Golf: Gallacher U-turn over Ryder Cup captaincy: Jacklin loses out as players and committee back Scot

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BERNARD GALLACHER yesterday accepted an invitation to lead Europe against the United States in the 31st Ryder Cup match at Oak Hill, Rochester, in 1995, thus completing a capital U-turn. The 44-year-old Scotsman, whose Ryder Cup record as captain is played two, lost two, was adamant that whatever the result at The Belfry two months ago he would stand down.

Since Europe's 15-13 defeat, leading players, and the Ryder Cup committee, have been working on Gallacher to change his mind. The committee, which met in the London offices of Moet et Chandon (suppliers of champagne to the European Tour), voted unanimously to re-appoint Gallacher. 'I have decided to carry on because I have the full support of the players and because I believe we can return from Oak Hill with the Cup,' Gallacher said.

His initial judgement was that the captaincy should be a two-term position. In America it is usually one. 'I admit I have been swayed, but for all the right reasons,' Gallacher said. 'I don't like losing, never have. I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't admit that the thought of going out after losing the Cup had a bearing on my decision.

'I want to win it back as much as the players and my resolve has been stiffened since The Belfry. Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer all appealed to me to stay on and others like Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie are delighted. I have changed my mind. This means a lot to me.'

Gallacher, who is a member of the committee, is holidaying in Mauritius and it is clear that the matter was a fait accompli. Ballesteros is the obvious choice for 1997 when Spain hosts the Cup and for the match in America in two years time the list of candidates was not so much short as minuscule. Tony Jacklin, also a member of the committee and also absent, had volunteered, and his cv. is impeccable. They chose to ignore it.

Jacklin was the most successful captain. Narrowly defeated in 1983 (Gallacher's last appearance in the Cup as a player), he had a resounding win at The Belfry in 1985, made history two years later by inflicting on the US their first defeat on home soil and retained the Cup in a tie back at The Belfry in 1989. Jacklin hugged Samuel Ryder's gold trophy and then relinquished the captaincy to Gallacher, who had been his understudy since 1985.

Gallacher lost the Cup at Kiawah Island, South Carolina two years ago, 14 1/2 -13 1/2 , and when Europe, almost lemming-like, were beaten again in September, Jacklin criticised Gallacher's captaincy. In the fourballs on the second day, which Europe lost 3-1, Gallacher allowed Ballesteros and Langer to opt out. That, Jacklin said, was a grave mistake. 'I was very hurt by the criticism,' Gallacher said yesterday. 'I remain convinced I took the right decision.'

I understand that at The Belfry for the last match a number of people in the European camp felt that Jacklin's presence, far from helping the cause, probably undermined Gallacher's influence. Despite Jacklin's success, when he put his name forward in typically flamboyant fashion he did not get the vote of either the committee or the players.

It has not helped that he is currently pursuing a new career in America, attempting to win his golden spurs on the fabulously lucrative US Seniors Tour. He turns 50 next year and has moved from Scotland to Florida.

Faldo, for one, thought that Jacklin could not interplay the role of easy rider with the Ryder Cup captaincy. Gallacher still makes appearances on the regular European Tour. He is in touch with the players and close to the men who pull the strings. He is attached to Wentworth, where his golf shop is within a flick of a sand iron from the HQ of the European Tour.

'He is a man of great integrity who combines balance of sportsmanship with the intensity of competition,' Ken Schofield, the executive director of the Tour, said of his neighbour and fellow Scot. 'I'm sure his appointment will be universally accepted.' The universe is a big place. And in terms of golf it is being dominated by America.

(Photograph omitted)