Legendary golf broadcaster Renton Laidlaw dies aged 82
Tributes have been paid to legendary golf broadcaster and journalist Renton Laidlaw, who has died aged 82.
Edinburgh-born Laidlaw, who lived at Drumoig in Fife with his sister Jennifer, was admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee on Saturday, having tested positive for Covid-19.
He started out as a copytaker on the Pink News in his beloved home citybefore becoming the golf reporter for the Edinburgh Evening News.
After a spell in television, first with STV then Grampian TV and, finally, the BBC as its news anchor in Edinburgh, he returned to the golf beat with the London Evening Standard.
He then started to combine television and radio assignments on weekends and for 15 years he was BBC Radio’s golf correspondent.
A move to full-time broadcasting followed with British Satellite Broadcasting, which was taken over by Sky TV, and, latterly, his dulcet tones could be heard on The Golf Channel.
In 2013, Laidlaw became the first non-American golf writer to cover The Masters for 40 years, joining an exclusive club.
Throughout his career, he covered 165 majors including 58 Opens and 42 Masters.
He was the recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Award for golfing journalism and earned a lifetime achievement award from the PGA of America, the PGAs of Britain, Scotland and Europe.
Tributes to Laidlaw were led by Sky Sports Golf commentator and fellow Edinburgh man Ewen Murray.
He wrote on Twitter: “I met Renton Laidlaw when I was seven. He was 22 and came to my parents house every Friday for tea ahead of his column for the Edinburgh Evening News.
“He was my mentor at the start of my TV career. A gifted broadcaster, an exceptional man in every way. Many hearts are sore tonight.”
Dougie Donnelly, another giant of golf broadcasting, also paid tribute to someone he described as a “dear friend and colleague”.
He added: “Renton Laidlaw was an outstanding writer and broadcaster, held in genuine affection by everyone he worked with, and a great support to me and to so many others over the years. He will be very sadly missed.”
Iain Carter, the BBC’s golf correspondent, said Laidlaw had been the “voice of golf on BBC radio for so many years and a colossus of the golfing media”.
Paul Lawrie described Laidlaw as a “lovely man” while fellow player Stephen Gallacher said he was “an absolute gentleman and the true voice of golf”.
Laidlaw’s career took him around the globe more than once, but he still cherished those humble beginnings in his home city. “I didn’t start as a tea boy – I was a rung up from that,” he said, laughing, in an interview with this correspondent in 2013.
“I was working for the Evening News as a copytaker when I was just 13 or 14. I used to do the results for the Pink News and we had a good team as the other member was Arnold Kemp, who went on to become editor of The Herald.
“When I was at Daniel Stewart’s College, the headmaster asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to become a journalist. His reaction was to say, ‘why don’t you go and think about that as it would be safer to become a banker or work for an insurance company’.
“About three weeks later he asked again and I said that I hadn’t changed my mind. He then played a part in me being offered a job on The Scotsman, but I opted to start on the News as I knew the people in the office so it made sense to do that.”
In 1962, five years after starting as a junior reporter, Laidlaw was pulled aside by Jock Robertson, the paper’s sports editor at the time. “He asked if I’d like to become the golf reporter,” added Laidlaw. “He also asked if I wanted to cover the rugby as well but I told him football was more my game.
“When he asked if I was ready to start, I was expecting him to say it would be the following week but he said, ‘get your coat as we are going down to Prestonfield for an East of Scotland Alliance event. He told me to ask for the secretary as he’d look after me and my first writing assignment was to file 150 words at 12.15 that day.
“At one stage I was the youngest golf reporter in Scotland and Frank Moran of The Scotsman was the oldest. It was a very special stage in my career. I was lucky. There was Ronnie Shade, who won five Scottish Amateur titles in a row.
“Then, when he turned pro, a chap came along called Bernard Gallacher. He’d phone me every Monday morning, saying ‘Renton, I’ve broken another course record’. We’ve stayed friends to this day and it’s great to have come through my whole career being close to so many people.”
One of Laidlaw’s favourite events to cover was the Dispatch Trophy at the Braids. But it was down to the team tournament that he missed out on being at Carnoustie when Shade played South African Bobby Cole in the final of the British Amateur Championship in 1966.
“It was reduced to 18 holes because of fog,” he recalled. “If it had been played over 36 holes I think Ronnie would have won instead of losing 3&2.
“However, I couldn’t go as I was told no-one else could cover the Dispatch Trophy as it was so complicated due to it being a double foursome event – a terrific one, too.”
Laidlaw’s own golf career started at Lothianburn before moving to Dalmahoy and then to Royal Burgess. He is also a member of the R&A, Wentworth and Sunningdale as well as being an honorary member of Ballybunion.
He never managed to get his handicap lower than 12 but enjoyed playing with some of the game’s greatest players, including Seve Ballesteros. “I consider myself very lucky,” said the long-time secretary and former president of the Association of Golf Writers.
He was also editor of the R&A’s Golfer’s Handbook, which is considered ‘The Golfer’s Bible’ by many golf writers.
Laidlaw covered The Open for the first time in 1959 and has watched it grow and the game in general, too. “I think that everyone in Europe has benefited from the tremendous working relationship between the golf writers and the various ruling bodies over the past 25 years,” he said.
“Because of the close co-operation, the working conditions for journalists covering golf are superb and that helps us all cover the game to the very best of our ability.”
Few did it with more ability over the years than Renton Laidlaw.