Stephen Gallacher’s victory in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic might be one of the most deserved wins ever recorded on the European Tour.
It was long overdue.
It’s strange to think it was only the Scotsman’s second European Tour win, and his first since the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews. Just two wins in 17 years as a professional wasn’t on the cards when Gallacher turned professional back in 1995.
The 38-year-old played on the same 1995 Walker Cup team as Padraig Harrington and David Howell. They were part of the Great Britain & Ireland team that beat a Tiger Woods-led U.S. Walker team at Royal Porthcawl, Wales.
Harrington has gone on to win three major championships and 11 European Tour wins. Howell, meanwhile, has racked up four European Tour victories. Not many would have predicted back in 1995 that Gallacher would have been behind those in the victory table at this point in their respective careers.
Gallacher was a rock on that Walker Cup team. He had to take a back seat to compatriot Gordon Sherry, winner of that year’s British Amateur Championship. However, Gallacher’s own record was nothing to sneeze at. He won the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play Championships, the Lytham Trophy and the European Amateur. Nephew to Ryder Cup player and captain Bernard Gallacher, much was expected of young Stephen.
Unfortunately, Stephen’s putting has never lived up to his peerless swing. He is one of the best ball strikers on the European Tour. If he could putt anything like his uncle Bernard then he would have won more than just the two tournaments.
The Scot earned his maiden European Tour win by taking down Graeme McDowell in a playoff. The win was long over due, and hinted at more success.
Gallacher finished 15th on the European Tour money list in 2004, his highest ever ranking. He just never pushed on. For five years after 2004 he never broke into the top 50. Four top-10 finishes in 2010 saw him end the year at 26th. Last season he came close to adding to his win tally, finishing runner in Dubai and the Maybank Malaysian Open.
You need a bit of the rub of the green to win, and Gallacher had that in Dubai. He made five eagles over four days, including a holed second shot at the par-4, 16th hole in the final round to edge out South Africa’s Richard Sterne.
“It’s taken a long time but it’s sweeter now,” Gallacher said. “I’m maturing with age hopefully.”
It’s a hope many Scottish golf fans will share. They’ll be hoping this win opens the floodgates to more victories. Gallacher is too good a player to only have two wins to his name.