When Colin Gillies declared his intention to retire from competitive golf at the end of last season, it would be fair to assume that his fellow Tartan Tour campaigners didn't rush out and buy him a commemorative carriage clock to mark the occasion.
"I told them that was it and I think most of the guys said 'aye, very good, Colin, we'll see you in the spring'," recalled the domestic circuit's all-time leading money-winner. A year down the line and Gillies has remained true to his word. "Obviously, when I didn't tee-up in the spring they realised I was perhaps half-serious," he added with a chortle, as the Frank Sinatra-style comeback predicted by his peers failed to materialise.
A lowly tie for 33rd in the Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles in October 2011 was not the kind of final curtain call Gillies would've liked at the end of a distinguished playing career but the Falkirk man, who had been plagued by a variety of niggling injuries which prompted his decision to call it quits, was more than happy to walk away from the main stage.
Loading article content
At 46, Gillies is hardly ready for pottering about the garden or playing dominoes at the day centre and, with a busy schedule of coaching and custom-fitting at the Kingsfield Golf Centre near Linlithgow, the two-time Scottish PGA champion is relishing his new lease of sporting life. After 25 years regularly competing at the sharp end of the Tartan Tour, a productive period that was illuminated by 123 wins and the achievement of becoming the first – and probably the last – player to break the £½m barrier in career earnings on the Scottish scene, you could forgive Gillies if he had found the transition tough.
"I have to be honest and say I've not missed playing at all," admitted the former Wentworth assistant, who is also helping to nurture the young talent involved with the Stephen Gallacher Foundation at its Kingsfield base. "I played a couple of corporate events at Gleneagles and Skibo Castle but those didn't get the juices flowing again. But golf is a business and if it's not working you have to do something else. As far as everyday life is concerned, I have no difficulties [with the injuries] but I was trying to adapt my game to suit the aches and pains and you know then it has to stop. There are some mornings I wake up and have a smile at myself because I'm going to work at Kingsfield instead of trying to get round a golf course."
The Tartan Tour served Gillies very well during the relative boom times for the circuit and, while the lure of the European Tour was always present in his earlier years, the former domestic No.1 remained a loyal soldier on the home front. "I did have cards for the European Tour but I made the decision not to do it," said Gillies, who played in three Open Championships. "It would've been a risk. Once that decision had been made at the time, I started to play well on the Tartan Tour and the success opened a few doors for me in terms of sponsorship and equipment deals. You also got invitations to the odd big event that gave you the real buzz.
I don't have any regrets about my career and I certainly don't regret the decision to retire. I'm sure I've made the right move."