There will be no more “play it again, Sam”. Nearly 50 years after he turned professional, Sam Torrance has called time on his competitive career. The man who holds the record for most appearances on the European Tour and gave us an iconic moment as he raised his arms skywards on the 18th green at The Belfry in 1985 after holing the winning putt in a Ryder Cup has officially retired at the age of 66.
From now on, he’ll only have a microphone in his hand when attending events, having decided that he can still get his golf fix from commentating, his dulcet tones gracing the World Feed as part of the European Tour Productions team for the past few years and, occasionally now as well, a hybrid team on Sky Sports.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision at all,” insisted Torrance, who may have lived in the swanky Surrey stockbroker belt for a long time but has never lost his thick west coast accent. “It has been over two years since I have played in a tournament and I always said that, if I didn’t think I could win, I would stop.”
His last victory was a decade ago in the Barbados Open on the European Seniors Tour, having chalked up a total of 44 title triumphs in the paid ranks, including 21 European Tour victories in. Add in eight successive Ryder Cup appearances between 1981 and 1995, as well as a winning captaincy against the Americans in 2002, and no wonder that he’s known around the world as one of Scotland’s greatest golfing ambassadors.
“Golf has been my life,” he added. “It has been my blood for so long. It has been very difficult to say to myself that I can no longer win, so I eventually spoke to my manager, Vicky Cuming and said that I needed some info, please.
“I said to her to give me my last three years of results, including my score to par and best finishes, and I was more than 200-over par and my best finish was 35th in a 54-man field (in the 2017 Farmfood European Masters at Forest of Arden). So, I said ‘no, that’s it’. It wasn’t as though I was not ready. It was just enough.
“I am very happy with my decision as I don’t miss the competition now. I am actually delighted I don’t ever have to hold a pencil in my hand ever again. I watch golf on the telly and, when I do commentate, I see the pressure there and I am so delighted I don’t have that in my life anymore.
“When I go play Sunningdale with my mates, I feel pressure and I feel nervous, and it’s just beyond belief. I say to myself ‘why’, but it’s there and I can’t help it. So, all I am giving up is tournament golf and the only golf I now play is with my mates for a bit of cash (smiling).”
Torrance, who was honoured with the MBE (1996) and OBE (2003) for his outstanding contributions to the game, was just 16 when he joined the paid ranks in 1970, a move that was always on the cards after he first picked up a club under the watchful eye of his dad and lifelong coach, Bob, at Rossendale in Lancashire. He made his European Tour debut a year later and won his first event in 1972, when he was the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.
“My first tournament was the Spanish Open and I can still remember it,” he recalled in taking a trip down memory lane in career that saw him rack up 706 European Tour appearances then close to 150 on the Senior Tour. “I was sponsored by Norman McKenzie (a Sunningdale member) and he did my accommodation, so I flew with him late on the Tuesday night and we’ve gone to the hotel.
“I am a 17-year old Scot, but I knew no Spanish back then and we asked them where is the golf course and the reply was ‘que, que?’. I showed him the address and the course was two-and-a-half to three-hour’s drive away. So this my initiation to life on tour staying three hours from the course (laughing). I don’t remember the opening tee shot, but I do remember missing the cut in my first nine events and then leading in the tenth.
“That was the John Player Trophy and I remember it being very windy. I was leading with nine holes to go and s***ing myself. I think I finished up top 10.
“So I knew there was something there. I was very lucky to win prize money in my first year. Then I won 1976 Piccadilly Medal at Coventry Park (earning £6,000). I was lucky also to win twice in that year (also landing the Martini International a month later).
“The first one I won as a pro was in 1972, Lord Derby’s Under-25 Match Play Championship at Birkdale and I beat Bernard Gallacher in the semi-final and he was No 1 in Europe at the time. That was awesome and a huge feather in my cap.
“Then, at the end of the year, the week after the Italian Open, it was the Radici Open with exactly the same field as the Italian and I won it although it didn’t count on the money list. But it gave me a lot of belief after one year on the tour and I never really looked back. I can’t say what my legacy will be.
“He never won a major but he had fun?”