The BBC’s ‘voice of golf’ Peter Alliss has told how his friendship with the late Sir Sean Connery blossomed over the fairways of Gleneagles.
The legendary commentator gave Sir Sean some tips to look the part before a golf scene in Goldfinger in 1964 and little did the two of them know that it was just the start of the James Bond star’s life-long love affair with the game.
Alliss also hosted 140 episodes of the popular BBC series Pro-Celebrity Golf between 1974 and 1988 and Sir Sean was among the celebrities who took part and he partnered some of the top players in the game.
Alliss said Sir Sean was a “dear friend” and a “good companion” who “thought going to Gleneagles was fantastic”.
“As a young man he used to dream of going to Gleneagles and there he was,” said Alliss.
“When we played at Gleneagles he used to stay on because he loved the place.
“He enjoyed playing well-known courses and many of the people who played golf became his great friends.
“I got to know him on the fairways of Gleneagles and I remember he had just started the Scottish International Education Trust.
“I asked him to tell me about the charity and he suddenly stopped and said: ‘Peter, I’m no good without a script, give me a script and I’ll do it for you’.
“For a long period of time, words did not flow from him easily.
“He was quite self-conscious but he liked his whisky and he liked men’s conversations and he enjoyed the ambience of golf.
“He was very proud to be a member of the R&A and when he was playing golf he was happy.”
Born in Leith to a working class family, Sir Sean was both a body-builder and model before turning his hand to acting.
Alliss said he first met him in 1963 when he came down to Parkstone Golf Club near Bournemouth where Alliss was the club pro.
“He was just starting out and I gave him a few tips which were silly things really – how to look like you know how to putt; how to pick up a bag of clubs; how to carry your clubs; how to tee a ball up; and how to put a flag back in the hole,” said Alliss.
“He was very inexperienced in these things and the tips I gave him didn’t hurt him when he played golf in Goldfinger.
“We got on very well and we remained friends for almost 60 years.”
In the film, Bond and Goldfinger face off at Stoke Poges Golf Club in Stoke Poges, a village in Buckinghamshire.
After catching Goldfinger cheating, Bond switches balls on his opponent during the match.
Realising that Bond is attempting to interfere in his affairs, Goldfinger motions to Oddjob, his deadly Korean manservant and caddie, to sever the head of a nearby statue with his steel-rimmed bowler.
Alliss said Sir Sean loved golf but was never as good at the game as he would have liked.
“Strangely enough he had so much rhythm when he walked but he didn’t have a great deal of rhythm when he played golf,” he said.
“When I hosted the pro-celebrity golf events in the 1970s and 1980s I got to know him very well.
“I’ve been very interested to read the reports of his life since he died but I knew a very different Sean Connery from the one which has been portrayed.
“He was handsome, 14 stone of muscle, a good looking man and very sophisticated, but he wasn’t really like that in the early days.
“He grew into it through his own efforts.
“He was conscious of his roots but he wanted to learn.
“He was a very ordinary person who was projected into this world of sophistication and romance and he played it wonderfully.
“He did his job remarkably well and he will be there forever on film.
“He was a very interesting character and I shall miss him.”
Golden Bear tribute to “truly special” friend
Eighteen-time major champion Jack Nicklaus played with Sir Sean in Courier Country several times and described the Bond legend as “just the best”.
“The world has lost a wonderful actor, a wonderful man, and someone truly special in our family’s world,” said Nicklaus.
“I have known Sean Connery for close to 50 of his 90 years.
“He loved the game of golf – Sean was a pretty darn good golfer – and we played together several times.
“Sean was an original member of Muirfield Village Golf Club, when we opened in 1974, and I believe he was an original member of the Memorial Tournament’s Captains’ Club.
“In May of 1993, Sean and legendary driver Jackie Stewart helped me open our design of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland.
“We even did a TV match, playing with hickory-shafted clubs on the Old Course at St Andrews with Glen Campbell and Ben Crenshaw.
“The game of golf allowed our lives to intersect often, and through that, we became good friends.”
Life and times of a movie legend
Born Thomas Sean Connery in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge area on August 25 1930, the actor left school at an early age and took his first job as a milkman.
At 16 he enlisted in the Royal Navy but was discharged three years later on medical grounds after suffering a stomach ulcer.
His first major step into acting came in 1957 when he secured a role in the British gangster film No Road Back.
However, it was his casting as Ian Fleming’s fictional British secret agent James Bond in 1962’s Dr No that catapulted him to stardom.
Sir Sean was initially reluctant to commit to a film series but filled the role until 1967’s You Only Live Twice, when he quit after becoming tired by the repetitive plots.
He was enticed back after his successor George Lazenby failed to impress fans and critics.
In the 1980s, his career was revived with The Untouchables, where his performance as an Irish policeman won him an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
Sir Sean’s five-decade career saw him win an Oscar, two Baftas and three Golden Globes.
His other notable films include Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Highlander and The Hunt For Red October.
He was on a number of occasions voted by fans as the best actor to have played 007 in the long-running franchise, beating Craig and Sir Roger Moore.
He was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to film drama.
In August, he celebrated his 90th birthday.