Ryder Cup captains to the fore

The trophy may have been missing, but the presence of two Ryder Cup captains more than made up for it when the Hampshire Professional Golfers' Association held their 55th annual dinner at the Friends Provident St Mary's Stadium, Southampton, on Friday.

Long a resident of the New Forest, John Jacobs, who turns 80 on the 14th of this month, captained the first all-Europe side in 1979 and retained the office in 1981.

Bernard Gallacher, eight times a player, led the side three times and was twice a loser before that dramatic 14-13 victory at Oak Hill Country Club in 1995.

The younger man was obliged to sing for his supper, regaling his 475-strong audience with memories of his quarter-century involvement with golf's premier team event.

He was only 20 when selected in 1969 for the match at Birkdale, when his captain was fiery fellow Scot, Eric Brown, a man "who hated his own team even more than the Americans".

Gallacher was paired with Brian Huggett in the fourballs and instructed not to talk to opponents, Ken Still and Dave Hill, an order which culminated in an unedifying incident when Huggett claimed a hole when the visitors putted out of turn.

The bad atmosphere pervaded the whole tie until a gesture by Jack Nicklaus restored the dignity of the Ryder Cup and set a template for sportsmanship that is still talked about.

"Jack conceded a three-footer to give Tony Jacklin a half at the last hole, and the match was shared 16-16. He told him that he didn't think he'd miss it, but he didn't want to give him the chance. Sam Snead, the American captain, was absolutely furious," recalled Gallacher.

He added: "For me, Nicklaus is the greatest-ever golfer - both on the course and off it. He really is quite special and his record of 18 majors is fantastic. And it was on his suggestion that we brought in the Europeans and saved the Ryder Cup."

GB & I suffered in the Seventies, when the Americans could field such stars as Watson, Weiskopf, Trevino and Miller, as well as Nicklaus himself.

"We were badly beaten at Royal Lytham in 1977, when I drew Jack in the singles. I went to bed early, but didn't sleep a wink. I made him wait on the first tee and went five up when he kept finding bunkers.

"But we were all square by the 17th, where I holed an 85-footer for a winning three. And when we halved the last, I'd beaten the great Jack Nicklaus - and the only reason I tell that story is because I like telling it."

Guy Shoosmith, 2004 HPGA Captain, recapped another year of progress and achievement, with seven championships, 37 pro-ams and prize money topping £130,000.

High points included the 11-under victory of Scott Watson in the Meachers Masters, Jon Barnes's fifth Order of Merit and sudden-death victory in the ERIF (UK) HPGA Match Play and the steady progress of Richard Bland and Matt Blackey, who both retained their Tour cards.

Shoosmith, soon to move from Basingstoke to West Hill, also had warm words for the amateurs, notably Sam Huxby, of Lee-on-the-Solent, for winning England Junior honours.

County veterans Chris Stirling (Meon Valley) and Chris Quinn (South Winchester) annexed the English Seniors Match Play and the Senior Ladies Amateur Championship respectively, while Kerry Smith (Waterlooville) had a vintage year.

She won the England SE crown for the fourth time, the English Ladies' Closed Championship, the English LGA Order of Merit and was a nominee for the Nancy Lopez Award - all of which also earned her the Hants PGA Achievement Award for 2004.

The Tom King Trophy for Outstanding Services to the Hampshire PGA went to Graham Smith, boss of ERIF (UK). And East Horton's David Porter received the Pooles Peugeot Trainees Order of Merit award.

Responding, Mike Lewis, a professional Welshman from Stourbridge, gave a 45-minute master class in the art of after-dinner speaking. The evening was compered by that other orator extraordinary, John Stirling.