Golf has given Gordon Sherry so many memories, he needs all of his 6’ 8” frame to store them in. Whether it was glory-laden amateur dramatics, a hole-in-one in the company of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson or the upstaging of Tiger Woods, Sherry’s well-kent tales are so ingrained in domestic circles they should be chiselled into the stonework of the R&A clubhouse.

With the Amateur Championship returning to Nairn next week, for the first time since Sherry lost in the final there in 1994, it seemed a tenuously opportune moment to catch up with this gentle giant.

Given what he endured earlier this year, though, it was a moment that may never had happened. “I got Covid in January, I recovered but then the cough started and it escalated into pneumonia,” explained Sherry of this distressing development. “I got blood clots on each lung and then the left side of my heart stopped. I was in coronary care for 10 days. I was pretty close to the end.”

As ever with the larger-than-life Sherry, though, there’s a jovial conclusion to even the most traumatic of stories. “I’m still convinced Kilmarnock losing to Hibernian during the time I was ill really tipped me over the edge,” added the long-suffering Rugby Park denizen with a rousing guffaw.

Sherry, mercifully, is in fine fettle again. Back in 1994, he was in terrific golfing fettle too. At just 20, he was rapidly becoming, quite literally, Scotland’s next big thing. His run to the Amateur Championship final at Nairn underlined his standing but a 2&1 defeat to Lee James was a sobering set-back.

“I remember standing on the14th, I was one down at the time and was thinking about the holes coming up,” recalled Sherry. “You are thinking of what is on offer to the winner, the places at The Open and The Masters, and my head was way ahead of where it should have been. Before I knew it, I had three-putted the 17th and had lost 2&1.”

Despite the disappointment of defeat, Sherry would find new desire and determination. With a little help from his mum, of course. “We drove home from Nairn after the final and we were south of Aviemore when my mum said, ‘is it going to be silence all the way back to Kilmarnock?’

“I gave her some kind of student grunt and she said ‘c’mon, focus on the positives and try and do better next year’. My mum didn’t know much about golf but she knew me. By the time I got home I had a different outlook.”

The no-nonsense, inimitable approach of his old coach, the late Bob Torrance, also gave Sherry some fresh, straight-talking impetus. “A month after that defeat, I went to The Open at Turnberry and paid to get in as a spectator,” added the 47-year-old. “Bob dragged me by the scruff of my neck onto the driving range where Lee James was warming up. ‘See that lad there?,’ Bob said. ‘That should have been you, so you just watch him and I hope it hurts’. And it did. I was only a few holes away from winning the Amateur Championship and everything that comes with it. I was thinking then, ‘will I ever get the chance again?’.”

Sherry did, of course. The very next year, he won the Amateur Championship title at Hoylake and earned places in that’s season’s Open and the 1996 Masters. Prior to that Open appearance in 1995, he finished fourth as an amateur in the Scottish Open, 10 shots ahead of a young Master Woods.

Sherry embarked on an eagerly anticipated, heavily publicised professional career in 1996 but it was one of well-documented trials and tribulations. He never managed to replicate the thrilling form of his amateur days and called time on his touring life in 2004. “That period from 1993 to 1995 was probably the best golf I’ve ever played,” said Sherry. “When I stopped in 2004 it was far too early, it was crazy. But I’d fallen out of love with golf.”

In this game of what-ifs and might-have-beens, Sherry doesn’t dwell on the past. After his close call with Covid, he has a new lease of life. “I’m training, I’m golfing and I’ve lost a tonne of weight,” he declared. “I was going to have to buy two seats at Rugby Park to fit me. Watching Killie from one is bad enough.”