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Stephen Gallacher takes seat at table for family dinner

Did you know that Sir James Young Simpson, the fella who discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform, hailed from Bathgate?

The 1969 British Ryder Cup golf team, left to right: Brian Huggett, Maurice Bembridge, Alex Caygill, Christy O'Connor, Brian Barnes, Bernard Hunt, Eric Brown (non-playing captain),  Peter Alliss, Peter Butler, Tony Jacklin, Neil Coles, Peter Townsend and Bernard Gallacher. Picture: Getty Images
The 1969 British Ryder Cup golf team, left to right: Brian Huggett, Maurice Bembridge, Alex Caygill, Christy O'Connor, Brian Barnes, Bernard Hunt, Eric Brown (non-playing captain), Peter Alliss, Peter Butler, Tony Jacklin, Neil Coles, Peter Townsend and Bernard Gallacher. Picture: Getty Images

Of course, you did. We can only wonder if Stephen Gallacher did, though. He was probably skiving school the day they taught that particular bit of medicinal history.

"I used to go to school in the morning and my mate would bring my bag home in the afternoon . . . I'd be on the ninth by then," reflected Bathgate's latest Ryder Cup recruit. Golf is in his blood, of course. "Well I was never going to be a brain surgeon was I?" he added with a smile as he continued his laid-back amble down memory lane at the club where his love for this ancient game was forged and has subsequently flourished.

"My teachers used to look out the window and if it was sunny they'd just say 'ah, he'll not be here'. My PE teacher was club captain here and when I was supposed to be in his Higher PE class he used to let me go and play golf instead. Golf is something that I'm trying to get into the schools through my Foundation . . . but we're doing it legally now. I keep saying to the kids whenever they come down 'is this not better than school?'"

Gallacher's golfing education has taken him to the top of the class. The 39-year-old was blethering away the day after he was officially unveiled as one of Paul McGinley's three wild cards for this month's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and there was no better place for him to be holding court than at Bathgate. The finger buffet that was laid on was an added bonus for the golf writers. We'll need plenty of sustenance in the energy-sapping build-up to the biennial battle, after all. It remains almost astonishing to think that this good, honest, unassuming club in a corner of an old mining town has now spawned three Ryder Cup players. Two of them - the celebrated duo of Gallacher's uncle Bernard and Eric Brown - would also go on to be team captains. Every nook and cranny of the clubhouse is adorned with reminders of a glorious Ryder Cup past. Gallacher is now part of its glorious present. In a golfing sense, it is here that the sense of tradition, of belonging and of family is at its most strongest for the Scot.

"There are a few pictures of me kicking about," said Gallacher, whose elevation to Ryder Cup player may just require him to pose for an updated oil painting to hang alongside the one of him holding the Dubai Desert Classic spoils. "Bernard's picture has been up since 1977 and, [for] as long as I've been a member here, Eric Brown has been up there. To be part of the history of the club is massive.

"When we were playing as juniors, we were thinking about the Ryder Cup; the Ryder Cup is the big thing at this club. Maybe at Deeside it'll be the Open, because of Paul Lawrie. Your club gets associated with its best accolade. That's what it is here.

"I think I started golf when I was about two. My dad put my name down to join about 10 minutes after I was born. When he knew it was a boy, he came straight here and put the form in. That's what it's like here. My granddad was a member, my gran's brother was a former captain, my dad's been a captain and club champion, Bernard was obviously here and now my son plays here too."

The family ties remain. In the extended family of golf, however, a sizeable link was sadly severed in July when Gallacher's long-serving coach, Bob Torrance, succumbed to the ravages of cancer.

"The last time I was down to see him, sadly just two weeks before he passed away, Bob was sitting in his chair and he said 'you know, one of the happiest things in my life will be if you get in the Ryder Cup'," reflected Gallacher. "He really meant it. He knew it's been a big thing for me for such a long time. He'd been a big influence on me and on Paul McGinley. I know he is gutted that Bob is not going to be there to watch him be captain.

"Last year, Paul told him 'Bob, there are only two penthouses at Gleneagles and you're in one of them'. So he was close to Paul and especially with Sam being there, too, as a vice-captain, it will be an emotional week for the three of us. When I found out I was in the Ryder Cup team, I phoned June Torrance [Bob's widow]. Sam phoned me and said 'you're in, but don't tell anybody' . . . but I phoned his mum. Bob was such a big part of my life."

Gallacher's wild-card selection concluded a rollercoaster of a year both professionally and personally. There was the on-course pressure of attempting to seal a European berth and the off-course tumult created by the passing of Torrance and the cardiac arrest suffered by his uncle last August. The battling Bernard survived, of course, and will be beetling about the PGA Centenary course when hostilities between Europe and the USA commence in three weeks' time.

"I know he's working for Radio Five Live but he's asked not to do my games," reported Stephen of a tense occasion that will probably lead to the entire Gallacher family requiring major manicure work on nervously nibbled fingernails in the event's aftermath.

"The Ryder Cup is an outrageously big deal. It has grown and escalated into something amazing. And you know what? I feel ready. There would maybe have been years gone by when I wouldn't feel ready for it. But I feel ready for the challenge now."

This school-skipping Bathgate boy, who would bounce up to the clubhouse bar as a nipper and order a "half-pint of cola, a Mars bar and a chip roll" is now dining at golf's top table.

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