ON the day it was announced that the European Tour will be rebranded the DP World Tour, the start of a new era was perhaps the perfect time for an elder statesman of the circuit to reflect on what’s gone before. 

Well, once he got himself off the physiotherapist’s table that is. “I’m just getting the bones warmed up,” said Stephen Gallacher. When you are about to make your 600th appearance on the tour, the various cranks, pistons and valves that keep a golfer motoring along need a bit of extra lubrication.

Gallacher will reach a significant milestone at this week’s AVIV Dubai Championship as he joins a select band of sturdy stalwarts in the 600-plus club which includes decorated compatriots like Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie. It’s been a terrific innings. 

“Life goes by quickly,” said the 47-year-old, who has won four European Tour titles and played in a Ryder Cup during a 26-year professional career. “I used to work with Bob Torrance and Sam was obviously the great mainstay with 700 odd events. When you’re younger, you think ‘christ, I’ll never get close to that’. But you plod on and suddenly you’re at 500 events, then 600 creeps up.”

It all started for Gallacher back in 1993 when he made his first tour outing as a talented young amateur in the Scottish Open at Gleneagles. “It gave me a taste of the big time but it made me appreciate the gulf in class,” reflected the nephew of Ryder Cup grandee, Bernard. “I’d won the Scottish Amateur Championship in 1992 and was going to turn pro but uncle Bernard was there to say ‘listen, you’re too young to turn pro so try to win as much as you can as an amateur and then you’ll be ready’. Thankfully I took his advice.”

Gallacher eventually took the pro plunge in 1995. Having gained a solid foothold on the European Tour in 1999, a maiden victory would finally arrive in the 2004 Dunhill Links at St Andrews, just a few months after another special delivery “My daughter was born that year too and in some ways I think that contributed to my win,” he said. “We felt complete as a family, with a boy and a girl, and I had extra drive. I’d played maybe 180 odd events before that win and, like all golfers, you do doubt yourself until you finally do it. That’s what makes the second win special. It took me nearly 10 years to do it but it showed the first wasn’t a fluke.”

In between those successes, Gallacher was floored by a complex and debilitating auto-immune disease during the 2009 campaign. “It took ages to diagnose and that was the biggest worry,” he added. “I had a biopsy on my lymph glands to test for cancer. Thankfully it wasn’t and I was treated with steroids. In any walk of life, you have ups and downs. When you come out of things like that, it makes the successes sweeter. Between 2010 and 2015 was probably my peak, I played my best golf.”

Gallacher’s resurgence took him all the way to a Ryder Cup appearance on home soil at Gleneagles in 2014. He lost both the matches he played in but individual disappointment was tempered by Europe’s commanding, collective glory. “It was possibly the most pressure I’ve experienced in golf,” he admitted. “Yes, I would’ve liked to have played more than twice but I still achieved a lifetime ambition. Not everybody does that.”

Having reached that particular summit, Gallacher struggled to scale the heights again until he took his son, Jack, out on tour with him as his caddie. “It was my dad’s idea to bring Jack on board and he was 100 per cent right,” said Gallacher of the input of his own dad, Jim, who sadly passed away last year. “I needed a change, a freshness. The win we enjoyed together in India in 2019 was my finest achievement. It’s great for me to have Jack with me but it’s testament to my wife and daughter that they allow this to happen. We’re away 25 weeks of the year so you need a strong family foundation at home. I’ll always be grateful to them for that.”

In an unpredictable game of fickle fortunes and meddling golfing gods, Gallacher is grateful too for his competitive longevity. “And I’m not finished yet,” he said.

Happy 600th.