Amazing to think Stephen Gallacher is making his 600th European Tour appearance this week in the AVIV Dubai Championship. The Bathgate native becomes the fourth Scot, and just the 14th European Tour player, to break the 600 barrier (see table below listing players and tournaments played).
It’s an important milestone, especially when you consider Gallacher began his career in the shadow of another Scot apparently destined for greatness.
Although Gallacher turned professional with a glittering amateur record that included Scottish Amateur and Lytham Trophy wins, and helped Great Britain & Ireland win the 1995 Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl over a United States team featuring Tiger Woods, a countryman towered over him – literally.
Back in 1995, when Gallacher turned professional, most of the talk, most of the headlines, in Scottish golf surrounded Gordon Sherry. The six foot, seven inch Ayrshire native had won the Amateur Championship that year, and played on the same victorious GB&I Walker Cup team as Gallacher. Sherry also finished fourth in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie. He played a practice round with Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Watson at St Andrews the following week in preparation for the Open Championship. Those three legends tripped over themselves looking for superlatives to describe Sherry’s talent.
The above exploits saw Sherry’s name and image splashed over every media outlet that covered golf, and some that didn’t. I hold my hand up as one of those who lined up to interview Sherry. I’d seen him play in the Amateur Championship, watched him help GB&I win the Walker Cup, play in that Scottish Open and Open Championship. I’d written extensively on him and, like everyone else, was convinced he was the real deal, Scotland’s next superstar.
Yet Sherry’s name goes down as one of the “can’t miss kids” who missed big time. He never gained a foothold on the European Tour, playing only 30 times and earning just €46,742.60. It’s a sad tale that’s been told many times.
Sherry’s struggles were perhaps to Gallacher’s benefit. As nephew of 10–time European Tour winner, eight-time Ryder Cup player and three-time captain Bernard Gallacher, young Stephen would normally have received a lot of media attention. He got his fair share, but not nearly as much as his Walker Cup teammate.
Gallacher also had his early struggles early on, but he came through them to fulfil the promise he showed as an amateur. He made four trips to the European Tour Qualifying School before finding a permanent home in 1999 when he finished 101st on the money list. He’s built a career that’s seen him win eight European Tour titles, play in the 2014 Ryder Cup match at Gleneagles, and earn just short of €11.5 million. Not bad for his previous 599 tournaments, and he’s not finished yet.
“Obviously I’m very proud to reach this number,” Gallacher said. “It’s one of those ones that creeps up on you. When I reached 500, that was pretty good to do and there have been a lot of guys that have done it, but 600 is a bit more special. Here’s to 700 now!"
Yet Gallacher, like fellow 600 member Paul Lawrie, has been busy off the course too. Like 1999 Champion Golf of the Year Lawrie, Gallacher has his own eponymous foundation to help give Scottish kids a start in the game.
“I think it’s important to give back to the game, especially coming from the Home of Golf, and we’re such a small country. It’s great to see that golf is blooming in Scotland now. “I’ve been doing my Foundation for almost ten years and we don’t do it just to see people come on tour - it’s more about participation levels - but it’s nice to see players who have played in your own events and then come through to the European Tour. It’s in great health now, golf in Scotland, and it’s great to see.”
And so say Scottish golf fans. Here’s hoping Stevie G makes it to 700. He's earned the plaudits. He belongs in the 600 club.
The European Tour Trojans
Miguel Ángel Jiménez 715
Sam Torrance 706
Barry Lane 693
David Howell 683
Raphaël Jacquelin 662
Søren Kjeldsen 639
Robert Karlsson 632
Colin Montgomerie 628
Paul Lawrie 620
Roger Chapman 618
Eamonn Darcy 612
Malcolm Mackenzie 602
Peter Baker 600
#JustSaying: “Stephen’s record since making his European Tour debut as an amateur at the 1993 Scottish Open is truly remarkable.” European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour.