A memorial bench has been installed to honour a St Andrews “gentle giant” who set up a charity to motivate and inspire traumatised military veterans through golf trips to Scotland.
The Graham Proctor memorial bench has been installed beside the fifth tee of the New Course at St Andrews Links and is getting attention from everyone playing the hole, which Graham aced in one of his last ever rounds of golf.
The former RAF Leuchars weather forecaster, who brought 150 ill and injured veterans from the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA to St Andrews after launching St Andrews Legacy, passed away from complications associated with Motor Neurone Disease in May 2020. He was just 54.
Graham, who ran a guest house on North Street, was diagnosed with MND in 2019 but had been visibly suffering with it for some time before that.
Magic of St Andrews
St Andrews Legacy was set up by Graham in July 2013 to use the “magic of St Andrews” and the game of golf to motivate and inspire ill and injured veterans to improve health, well-being and stability.
It recognised the positive impact of golf on improving the mental and physical wellbeing of those taking part in the programme which included the opportunity to spend time playing golf in St Andrews – the Home of Golf – as well as elsewhere in Scotland including Machrihanish Golf Club.
John Stewart, a director of another St Andrews golfing charity New Links, who also worked with Graham on the St Andrews Legacy initiative, explained that veterans who took part in St Andrews Legacy had rallied to pay for the bench.
John said: “It is really a testament to Graham’s vision and dedication that this has happened in the way it did, with participants in the St Andrews Legacy programme he founded donating the funds to have this memorial installed at St Andrews Links.
“In fact they got it over the line in only 36 hours after I had posted a notice on Facebook.
“St Andrews Legacy has an international character, having worked with men and women from not only the UK but also the USA, Canada and Australia.
“But at its heart is an attempt to reach out and share the natural calm and peacefulness of our unique landscape.
“Anyone who pauses for a moment to look around from this bench will have an opportunity to experience that too.”
Vietnam veteran tribute
Friends and military veterans across the world took to social media to again pay tribute to Graham after the bench was installed.
Double amputee Vietnam War veteran Jim Martinson lost his legs after a landmine explosion on a Vietnam battlefield in 1968.
In June 2014, two years before he was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, he joined a group of severely wounded and disabled war veterans from America who teed off on the Old Course thanks to St Andrews Legacy.
Commenting on the unveiling of the memorial bench, Mr Martinson said: “I think about Graham often and how he made it possible for me to play golf at St Andrews. It was the best golf experience of my life, especially with him on the 18th. Tom Watson watching.”
American professional golfer Renee Powell played on the US-based LPGA tour and is currently head professional at her family’s Clearview Golf Club in Ohio.
The PGA America Hall of Fame member, who became the first woman golfer to receive an honorary degree from St Andrews University in 2008, and was nominated for honorary membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 2015 said Graham was “truly missed”.
She said: “Graham was such a great friend to me as he gave my women veterans the trip of a lifetime to the Home of Golf.
“It was his first time offering women veterans such an opportunity and his last trip with veterans. He came to my PGA Hall of Fame induction and was just a wonderful friend to all. I think Graham would have loved this!”
Another veteran who took part in St Andrews Legacy, said: “That is such a lovely tribute for such a great guy. That was one of the best weeks for me as it helped me realise that I had possible PTSD issues.
“I have since been diagnosed and having treatment and am in a much better place.
“The group that were there with me were absolutely a great bunch.”
In 2019, Graham Proctor’s work was honoured by an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons – laid down by former NE Fife MP Stephen Gethins who was a founder member and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Golf at Westminster.
St Andrews Legacy has been credited for helping to inspire Caddie School for Soldiers which has run at St Andrews for the past two years – providing military personnel wounded in active service with the opportunity to train to become full time caddies.
Graham was survived by his wife Marion and children Heather and Greg.