Stephen Gallacher has had “the full range of joy” at Dubai but he doesn’t dwell on his back-to-back wins as he goes again in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Scot, approaching 600 tour appearances, won the prestigious tournament in 2013 and 2014 and has been coming since “there was just a course and a Hard Rock Café” among the sand dunes back in the late 1990s.
Familiarity breeds success
“I think when you get an event in a fixed place and you go back there year after year, you get some familiarity,” he said.
“I think there is only Wentworth and a couple other places that don’t change year after year. I was just reminiscing the other day about when they had the 25th anniversary of this event (in 2014).
“We had every single winner there apart from Seve Ballesteros, god rest his soul. Think of the fact the group included Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, that shows you what a special event and place this is.
“I played with Tiger and Fred in that tournament and that was a great memory. Of course, with my two wins as well as a couple of holes-in-one. I’ve had the full range of joy here!”
More difficult in years to come
Gallacher is proud of his victories at Emirates Golf Club, but he doesn’t think they mean that much today.
“I don’t think it really means much in the long run,” he said. “The good thing is when you come back here you’ve always got good memories.
“This is a place where I love coming, a place where I’ve done really well every time I’ve played, really. I’ve seen the course evolve, there’s three or four new tees now, so it’s adapting with the times.
“It’s added 350 yards to the whole course. They’re changed the greens up so it’s going to get more difficult in years to come.
“But it’s good to come back to a place you’ve played for a long time. You know where the wind comes from, where to miss it, where the putts break.
“We come on holiday here as well, sit by the pool and I play golf with my son Jack. I’m lucky enough to have a membership here. It just feels like my home course in a lot of ways.”
‘I’m rubbish at anything else’
Gallacher suffered the sudden loss of his father Jim last year, and he admits 2020 was tough.
“I didn’t enjoy last year at all, had a lot of off field stuff going on,” he said. “Now we’re back to the new normal, the bubble.
“It’s great having Jack as caddie and just keeping ourselves occupied. In my latter years that’s been a big thing, having the wee man to put a fresh pair of eyes on it, and we try to make him a few bob as well.
“If you keep yourself fit and don’t mind the travelling, and still hit the ball a distance, you can compete.
“You’ve got to have the desire to win and skills to back it up. I’m rubbish at anything else as well, I wouldn’t be a good joiner or lawyer! I think that’s the key.”
Now at 46, with four tour victories under his belt, he’s focused a lot more on giving back to the game with his Foundation, now eight years old.
“I enjoy giving back, I think everybody should,” he said. “As blessed as much as we are to travel the world doing what is a passion as much as a job.
“I enjoy seeing the kids’ faces when you go and watch them, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow into top golfers as well. A few of them who were there are the outset in 2012 are at university in America. It’s great to see the natural progression and them enjoying it as much as we do.”
The Scottish Tour contingent’s new doyen
Out on tour, he’s now the elder statesman of the Tour’s Scottish crew after the retirement last year of his friend Paul Lawrie from week-to-week competition.
“Now Paul’s retired I have to give all the advice!” he joked. “Those young boys really don’t need any advice, they’re doing what they’re doing, they’re all here on their own merits.
“It’s good to encourage and watch them play, and the more than merrier, really.
“When I came out I had a lot of guys to look up to like Monty, Sam (Torrance), Gordon Brand Jr, (Andrew) Coltart, Paul (Lawrie), Gary Orr, all those guys.
“It comes in cycles, and there’s a great crop of young guys coming through now. It’s great to watch them and I’m sure there’s going to be more victories.”