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Belle Pays Tribute to ‘Great Friend’ Jock

The golf world was left saddened at the weekend after the passing of Jock MacVicar, the renowned Scottish journalist, at the age of 83.

Jock was taken into Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary last week after a fall at his home and sadly died on Saturday evening. Fellow journalist Nick Rodger and former R&A press officer Stewart McDougall, two of his closest friends, were with Jock when he passed away.

Affectionally known as ‘The Doyen’ given his great knowledge of the sport, Jock covered golf for his beloved Daily Express in Scotland for just short of 60 years – reporting on his first Open at Royal Troon in 1962 when Arnold Palmer triumphed. His long association went all the way to covering Shane Lowry’s triumph at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Huge respect

A warm, generous man, he was equally happy to rub shoulders with the world’s best and to chronicle up-and-coming talents in the amateur game. Golf was simply Jock’s life and he was hugely respected in Scotland and across the globe.

Down the south-west coast at Dunaverty, a wonderful links course where Jock was a much-loved member, the club has been mourning his loss.

Belle Robertson and Jock grew up together at the club on the Mull of Kintyre before going on to become two well-known faces in Scottish golf, one through various amateur achievements on the course and the other writing about the sport. The pair were honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Scottish Golf Awards in 2017. 

For Belle, an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, it has offered a time to reflect on their great friendship.

A gentleman to the last

“It was very sad to hear of Jock’s passing, he was a great friend,” said Belle, 84, who won the Women’s Amateur title in 1981 and was also involved in nine Curtis Cup matches, seven as a player and twice as captain. “Jock and I went to the same local village school together at Southend, did the same things as youngsters and played golf. We then continued to the senior school at Campbeltown.

“Jock started his working life with the Express, but for many years there he was the football reporter. I would be coming towards the mid-to-late of my career before he became the golf reporter. Of course, he would ring you up for a story, but before he talked about golf, he would say ‘any news from down by (in Kintyre)?’ We had to discuss that first before we came to the golf. 

“He was also one of those reporters who never ever twisted anything, he was the gentleman to the last. He wrote very nicely about young Scots coming through, both male and female. The rise of his fellow Argyll man ‘Bob’ MacIntyre was of great pride and he was delighted to see him secure a place at The Masters for his debut this week.”

Dunaverty laughs

Belle also recalls a memorable, if unfortunate, tale with Jock at Dunaverty. “There is the famous story of our mixed foursome one Tuesday evening,” she continues. “Jock and I would be just about finishing junior school and we were drawn together, alternate shot. We had this disaster, got onto the beach at the 3rd. We didn’t have the golfing knowledge to lift and drop and take a penalty. We finally took 18 or 19 before we holed out! I think it was Jock’s drive and I then tried to get out over the dunes, and we just hacked, hacked, hacked.

“Jock always came back to Kintyre two or three times a year, played his golf and knew everyone – and everyone knew him.” 

The outpouring of affection for Jock, the Association of Golf Writers’ President, has highlighted his standing in golf. Former Open champion Paul Lawrie was among those to pay tribute, along with the likes of ex-Ryder Cup captains Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley and Sam Torrance.

Colin Montgomerie also tweeted, “I first met Jock when playing in the 1979 Scottish Boys Championship at Dunbar, he was always very supportive and knowledgeable. Speaking to Jock was like talking to an old friend.”

Outstanding writer

Steve Scott, another of Jock’s closest journalism colleagues along with The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster, wrote in The Courier, ‘Every Scots golfer of note for six decades and many from further afield – Tom Watson was particularly fond of him – knew and trusted Jock’.

Writing ran in Jock’s family. His father, Angus, was a notable wordsmith and wrote countless books.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, added, “It was with great sadness that I learned of Jock’s passing at the weekend. Jock was one of the truly outstanding golf writers and did a huge amount to tell the story of this wonderful sport to countless readers over many, many years. He loved the game and the game loved him. Jock will be greatly missed by all of us at The R&A.”

At nearly 84, ‘Angus John MacVicar’ was still typing out his weekly Express column and impressively dialling into Zoom and Teams calls, such was his dedication and passion to his job.

“I’ve been covering the sport in Scotland and beyond for over 50 years and it has been nothing but a pleasure, not in any way a grind,” he said, in 2017. “I’ve made so many friends, among the players and officials and the media, and seen so many great courses, although Dunaverty remains high on my favourites list.”

RIP Jock.