More than two months after the country went into lockdown to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, golfers across Scotland will finally be able to return to the golf course tomorrow morning.
Glencruitten Golf Club in Oban is marking its reopening by inviting local COVID-19 survivor James Scott to hit the first tee shot on the course since the country went into lockdown on March 23.
What's more, he’ll have Scotland’s current No.1 golfer for company, with local hero Robert MacIntyre – the reigning European Tour ‘Rookie of the Year’ – joining James on the tee at 8.30am.
A 63-year-old project manager at Glensanda Quarry, James spent 38 days in hospital in Oban and in critical care at Queen Elizabeth University in Glasgow after contracting the disease. His 84-year-old mother Jessie was hospitalised on the same day.
For weeks, both fought for their lives in separate hospitals, with James coming close to death on two occasions. Unfortunately, Jessie, a mum-of-two and volunteer at a local charity kitchen in Oban, died on April 8 and was laid to rest on April 20.
Throughout all of this, James battled for his own life in an induced coma. It was only when he was finally well enough to talk to his wife Sandra on the phone that he was given the devastating news that his mum had passed away and that her funeral had taken place.
After beating the virus, James underwent gruelling rehabilitation in Glasgow, where he had to walk with a zimmer frame to build up his strength. All of which makes it remarkable that he’ll be able to take his place on the first tee at his home course tomorrow.
“It was our club captain, George Mackenzie, who suggested that we invite James to hit the first shot,” explained club secretary Bryan Livingston. “He works with him at Glensanda and, Oban being such a small place, most of knew what he and his family had been through."
Bryan added that James was "extremely touched" and "a bit emotional" when he was asked to reopen the course.
“It’s amazing that he’s made a full recovery after being virtually at death’s door just a few weeks ago. He’s still a bit wobbly on his feet so he’s only going to play a few holes but we can think of no better way to welcome golfers back than by having James leading them off, and for him to do so in the company of Bob.
"It’s going to be nice to get the pair of them together and hopefully it’s the start of better times to come for everybody.”
Current world No.67 MacIntyre told bunkered.co.uk: “What happened to James and his family could have happened to absolutely any of us. For a family from a small town like Oban to have been impacted by the disease in such a way just shows the seriousness of what we’ve all been facing these past few months.
“Whilst we’re all excited to get back on the golf course, it’s important to remember the huge toll coronavirus has had on us. I’m delighted to hear James is recovering well and I’m looking forward to joining him on the first tee tomorrow.