reports from Sunningdale
If Sam Torrance does not qualify on merit for the Ryder Cup in the autumn, Bernard Gallacher is going to be left with an agonising choice. Gallacher, the non-playing captain, completes the team of 12 with two selections for the match against the United States and after an extraordinary collapse yesterday he may well think he owes Torrance a favour.
The Scottish veterans, who between them have played in 15 Ryder Cups, thought they had seen everything. Three up with three holes to play in the third round of the Sunningdale Foursomes, they were looking forward to a hot toddy in the clubhouse when Robert Goldie, a 30-year-old amateur, holed a seven-iron from 165 yards. The result was an eagle two on one of the hardest holes on the Old Course. "I was thinking that it was simply a matter of time before we lost," Goldie, a car upholsterer, said.
Don't talk to Gallacher about Ryder Cup pressure. The Sunningdale Foursomes exerted its own form of torture. Still dormie two, the 46-year-old Gallacher missed a putt of a couple of feet at the 17th and they lost that hole as well. In the setting sun they went down the 18th: one up with one to play and the nightmare was just beginning.
In the first round the Scots had made a hash of the 18th before going through at the first extra hole. Yesterday Gallacher's drive found the light rough on the right and he persuaded his partner to use a longer iron than he intended. Torrance's approach bounded through the green and the ball came to rest near the foot of the old oak, a tree which serves as Sunningdale's symbol.
Meanwhile, Goldie's approach found a bunker on the left. Gallacher, about 20 yards from the flag, elected to putt and duffed it way short; from the sand, Richard Walker, Goldie's Wearside partner, put it 15 feet past. Torrance, still off the green, putted four feet beyond the hole. Goldie missed his putt for a four which left Gallacher with the responsibility of winning the match. He missed. The Scots had taken four putts from the shadow of the oak. All square.
They went down the first again, Goldie played a magnificent chip to within about four feet of the flag. Torrance, just short of the green, left his chip about five feet below the hole and Gallacher's putt for a four lipped out. It was left to Walker to apply the coup de grce. "That's one to tell the grandchildren about," the 22-year-old Geordie professional said. He and Goldie had received only one shot, at the 12th, which they badly squandered to go two down.
Perhaps the name of Gallacher - he and Pat Garner were beaten in the final of the competition by Torrance and John O'Leary at the seventh extra hole 10 years ago - was not meant to be inscribed on the honours board. In the draw sheet this week it has been spelt Gallagher. In the morning over the New Course the dream team enjoyed a painless victory in the second round, putting out the women professionals Cathy Panton-Lewis and Susan Moon six and five.
Since Dale Reid and Corinne Dibnah won the title in crushing style in 1990, the fair sex have seen their handicap allowance cut. "We keep telling them but they won't listen," Ms Moon complained. "It was just too long for us."
The women have to play off the same tees as the men and on some holes they were struggling to reach the fairways. Still, Helen Wadsworth and Sue Hodge were not complaining after reaching the last 16.
For Torrance, whose driving and putting had set him apart here, it was an unexpectedly early demise. In 1971, aged 17, he was the assistant professional at Sunningdale. A resident of Wentworth, he enjoys the courtesy of the courses here although, with the exception of the Sunningdale Foursomes, he is not allowed to invite guests. He enjoys the ambience of a club that likes a wager or two although when Torrance and Gallacher stood on the 16th tee yesterday afternoon nobody in their right mind would have bet against them.
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