Torrance Feted For A Lifetime Of Achievement

Sam Torrance is an emotional man, one who has shed as many tears as he has holed putts across his 40 years as a professional. Friday night was big on emotion when, in the Scottish Golf Union’s annual dinner at the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award, one which embraced everything from his 21 European Tour wins to the day he out-smarted Curtis Strange to capture the 2002 Ryder Cup.
Torrance, who left school at 13, had no glittering amateur career. In fact, he had no amateur career at all. But his father, Bob, a hard-working green-keeper-cum-professional in Largs, sent him out into the golfing world with something more telling than a good amateur résumé and a wad of cash –a love of the game and a great swing.
Though Sam would often sleep under the counter in his early days as an assistant professional at Sunningdale, he was getting the best of training as he played with members and, more often than not, won their money. In fact, many of them are still congratulating themselves on the way they prepared the teenager for the European Tour.
A work ethic to match that of Padraig Harrington, Bob Torrance’s most famous student, did not come until this eight-times Ryder Cup player was in his 40s and chosen to captain the team of 2002.
With the help of Professor David Purdie, whom he had heard speaking at a Sunningdale dinner, Sam spent two hours every night preparing the speeches he would have to make. “I was terrified at what I had to do but, in pulling it off, I learned something I’d never quite grasped before: The more you put into a thing, the more you get out of it.” On Friday night, his advice to today’s youngsters was that they should work “harder and harder.”
Sam had the better of Strange in the speech-making department at The Belfry no less than with his singles line-up. In connection with the latter, he was influenced by a wise old club captain at Sunningdale who had talked to him two years earlier of how it usually made sense to put your best players out first.
When Colin Montgomerie had his first look at the Sunday line-up, it was a moment or so before he noticed anything other than that he was playing Scott Hoch at the top. Then there was a sudden exclamation as he realised how Torrance’s list was absolutely the other way about to Strange’s. “Hell, Sam,” said Monty, “you’ve done him!”
Which, of course, he had. To this day, the achievement is one which Sam deems “the highlight of my career.”
A man who has enjoyed good company and more than a few drinks along the way, Torrance has always had what it takes to do his own thing. He was the first on tour to use a 7-wood in the days when it was essentially a club for grannies, and he was among the first to follow Orville Moody in using a long putter.
He explains that he used the 7-wood because he hit his 2- and 3-iron too low – and the long putter because he was aware of the beginnings of a twitch.
When you ask if the clubs were a source of amusement to his peers, he says that as far as he was concerned, they were not. “The reason they weren’t,” he continued, “was because I was good with them.”
The same 7-wood and the long putter continue to serve him well in the senior arena where he has won 11 times and still, at 58, has his heart set on winning a senior major.
He is as excited as anyone about this year’s Masters and is convinced that if Rory McIlroy is afforded the same opportunity as applied in 2011, he will seize it. “He will be saying to himself, ‘I ain’t going to mess this one up this time!’ and he won’t.”
He has known McIlroy since he was a 14-year-old lad who came to stay at the family house and play with Torrance’s son, Daniel, who, incidentally, is currently working with his grandfather in a bid to prepare for the European Tour’s Qualifying School.
What makes Sam so sure about McIlroy’s on-going success is something he heard when the player was setting off on the final round of his win at Congressional. “Just as Rory was about to tee off, someone yelled, “Where’s your green jacket, Rory?” For someone of his age to go on to win after that tells you everything you need to know.”
Meanwhile, he thinks that Lee Westwood could win two majors in 2012. “I was commentating when he returned that 62 at Sun City and it was incredible. He was hitting so straight that you couldn’t tell whether his drives were finishing on the right half of the fairway or the left.
“He would have hated it when Rory and Darren got in before him on the business of winning majors and he’s desperate to do something about it.”
Too desperate, perhaps?
“Not at all,” returned Sam. “It’s the challenge Lee’s been waiting for.”


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