Leading amateur golfer and former Walker Cup player

Born: 19 December, 1936;

Died: 29 February, 2020.

THE passing of Gordon Murray, in his 84th year, is a reminder of simpler days, when good players could have a long career at the top end of the game, without having to turn professional and travel around the world.

Murray was one of a number of contemporary players whose name was as familiar to readers of the sports pages as were those of the leading professional golfers of his generation, yet, throughout his long and distinguished career, he was happy to play a mean game, purely for fun – and the many trophies he collected along the way.

He was a true Paisley Buddie, born and raised in Scotland’s largest town; however, he played his golf out of the Fereneze club in nearby Barrhead.

There he developed into a player good enough to represent Renfrewshire, and in time he broke through to the front-line of very good amateurs to the full Scotland side, and, in 1977, to the Great Britain and Ireland team which contested the Walker Cup, at the Shinnecock Hills course in New York state.

To be truthful, that competition, the 26th Walker Cup match, had mixed results for Murray, one of six Scots (if you count Sandy Lyle, who was then representing England), in the team.

He was not selected for the foursomes on the first morning, Friday, which ended with the USA leading 3-1. In the afternoon singles, he was out in the third match, against Scott Simpson, who would go on, as a professional, to win the 1987 US Open.

A nervous Murray made a cardinal error, venturing out with 15 rather than 14 clubs in his bag, a mistake which immediately cost him two holes, but he was overwhelmed by Simpson, who won 7 and 6.

In the Saturday afternoon foursomes, Murray was paired with Yorkshireman Michael Kelley, in the last of the four matches out. This was a much better experience for the Scot, as they beat Fred Ridley and Mike Brannan 4 and 3. However, by then the overall match was all but done, with the USA leading 11-5, on their way to an eventual 16-8 victory.

The mid-seventies were golden years for Gordon Murray. He reached the semi-final of the Scottish Amateur Championship in 1973, at Carnoustie. The following year, at Western Gailes, he won the title, beating Sandy Pirie 2 and 1.

In 1975 at Montrose, he defended his title all the way to the final, but lost 7 and 6 to David Greig. Undaunted, he was back in 1976, to reclaim the title by beating Hugh Stuart 6 and 5 over the Old Course at St Andrew’s.

In addition, Murray also won a further twelve 72-hole Scottish Golf Union stroke-play competitions in the decade between 1973 and 1983.

He was a typically thrawn Buddie, and often fell foul of the high heid yins in the SGU. These brushes with authority cost him at least five or six Scotland caps. It was said the SGU “blazers” could cope with Barclay Howard or Gordon Murray, but not Barclay Howard and Gordon Murray together – the twin enfants terrible from Renfrewshire.

His golfing exploits – he would also later captain the Renfrewshire County team – were a big part of Gordon Murray’s life, but it was not all play and no work.

He was a trained engineer and tool-fitter, spending much of his working life with blue-chip firms such as Pressed Steel at Linwood, then Rolls Royce at Hillington.

Latterly during his working life, however, he was able to combine work and golf, in the employ of club makers John Letters and the Ryder Golf Clubs.

Once, while he and the irrepressible Howard were working for the same company, they developed a piece of waste-ground, next to the M8 motorway, into their personal driving range, which allowed them to hit balls during their lunch hour.

Murray was happily married for many years to Nancy, who sadly pre-deceased him. He is survived by sons Gordon Junior and Gary and their families. He encouraged both his sons to take up golf, and, when captain of Renfrewshire, he selected Gary for the county side.

Ian McCosh, “Mr Renfrewshire Golf,” in paying tribute to Gordon Murray said: “Gordon was rebellious, he was sometimes indiscreet, but, he was one very good golfer, and he was always encouraging of younger golfers coming through. I never knew anyone who used such high tees as he did, and, off them he hit the ball for miles.

“I remember, during one tournament at Ralston, asking Gordon what he had used at one of the holes and he said, ‘a driver and a wee nine iron.’ the rest of us were using a driver and a six iron or less. He was an exceptional striker of the ball.”

Gordon Murray was a definite one-off, a real character during a golden age for amateur golf in Scotland.