A golf tournament pales into insignificance compared with someone’s death.
The European Tour is a week late arriving at that conclusion.
European Tour chief executive George O’Grady has issued an apology for the decision to continue last week’s Madeira Islands Open despite the death of longtime caddie Iain McGregor, who died during the final round on the Portuguese archipelago.
The 52-year-old McGregor, a native of Zimbabwe, died while looping for Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth. McGregor collapsed on the ninth hole, Forsyth’s final hole. A minute’s silence was held in Madeira before a decision was taken to continue the tournament, a decision O’Grady ultimately made.
It was the wrong decision. The correct decision should have been to abandon play. That would have been the ultimate mark of respect for the much-loved caddie.
The tour correctly received widespread condemnation for its decision to continue the tournament. O’Grady took the full brunt of that condemnation when he traveled to the Spanish Open to meet with the European Tour Caddies Association, a meeting that included Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the European Tour’s Tournament Committee.
Gerry Byrne, chairman of the Caddies Association, spoke for his members when he said: “While we understand that decisions have to be made at very short notice, it will come as no surprise to anyone that all European Tour caddies felt the wrong one was made in Madeira.”
O’Grady issued his apology after meeting with Byrne and other European Tour caddies in Spain.
“We had a full and frank meeting with chairman Gerry Byrne and his committee, a meeting which was understandably emotional at times and one during which I apologized to them for the hurt and upset caused by events in Madeira,” O’Grady said.
“I completely understand the views of people who say that we should not have carried on, but it was a terrible situation for anyone to be in and the decision to finish the tournament was not taken lightly, either by myself or by the tournament officials on the ground in Madeira.
“However, that decision is in the past and the important thing now is that we continue to work with Mac’s family and friends – as we have done from last Sunday – to assist with arrangements surrounding the funeral, which will take place in Madeira next Thursday, the same day as we wear ‘Black for Mac’ at Wentworth (during the BWM PGA Championship).
“I have also personally instructed a review of how we deal, operationally, at tournaments with situations such as this so that we can ensure the lessons of Madeira are learned.”
Forsyth talked to Scotland’s Daily Record about the decision to play on.
“I honestly didn’t know what was the right or wrong thing to do, but George O’Grady came on speaker phone,” Forsyth said. “His opinion was we should go ahead and complete it. We didn’t argue, but it was the tour’s decision.
“I can totally understand people saying play shouldn’t have continued, but I also know it was an impossible situation for the tour.”
It wasn’t an impossible situation. It was a tragic situation that merited only one response: end of tournament. To ask players and caddies to continue was disrespectful. The tour doesn’t need a review to come to that conclusion.
This never should happen again.