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Sam's Club
Michael Bamberger
July 30, 2001
In the village that is British golf, no one is too far removed from Sam Torrance
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July 30, 2001

Sam's Club

In the village that is British golf, no one is too far removed from Sam Torrance

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Now, on a cold, windy Tuesday, past tea time but before dinner, Alliss, 70, was sitting in a nook in the lobby of his hotel, the Dalmeny, on the promenade at St. Annes, in sight of the sea. The Dalmeny is not a fancy place, nothing like the lush hotels he has become accustomed to on his trips to the U.S., but the staff was looking after him and he was happy. The hotel's employees knew who he was and how he liked his Grouse (neat, with a second glass for ice). "So young Stuart Callan is a teaching professional at Dalmahoy," said Alliss, repeating, more or less, what he had just been told.

"Well, he's 34," said a member of his party.

"Thirty-four is young," Miss said.

Over the course of the next hour or two, over the course of two or three whiskies—who's counting?—Gary Lineker, a retired English soccer star, dropped in, as did a British tournament organizer, a European tour press official, Golf Channel anchor Renton Laidlaw, a couple of BBC producers, Mike Tirico, the ABC commentator, and Curtis Strange, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Alliss was holding court, and he's a scratch raconteur.

"Dalmahoy was for many years a private club, 36 holes, pleasant, rolling parkland golf," Alliss said. "It's been converted to a Marriott resort, near enough to Edinburgh. We used to play one of our big tour events there when it was still private. It was in the Dalmahoy clubhouse, in 1965, that I met my wife, Jackie. Jackie Grey she was then. She spoke French, German and English, and was working the tournament as a translator. Three other girls were with her, and when something happened to the men [they were with], I took the four girls to dinner. Very lovely. The dinner came to four pounds. Senior Service, it was."

(At some point, when a Briton is speaking in the company of an American, a reference will be made that fails to register. Senior Service? It was a British cigarette brand. For years, cigarette companies and distilleries were the primary sponsors of British golf tournaments.)

"Ah, young master Callan," Alliss was saying. "He'll get a medal for his play in the Open, a proper medal, one he can put in a special case at home with his other fine things, and nobody can take that, or the experience, away from him." The television commentator seemed proud of Callan. It is true that Alliss had only recently heard of him, but now young Stuart Callan was a qualifying survivor and in the Open proper.

Last Thursday morning Sir Michael Bonallack, winner of five British Amateurs, was sitting at a table in the members' bar, not yet open, on the second floor of Royal Lytham's redbrick clubhouse. He was wearing a coat and tie, as the room requires. Bonallack is the immediate past captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and before that he was its secretary for 16 years. He was watching the BBC broadcast of the tournament, listening to Alliss comment on players famous and obscure. Bonallack, 66, and Alliss have been friends for most of their lives. Their histories have been entwined from before they were born.

"My grandfather, James Esplen, was the president of Wanstead, a golf club outside London, in the 1920s when the club hired Peter's father, Percy, as head professional," Bonallack said. "I played, as an amateur, with Peter in a professional tournament, the old Martini & Rossi event, in 1961, shortly before I won my first Amateur. I believe Peter finished fourth and I finished fifth. When I won my last Amateur, in 1970, it was the first tournament Peter worked for the BBC, BBC Northern Ireland it would have been."

Bonallack considered the density of his sentences, how connected the many facts in them were. "The golf community is small in this country," he said. "Small country, small golf community."

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