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Hard Work, Soft Touch

The death last week of Bob Torrance, the coach and father of Sam, took me back to the first time I interviewed him, at his home in Largs, south of Glasgow. Talking golf was what Bob loved, a pastime exceeded only by teaching it, and for hour after hour he answered my questions in a guttural Scottish growl that would frighten a bear.
The gist of what he was saying was about the intricacies of the golf swing, about Ben Hogan, his hero, and how the swing started with the lower body. One of Torrance’s most famous aphorisms was: “It’s all about the legs. It’s no good having arms like Popeye if you’ve got legs like Olive Oyl.”
Another, which was meant to encourage pupils who swung the club too quickly, was: “Slow down. The train doesn’t leave until half past 6.”
But on this day in Largs he also spoke about the importance of hard work. He had grafted for all that he had and it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort that he never really made it as a tournament professional.
When he was younger and head pro and greenkeeper at a course in England, he would get up soon after dawn, and hit balls for an hour or two before breakfast. The day would be spent pursuing his club duties of teaching members and cutting the fairways and greens. There would be a lunch interlude during which he would practise some more.
After his day’s work was done, he would return to the practice ground in the evening for more punishment. Bob Torrance may not have christened the practice ground “Heartbreak Hill” but he certainly understood why it was so named.


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