Stephen Gallacher won’t skip his finals day because of Ryder Cup

Stephen Gallagherpictured with Nathan Burns (11) from Bathgate. Scott Knowles, below
Stephen Gallagherpictured with Nathan Burns (11) from Bathgate. Scott Knowles, below
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Stephen Gallacher may have a Ryder Cup on the horizon but he’ll doing his bit for grass-roots golf before teeing up for Europe at Gleneagles.

Now in its third year, Gallacher’s Foundation is going from strength to strength, giving youngsters in the Lothians their first taste of competitive golf as well as providing free expert tuition.

Next Saturday, at Kingsfield Golf Centre on the outskirts of Linlithgow, it’s the Stephen Gallacher Foundation Finals Day and the man himself will be right in the thick of things.

“Stephen doesn’t turn up at events and sit about – far from it,” said the Foundation manager, Scott Knowles. “He does the starting and all sorts of other things during the day.

“He’s willing to give things back to golf and he knows how important it is for juniors to be encouraged. When he comes to events – and he gets to as many as he possibly can – he loves it.

“You could imagine some people in the same position as him maybe finding that a chore and feeling it was a sense of duty. Not Stephen, though. He does it for the love of the game and because he’s giving youngsters a chance in golf.”

Gallacher’s own son, Jack, is among them and he won the Linlithgow junior championship this year as well as one of the divisions at Bathgate.

“Jack’s game has come on leaps and bounds and it’s the same with all the other kids,” added Knowles. “The difference to where they are now from three years ago is phenomenal. They are also learning to love the game.”

Gallacher’s selection by European captain Paul McGinley for Scotland’s first Ryder Cup in more than 40 years is set to create a real buzz at the Kingsfield event. “The kids are going to be as a high as a kite on Finals Day,” admitted Knowles. “Since Stephen earned his wildcard, there’s been a flood of congratulations from kids and families on Facebook and also through emails.”

Gallacher, of course, came through the Lothians ranks himself before going on to win a host of national titles, including the Scottish Amateur in 1992. And, though he’ll be joining forces with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia at Gleneagles, there’s a fair chance he’ll be out on a course in the Lothians before then with the guys he played with back in the day, one of them being his Foundation manager.

“I remember playing with Stephen when he was 16,” recalled Knowles, a former Scottish Golfer of the Year. “It was at Kingsknowe in a practice round for the Scottish Boys Area Team Championship along with Darren Summers and Mike Robson.

“I’ve seen his golf career grow and grow since then and the great thing about him is that he has never changed a bit towards people. He’ll never walk by anyone. He will always stop to speak.

“The Gallacher name is well known in golf, of course, but you have to have the game to go with that. From that first time I played with him, I could see he was a special player.

“You could tell from the outset that was the case and all the way through his career he’s proved that, capping it now with his Ryder Cup selection.”

McGinley admitted Gallacher, the only Scot in his 12-man team, had secured the wildcard after coming home in 30 in the second round of the Italian Open then closing with a 65 to just miss out on automatic qualification by finishing third instead of in the top two.

However, it was enough to convince McGinley.

“The manner he earned the wildcard was phenomenal,” said Knowles. “Everyone was so proud of the way he played out in Italy.

“The back nine on the Friday was sensational and from that point on I was confident he’d be in the team.

“I’ve been privileged to see him come through the ranks in the Lothians then go on to the international stage, playing with him in the same Scotland team at Prestwick.

“I’ve also watched him grow as a person and there’s no better person to have a Foundation in the Lothians than Stephen.”