Former Royal Dornoch professional Willie Skinner has received an early Christmas present this year as he collected the John Panton award, the PGA in Scotland's award for outstanding service to golf.
The 80-year-old was presented with award by chairman Alan White at the PGA in Scotland's Annual Lunch at the Hilton Hotel and had worked as a dental technician before finding a career in golf.
Skinner has had the privilege of meeting five-times Open champion Tom Watson and playing a round of golf with Prince Andrew in the past, but says being given the John Panton award beat the lot.
"It's a big thing for Americans to come up here as he had a big influence on the game in their country and want to play the course where it all started for him,” - Skinner
He served as Royal Dornoch's PGA professional for 25-years before handing the reins over to his son, Andrew, in 1998.
“When I took up the job, Royal Dornoch wasn't nearly as popular with visitors as it is today,” said Skinner. “It took all day to get up here and it wasn't until the three bridges – Kessock, Cromarty and Dornoch, were built that people really started to come.”
Skinner enjoyed Royal Dornoch's American connection
Royal Dornoch proved popular with Americans due to its Donald Ross connection, with the club's former professional designing over 500 courses in the US.
“It's a big thing for Americans to come up here as he had a big influence on the game in their country and want to play the course where it all started for him,” Skinner added. “Ben Crenshaw was the first well-known American professional to visit during my time and he played with Mark McCormack, founder of IMG.
“But Tom Watson was my favourite visitor of all – and also the nicest of the lot.”