being guided on the road to glory this week by a man who is normally coming up with suggestions about how to improve Britain’s highways.
Gallacher’s regular caddie, Damian Moore, is sitting out the opening two events of the 2014 calendar year – starting with the $4 million Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa – as his partner prepares to give birth.
It has led the Dubai Desert Classic champion to enlist the services of one of his boyhood friends in Bathgate, Aiden O’Reilly, to pick up the bag in both the European Tour’s Tournament of Champions and next week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
“It is always a pleasure to find yourself inside the ropes, especially when you are alongside golfers you watch week in, week out on the television,” O’Reilly told the Evening News on the Eastern Cape.
“It’s a bit intimidating, especially when it’s a top-class event like this one. Earlier in the week I felt as though things were moving far too quickly for me but, after a couple of rounds, it’s amazing how quickly you get back in the swing of things again.”
That was reference to the fact it’s not the first time O’Reilly, who works for Amey, has been called on by Gallacher, who qualified for the $4 million event through winning the Dubai Desert Classic – his second European Tour title triumph – last February.
“The only person I’ve ever caddied for is Stevie and I’ve done the European Tour Qualifying School three times with him,” added the 43-year-old. “The first time was at the second stage when he first turned pro. I was there the day he turned professional.
“I would caddie for him all the time, but it’s more a friendship. I enjoy it when I get the chance, but I don’t think it’s a full-time position, to be honest.
“I’ve known him since he was 11 or 12, when he moved back to Bathgate with the family from Livingston. I think his dad came up to me and said, ‘I think you’re the most responsible, so can you please look after him?’ We’ve been best pals ever since.
“He’s a great lad and I said to his pro-am partners earlier this week that they needn’t worry about being nervous as he’s probably the most approachable player in the field this week.
“I think it’s just a chore for a lot of the pros, but that’s certainly not the case with Stevie.”
Caddying certainly isn’t a chore for the meticulous O’Reilly. “If you are going to do something you might as well do it as professionally as you possibly can,” he said. “I think Stephen appreciates that and the difference between me and most of the other caddies is that I’m staying in the same place as him so that gives us a chance to relax together away from the course.”
The pair played junior golf together at Bathgate, where O’Reilly once beat his younger club-mate, but has since seen Gallacher establish himself in the world’s top 100.
“I soon realised that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with him,” he declared, admitting the Durban Country Club could be a venue where Gallacher could make his presence felt this week. “The key here is getting into mid-iron range and that is Stephen’s strength. If he can hit fairways off the tee, he’ll be in with a chance.”