Golf Monthly has received a letter from Peter Harding of Grovehill, Middlesbrough, paying tribute to his twin brother Gary, who died from leukaemia at the end of 2006. A few months before he passed away the two brothers realised a lifelong dream of playing a round together on the Old Course at St Andrews. Here, Peter tells us about their trip to the Home of Golf.
“The town of St Andrews is, as I’m sure your readers know, a very special place. Having been a visitor there twice before, I was familiar with its unique atmosphere and it had been a place myself and my twin brother Gary (pictured) had wanted to visit together since we first began to play golf in the early 1980s.
Our dream of playing there became even more urgent as we sat glued to the television in 1984 watching Seve Ballesteros win the Open. As youngsters we dreamed of the day when we would do just that, but knowing that it would be a long time before that dream would come true. That was 22 years ago now and we grew up and continued to play golf together whenever we could.
A few years later Gary went to live in Australia with the girl who would become his wife. He would phone regularly and tell me of all the different courses he had played there, making me rather envious! Three years ago Gary returned to Europe to live in Ireland in the village of Malahide near the great links at Portmarnock ? he played there too and at most of the surrounding courses. In short, Gary travelled the world playing the game he loved ? but he had never been to St Andrews.
In the late summer of 2005, my brother was diagnosed with leukaemia, which was a massive blow to him coming only two months after his wedding day. He underwent months of treatment that left him weak and tired. Cruelly, he was given the all clear only to be told one week later on a routine hospital visit that his treatment had failed and that he would have to face more time in hospital and continue further chemotherapy. Gary had regained some of his strength and so, realising his determination to play the Old Course, we decided to make the trip to St Andrews before his next phase of treatment started.
On August the 18th of 2006 I met my brother and his wife Danielle at Edinburgh Airport and the three of us drove north into Fife. Our names were entered hopefully into the ballot for play the next day. We then spent a magical day exploring the town and golf museum, breaking for lunch at the New Course clubhouse. In the early afternoon we walked some of the Old Course itself. Gary’s face was a picture when at 4.15 our names were posted for a tee time of 08.50 the following morning. Being keen golfers we visited the cathedral grounds and paid our respects to Old and Young Tom Morris, following this with dinner at the Jigger Inn to fully soak up the atmosphere.
What followed the next day was even more exciting. The early morning mist lifted on the first hole, minutes before we teed off ? only to fall again as our round continued. Our caddies guided us shot-by-shot before it finally lifted as we struck our approaches to the 16th green, allowing us to see the most beautiful view this game has to offer ? the auld grey toon herself.
As we shook hands beneath the clockface of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse my brother was round in 85 strokes ? a great effort, and one many golfers I am sure would be proud of. His score that day was something special and sharing the experience with him equally so.
Sadly Gary passed away on New Year’s Eve 2006, which was only four months after that wonderful day. He was just 37 years old, but the memory of our time at St Andrews will stay with me forever.
Every golfer should visit St Andrews at least once in their lifetime ? you will be very glad if you do.”