THOSE of you who have enjoyed a hit about at delightful Erskine Golf Club will no doubt have glimpsed that great, enduring monument of sturdy longevity. And no, we’re not talking about the mighty brig that spans the River Clyde here.

As a fixture that’s as firm as one of the rivets on said crossing, Peter Thomson is synonymous with golf in this particular parish. After 45 years as the head professional, though, it’s time to kick back and enjoy his

retirement. Then again? “I’m just looking at my garden fence and it badly needs painting,” he said with a wry chuckle as he mulled over the humdrum tasks, jobs and chores that await. “I’ve got plenty to do but would I rather be doing those things or would I rather be at the golf club? It’s time to go, though.

“My wife has been retired for a few years now and she’s getting a bit fed up with me going to work. We might even have a social life now on a Friday night instead of me having to be over at the shop at half six in the morning on a Saturday for the start of the medal. A club pro’s job has always been full on.”

Born and bred in Machrihanish, Thomson comes from that well-kent Kintyre golfing dynasty. His father and grandfather were both head professionals in that lovely part of the world while another family member, Hector, was a former Scottish Amateur champion and Walker Cup player who would go on to win the Scottish PGA Championship in 1953, the same year as he played alongside Ben Hogan when the American won The Open at Carnoustie. Golf was in his blood but, instead of watching balls take flight, the young Thomson had ambitions of sending other things hurtling through the air.

“I wanted to be a pilot,” reflected the 69-year-old. “There was a lot of military aircraft flying into Machrihanish in those days, and that captured my imagination and got me interested. I was in the Air Cadets, we did some flying and some aerobatics. I went for air crew selection but never made it. That was that.”

With those wings clipped, Thomson turned to golf as his profession at the age of 19 and served his apprenticeship at Glenbervie under the celebrated John Panton. “I learned a lot just by listening to him,” he said of the revered former Ryder Cup player who was known to all and sundry as Gentleman John.

Thomson took those pearls of wisdom with him to Erskine in 1978 and he remained in harness there for over four decades. While he enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of tournament golf, Thomson knew his competitive limitations. “I could play but I always had the self-doubt,” he conceded. “A lot of the time I was hoping to hit a good shot instead of believing I would. My short game and putting were never up to scratch. I’d be taking 37, 38 putts and you can’t compete like that.”

It was coaching that provided fulfilment. “I learned from my grandfather,” he said of an old-school mantra, far removed from the mind-boggling science of the modern-day techniques. “They wouldn’t believe it now but he said, ‘Throw the clubheid at the ba’ and try to be balanced’. I comically call it the GASP method. Grip, aim, stance and posture. It’s two turns and a swish. If you can get that right, you’ll not be far off.”

A diligent, dependable and devoted professional, Thomson always put affairs at the club first. An opportunity to meet his namesake Peter Thomson, the formidable Australian who won The Open five times, had to be sacrificed at the last minute a number of years ago when he couldn’t get cover for his Erskine pro shop. Even as he underwent treatment for cancer a decade ago, Thomson’s sense of duty was unwavering.

“As long as I could walk, I’d go in,” said the former captain and chairman of The PGA in Scotland.

Thomson has certainly earned his retirement. Even it means he now has to paint that bloomin’ garden fence.