Those of you of a certain vintage will be delighted to know that the decorated, celebrated Ian Hutcheon is still playing off scratch. That little update may leave you insanely jealous too. Hutcheon is 81 after all.

With a timeless, elegant swing that remains as smooth as a collection of Nat King Cole’s greatest hits, Hutcheon’s enthusiasm for golf remains undiminished. “I’ll hit balls most days,” reported the Monifieth legend who has held a handicap of scratch or better since the 1960s.

His wife, meanwhile, will back up that statement. “He spends most of his life at the practice range,” she said with a chuckle when this correspondent phoned the Hutcheon residence to be informed that the man of the house was, well, at the practice range.

With the Walker Cup returning to St Andrews this weekend for the first time since 1975, it felt like a pretty opportune moment to give Hutcheon a tinkle. It was in that particular match 48 years ago that he made his debut in the event, the first of four appearances for GB&I in the transatlantic tussle. 

Hutcheon, one of the finest amateurs to emerge from the home of golf, never did taste team success in the Walker Cup. The USA were, and still are, a formidable force.

“It was always a disappointment that a Walker Cup win wasn’t on my cv,” admitted Hutcheon, who has three Scottish Amateur Strokeplay titles and a Scottish Amateur Matchplay crown in a vast haul of honours from a career of mighty longevity. “But to be honest, in those days we never really expected to win.”

That’s not to say Hutcheon didn’t have his own moments to savour. On the final day of that 1975 encounter, which the US would eventually win 15 ½ - 8 ½, the Scot would beat the hugely talented Jerry Pate twice in the foursomes and singles. The following year, Pate, as a rookie professional, won the US Open. It wasn’t a bad scalp. “I chipped in from the edge of the 16th to finish it off,” he said of a 3&2 win. “I’ll cherish that one. Playing in a Walker Cup was always my ambition and to play one almost on my doorstep was very special.”

Hutcheon was 32 when he made his Walker Cup debut. Here in 2023, Blairgowrie’s Connor Graham will make his at just 16. The Scottish young ‘un has already made an impression on Hutcheon. “I followed him at Monifieth when he won the Junior Open last year,” said Hutcheon, who was a true career amateur and combined competitive action with full-time employment as an electrician. “For his age, he’s an unbelievable talent. I’m not surprised he’s in the team.”

Graham is part of a new generation. It’s a different ba’ game to the one Hutcheon thrived in. “The distance they hit it now is immense,” said Hutcheon of the hefty clatters that can travel as far as a package holiday. “In my day, we never talked about distance. 

"A big hitter was a guy who knocked it 20 yards past you. Now they are 60 yards past you. It’s almost embarrassing how far they hit it. I probably hit it as far now as I ever did because of the technology. It’s made me stand still. But younger guys have probably gained 50 yards or more.”

GB&I, under the canny stewardship of Stuart Wilson, have lost the last three Walker Cup meetings but the home comforts of the Old Course could play into their hands. Then again? “It’s probably not as hard and fiery as we would’ve liked so the US will be happy about that,” said Hutcheon as he bemoaned a soggy golfing summer. “At Monifieth, the grass is greener and softer than I can ever remember at this time of year.”

In this golfing battle of fine margins, every detail tends to get pored over with the kind of meticulous analysis you’d get with a CT scan. It wasn’t always the case. “In my day, I wouldn’t say we were that organised,” reflected Hutcheon. “We were almost flung together. Who you were playing with was never really discussed but now a lot more thought goes into the preparation, the pairings, everything. Hopefully they can do it this time. We don’t want the losing streak to go on too long.”

And with that, Hutcheon was off. To the practice range presumably.