Jack Burnside: Prestonfield golf legend passes away aged 90

Edinburgh golfer Jack Burnside, who outscored Gary Player on the South African’s first appearance in Scotland and was also described as a “great putter” by Henry Cotton, has died at the age of 90.

By Martin Dempster
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 6:00 am
Jack Burnside was a member of Prestonfield in the heart of Edinburgh for more than 80 years and represented the club with distinction.
Jack Burnside was a member of Prestonfield in the heart of Edinburgh for more than 80 years and represented the club with distinction.

Burnside was a member of Prestonfield for more than 80 years, having joined the Capital club when he was just nine after cutting his golfing teeth across the road from the family home on the Bruntsfield Links Short Hole course.

He also honed his skills at the Braids, playing there with his father John - Burnside shared his dad’s name but was always known as Jack - and his uncle George, both of whom were useful golfers themselves.

Burnside, who won the Prestonfield club championship five times, reached the final of the Scottish Amateur in 1957 at Royal Aberdeen, where he lost 2&1 to John Montgomerie over just 18 holes as opposed to the scheduled 36 holes.

Jack Burnside, back row third left, with his Scotland team-mates at Falsterbo Golf Club in Sweden for a match against Scandinavia in 1956

“That was a terrible day, I believe, and Jack was maybe disappointed that he didn’t win that final as I think he might have been a better player than John,” recalled Findlay Black, the Prestonfield president.

After attending Daniel Stewart’s College, Burnside undertook his National Service with the Royal Air Force in the early 1950’s just north of London. “When they found out about his golfing prowess, he was immediately dispatched back home to pick up his clubs and represent the RAF,” said his son, Iain.

Burnside, who was married to his wife Joan for nearly 52 years until her death in February 2010, teamed up with Margaret Myles to win the Scottish Daily Mail Foursomes in 1954.

Two years later, he recorded another notable team triumph, this time alongside the legendary John Panton in the Lady Provost Gold Vase at Greenock.

Jack Burnside

That was also the year Burnside found himself paired with Player, who was just 20 at the time and making his debut appearance in Scotland, in the Penfold-Swallow tournament at Royal Burgess in Edinburgh.

“Jack comfortably outscored him,” states Prestonfield’s centenary brochure of the South African, who claimed the first of his three Open triumphs just three years later.

It was during the qualifying for the game’s oldest major at St Andrews in 1957 that Burnside caught the attention of another golfing great.

“While he missed out on qualifying, Henry Cotton watched him after going out for a walk and came back telling everyone what a great putter Jack was,” said Alistair Dun, a fellow Prestonfield member.

According to Black, his partner on a number of occasions, Burnside rarely left a putt short of the hole. “He was a very aggressive putter and not the best to play with in foursomes,” recalled Black, laughing.

Prolific in club events, winning over 20 events away from Prestonfield, Burnside also represented Scotland, including a match against Scandinavia at Falsterbo in Sweden on a rare trip abroad in 1956.

He worked as a whisky rep for Crawfords, a sales rep for Simpson Bell Typewriters and, latterly, was a station announcer at Waverley railway station in Edinburgh.

“Prestonfield was his second home,” said son Iain, “and, even up to October of last year, he would spend time chatting in the bar to members and staff alike over a nip or coffee and bacon roll at least once a week.”

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