Stephen Gallacher “worked like a lunatic” to get his golf game back into winning shape, according to the man who helped him claim a fourth European Tour title with his victory in the Hero Indian Open.
The 44-year-old’s stunning success in New Delhi, where he bounced back from a quadruple-bogey 8 at the seventh hole in the final round at DLF Golf & Country Club, came just a month after he linked up again with his old coach, Alan McCloskey.
Gallacher worked with the Bothwell Castle-based PGA professional when he became the first player to record back-to-back wins in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2013 and 2014, the latter helping the Lothians player get into the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
They’ve had two spells apart since then, with Gallacher travelling to America at the end of last year to see Sean Foley, who works with Justin Rose and also looked after Tiger Woods’ swing for a spell.
However, it was his recent decision to turn to McCloskey that proved the key as Gallacher shook off some poor results at the start of the 2019 campaign – he’d missed five cuts in six events – to return to winning ways.
“I am absolutely delighted for him,” McCloskey said. “You are 44 years of age and you wonder if it is ever going to come together again. What an amazing story, too, with Jack (Gallacher’s 18-year-old son) caddying.
“I’ve only been involved in Stephen’s game again for a month – it’s as little as that. But we have spent a lot of time together in that period and I’m chuffed to bits that it has come together for him.”
Gallacher has always been regarded as one of the best ball-strikers on the European Tour, but, even as he ended last season with a consistent run of form, he felt something wasn’t quite right.
“It was a technical issue,” said McCloskey. “We have basically worked on his left leg as that wasn’t going into a neutral enough position on the backswing. We have worked like lunatics for the last month on that, which means his left knee is coming in a bit more on the backswing.
“As much as though he’d missed the cut in Malaysia the previous week, he knew himself that it was coming close. He knew that it had been starting to feel good. I’d be telling a lie if I said I knew he was going to win in India. But I did know that he wasn’t far away.”
Gallacher covered the last 11 holes in five-under, finishing birdie-birdie after hitting a brilliant 7-iron approach at the 17th then following a majestic drive down the last with an equally-impressive 4-iron.
“The way he closed it out was amazing,” remarked McCloskey, a former Scottish Coach of the Year and one of the most enthusiastic and infectious individuals in the game. “He’s always had that head for heights. There’s no doubt about that, but, at the same time, he finished phenomenally well on Sunday after making an 8 at the seventh. It was great to see.
“Him and I have parted company twice. Once it was my doing and the other time it was his. But sometimes it just takes a wee thing and before you know it you are back together again working as hard as you can.
“The thing I admire about Stevie is that his work ethic is phenomenal. In fact, it is second to none. His enthusiasm and drive to get his game back to where he wants it to be has never left him.”
Gallacher’s latest win has earned him an exemption until the end of the 2021 season, raising his chances of beating Sam Torrance’s record of the most appearances on the European Tour. Torrance made 706 and Gallacher is now up to 553.
“Two years ago I had a blether with Stephen and I said to him, ‘there are very few people who have got your opportunity to basically outlast everbody else’,” said McCloskey. “When Sam Torrance retired from European Tour events, they said nobody would ever beat him, but Stephen can do that.
“If he goes one more year after the exemption he’s now got and manages to stay injury-free, he’s going to play in more events than anyone ever has on the European Tour. What a phenomenal thing that would be to have on your tombstone.”
McCloskey also coaches David Law, who claimed his European Tour breakthrough with a win in the Vic Open in February, but his modesty forbids him from trying to claim any credit for Scottish golf’s title double on the circuit so far this season.
“Amazing and I am delighted for both of them,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s down to what the golfer brings himself. It’s not down to a coach, really, as they bring the lion’s share to the table.
“I salute them when they have success because they deserve it. It is their success. If it was that easy, I’d have made myself a golfer and that is the God’s honest truth.”