Bernard Gallacher: "I threw Dave Stockton's Christmas card in the fire"

1991 Celebrations

With anticipation building towards next week’s Ryder Cup, Bernard Gallacher has revealed the full extent of the “unfriendly” and “political” behaviour that overshadowed the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. 

Gallacher took charge of the European side for the first time that year, succeeding Tony Jacklin who had presided over the team for the four previous editions of the match.

After losing his first match at the helm in 1983, Jacklin led golfers from this side of the Atlantic to a first win in the match in 28 years in 1985, before presiding over a first-ever victory on American soil in 1987. A tied match at The Belfry in 1989 saw Europe retain the trophy, and left the United States with a major score to settle under Dave Stockton’s leadership at Kiawah Island in 1991.

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The match, which the US ultimately won 14½-13½, has subsequently been nicknamed the ‘War on the Shore’ as a result of the hostility between the two sides and, in an interview with golf insurance specialists Golf Care, Gallacher admitted he has ‘vivid’ recollections of the week.  

Bernard Gallacher 1991

“The Americans were desperate to win it back as they hadn’t won it since 1983,” said the Scot. “When we read that the American press in Charleston said, ‘Let the War on the Shore begin’, we knew we were in for a tough time.

“It was the first time I remember the crowd getting so involved to such a degree. They booed when we holed putts and cheered when we missed. The whole atmosphere was very unfriendly and it got very political.

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“During the opening ceremony, President Bush appeared on television saying he was hoping for an American victory, which is something you just don’t say at a Ryder Cup. Vice President Dan Quayle also came to the matches. It was undignified in many ways. We tried to maintain our composure in spite of all this and deal with it as best we could.”

Seve Azinger 1991

There was one particularly contentious moment during the opening match on the opening morning when Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal accused Paul Azinger and Chip Beck of breaking the rules by switching the type of golf ball they were using. Azinger reacted furiously on the tenth tee when Ballesteros, who was three-down at the time, pointed out the breach. The Europeans went on the win that match 2&1.

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That’s to say nothing of the mischief caused by a local radio station.

“A disc jockey had been phoning us at 3am and waking us up,” added Gallacher. “Eventually, we found out a maid who was servicing the player's rooms had sold the phone numbers to the station.”

Gallacher And Stockton

Gallacher revealed that he has “made no effort” to communicate with his opposite number Stockton since that fiery match 27 years ago.

“He sent me a Christmas card featuring a picture of himself and the winning US team, which I threw in the fire,” he said.

“A lot of the American players were upset about their team’s antics that week. A couple of them even wrote to me to say they were sorry and that the tournament hadn’t been played in the manner they’d expect. I don’t want to reveal who those players were out of respect, but they know who they are.”

Bernard Gallacher is a brand ambassador for Golf Care, a specialist insurance provider which covers golfers against common incidents such as injury, equipment theft and property damage.

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