In a sport where a lack of genuine characters is so regularly lamented, Bob Torrance was a giant amongst men.
He was far more than just ‘Sam’s dad’. He was a formidable, determined and tireless coach, whose old school methods withstood both the both the test of time and the invasion of gadgetry, gimmickry, and number-crunching.
I only met Bob, pictured above watching Mark O'Meara, a handful of times, most often on the driving range as he shuffled in trademark fashion from one pupil to the next. As such, it would be disrespectful of me to attempt to deliver some kind of poignant, informed eulogy.
Instead, I’d like to share with you my two favourite stories about him. You’ll hear a lot like these over the coming days and weeks. Most people involved in Scottish golf have their own ‘Torrance tales’, which I think is, in itself, a mark of the man and testament to his wit and character.
The first of mine involves Paul Lawrie. A former pupil of Bob’s, the former Open champion would regularly drive from his home in Aberdeen to Largs, where Bob and wife June lived and where Bob taught from the town’s driving range.
On one particular occasion, Lawrie arrived at the range in desperate need to answer a call of nature only to find the facilities locked.
“Bob,” he said. “You’ll need to get someone to open the toilets. I need to go.”
“Just go over there,” replied Torrance in typical gruff style, pointing to some nearby bushes.
Lawrie said: “They’re not going to be any use, Bob, if you get my drift.”
At which point Torrance shouted over to a couple of guys at the opposite end of the range: “Here, lads, away and open they toilets, would ye? Lawrie needs a s***e!”
The second story is arguably my favourite in golf. I heard it second-hand some years ago, so I apologise in advance for any factual inaccuracies, but the gist is this.
Gordon Sherry was playing in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie in 1995. Legend has it that, after the third round, he was in a terrible lather about the state of his game and put an ‘S.O.S.’ call in to Torrance.
“Bob,” he said. “You need to come and see me, I need your help.”
Bob Torrance was unique, straightforward and, above all, a fabulous coach.
“What wrang?” came the reply.
Sherry told him: “Everything I hit today came off the toe. Drivers, irons, wedges - all off the toe. Even my putts, they were coming off the toe, too. You need to come and see me before I go out tomorrow.”
“Where urr ye?” asked Torrance.
“Where am I?” said Sherry. “I’m in Carnoustie, of course.”
“Naw,” replied Torrance. “Where urr ye oan the leaderboard?”
“I’m two or three back,” Sherry told him.
“In that case,” replied Torrance. “Just you keep hitting it aff the f****** toe.” And then he hung up. The next day, Sherry finished tied for fourth.
That was Bob. He was unique, straightforward and, above all, a fabulous coach. The tributes paid by so many from within the golfing fraternity – and, indeed, beyond it – since news broke of his passing demonstrate the deep affection with which he was held.
When will we see his like again? Probably never.
He will be sorely missed.
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