Those of you who loyally, or even unintentionally, flick to these back page haverings on a regular basis will know that I tend to overplay the physical and mental exertion that goes into its construction. 

I mean, it’s only 850-odd words clattered out on a laptop. It’s not as if I’m recreating the Bayeux Tapestry with a blunt needle.

Yesterday, though, the usual process of winkling out these weekly wafflings was particularly burdensome. The sad passing at the weekend of our dear friend and colleague, Jock MacVicar, ensured that would be the case. The routine just won’t be the same.

Jock was such a creature of habit, his activities should have been documented by a whispering David Attenborough commentary. Monday mornings tended to start with a phone call between the pair of us during which we would ruminate over events of the golfing weekend. “Well, this thing won’t write itself,” was his way of saying it was time to stop blethering and get on with it.

As I sat with him in the solemn, silent and reflective watches of his final moments in hospital on Saturday night, I swear I could still hear that well-worn grumble, “God knows what we’ll do for a column?”

Jock’s own column had been around longer than Nelson’s. He was the Scottish Daily Express’s redoubtable Voice of Golf. But his was a voice that resonated far beyond the newspaper he had served so devotedly for “thousands of years.”

The torrent of tributes that have flooded in over the last couple of days from across the golfing spectrum underlined his standing, not just as a writer and journalist but as a man. Jock, no doubt, would’ve rolled his eyes at all the fuss. But he would’ve been quietly proud.

Golf was his life and retirement was never an option. Back in 2005, when Jack Nicklaus had his sun-soaked swansong at The Open in St Andrews, Jock hinted that it may be a good time for him to bow out too. 

Here in 2021, at the age of 83, he was still working until the very end. Physical compromises in recent years should, perhaps, have hastened a step back but Jock possessed a sheer bloody-mindedness that sustained his defiance. He lived his life the way he wanted to and nobody was going to tell him otherwise.

It was a good life too. The golf writing beat is not a bad old gig. In a well-travelled career spanning some 60 years, Jock seen it, done it and got so many free, officially branded polo shirts, he only got round to wearing one from the 1989 Benson & Hedges Open a couple of seasons ago.

Everybody in golf seemed to know Jock. A meander out on the course in his company at a tournament would invariably lead to somebody approaching and saying “great to see you, Jock” before embarking on a prolonged chin-wag. When the farewell pleasantries were exchanged, Jock would turn and say, “now, who the hell was that?”

In many ways, Jock was a father figure to me. Professionally, he took me under his wing as I first started off in the business some 21 years ago.

Socially, meanwhile, he was wonderful, welcoming company and always had an appreciation of life’s subtle nuances and absurdities. 

The mutual phrase, “right, we’re having yin for the stairs” at the bar would inevitably lead to much bleary-eyed, tut-tutting regret the next day about the over-indulgence. He never learned. But none of us in the effervescent and tight-knit golf writing family ever did either.

Sitting next to Jock in a media centre on a particularly uninspiring day, the mind perhaps slightly addled by the previous night’s excesses, was always a lesson in stoic endeavour and hardy resolve which was forged during his National Service with, what he called, “the Argyll & Suffering Highlanders.”

Amid the sound of his laptop keys being gently tapped and an occasional, weary sigh, Jock’s withering assessment that “this piece is absolutely desperate” would punctuate the quiet industry. 

It wouldn’t be desperate at all, of course. A Jock article always hit the spot even if, in his self-deprecating way, he’d say “it’s certainly not a Pulitzer Prize winner.”

The prize on offer this week, meanwhile, is the green jacket at The Masters. Our focus should be on the multiple storylines brewing at Augusta as the opening men’s major of the season swings into action.

Can Dustin Johnson become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to claim back-to-back titles? Will Jordan Spieth’s Texas Open win provide a springboard for another Masters moment? Can Bryson DeChambeau gain revenge on Augusta after it humbled him in November? Could Rory McIlroy’s assault on the career grand slam benefit from flying under the radar this week? And will Robert MacIntyre, a son of Argyll like Jock, flourish on his Masters debut?

These are some of the themes and plots that Jock would be eagerly poring over as we build up to this traditional golfing rite of spring. 

And when it’s over, I’ll probably still expect a phone call on Monday about the bloomin’ column. It won’t come, of course. Jock has gone but his memory will be cherished by all those who savoured his presence.