The R&A - Working for Golf

Tributes paid to Renton Laidlaw

Renton Laidlaw, one of golf’s most respected broadcasters and journalists, has passed away at the age of 82

With his distinctive Scottish voice, Laidlaw was a household name on both sides of the Atlantic and provided great service and dedication to the sport.

With a career in golf commentary, presenting and journalistic reporting that spanned over 60 years, Laidlaw provided the narration for many of golf’s greatest moments.

Distinctive Voice

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, paid affectionate tribute to one of golf’s most prominent and respected media personalities. “We are all deeply saddened to hear of Renton’s passing and our thoughts are with his family and many friends at this sad time. Renton’s knowledge, insight, wit and wonderfully distinctive voice made him an immensely popular figure in golf and sport in general. He was admired by so many of us who grew up listening to his commentary or reading his reports from The Open and the other major championships. 

“Renton made a remarkable contribution to golf over a long and successful career. He will be greatly missed by players and fans throughout the world and by his many friends in The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.”

Incredible career

Born in 1939 in Edinburgh, Laidlaw covered his first major championship 20 years later, The Open at Muirfield, as Gary Player lifted the Claret Jug.

In total, Laidlaw covered 150 major championships, including The Open on 58 occasions and 42 Masters Tournaments, seeing first-hand the development of European golf and its players on the world stage. The Scot also covered the Ryder Cup’s growth, working across 15 matches.

Laidlaw rubbed shoulders with golfing greats, and was a friend to many, notably interviewing players such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Sandy Lyle.

Speaking in 2019, he said, “I’ve been able to work in papers, write books and be in television and radio. To be able to work in all these mediums is quite something – makes me a wee bit unusual.”

Early years

Laidlaw’s journalism career began at the tender age of 14 when he took a job as a copy-taker in a local newsroom in his home city. Following in the footsteps of his father, he then moved into reporting positions for the Edinburgh Evening News, and into golf after an editor asked him to cover multiple sports.

These reporting roles were the springboard for his access to some of the world’s largest golf tournaments. A decade on, having worked in a freelance capacity for Reuters covering golf worldwide, he was then able to change medium having seen the opportunities that lay ahead in television. 

Initially working for Scottish Television, and later with Grampian TV, where he became an evening news anchor, he was recruited by the BBC as a news anchor. By the mid-1970s he was golf reporter for London’s Evening Standard newspaper, while also taking television and BBC Radio assignments on weekends, spending the next 15 years as BBC Radio’s golf correspondent.

In the early 1990’s, he was working full-time with British Satellite Broadcasting, which was later taken over by Sky, and by the middle of the decade he broadcast his first European Tour event for The Golf Channel from the Dubai Desert Classic, where he became the mouthpiece for European golf in the United States and brought a European viewpoint to an ever-increasingly global sport.

Laidlaw’s own golf career started at Lothianburn before moving to Dalmahoy and then to Royal Burgess. He was also a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Wentworth and Sunningdale, as well as being an honorary member of Ballybunion.

Association of Golf Writers

Laidlaw also played a significant role in golf journalism around the welfare and support of journalists covering the sport, through his various roles with the Association of Golf Writers (AGW). He was Secretary of the organisation from 1978-1995, after which he held the positions of Chairman (1995–98) and President (2004–15). The Renton Laidlaw Quaich is held annually by the AGW in his honour.

Up until its last publication in 2014, Laidlaw also edited The R&A Golfer’s Handbook whilst also authoring many of his own books about the game.

Retirement

After retiring in 2014, he was awarded the 2015 Masters Major Achievement Award in recognition of his coverage of Masters Tournaments, becoming the first non-American journalist to win the award.

This joined a significant list of awards received throughout his esteemed career, including the title as first European winner of The PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism in 2003, and the 2012 PGA in Scotland Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was also recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Award for golfing journalism and earned further awards from The PGA and the PGAs of Europe. 

In his final years, he lived in Drumoig, Fife, near St Andrews, before taking ill health.