My best teacher Sam Torrance

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
My dad was a golf professional and I started playing the game when I was five. By the time I was nine and was at Largs high school I was playing every day. I remember Mrs Drynam, one of my teachers, telling me I had to work harder in class because I'd never make a living at golf. She was a lovely woman with wavy hair and I liked her a lot. We were an unruly bunch and she was very patient with us.

Many years later, when I'd made it as a professional, we met up and she remembered what she had said and we had a good laugh about it. Another teacher I remember is Mr Murphy who, I think, taught geography. When he was new to the school, a friend of mine, Douglas Wraith, and I decided to go round to his home, ring his doorbell and run away - just for a laugh.

The following day he came into school and I have never seen a man looking so angry. He threatened to punish the whole class, so we owned up and he told us to see him after school. We were absolutely terrified because he looked so menacing. But he took us to his home, gave us a cup of tea and some cakes and explained that his wife was new to the area and having someone ring the bell and run away really scared her.

He taught us so much about consideration for other people in the half an hour we were there. After that, Mr Murphy and I became friends and we played golf together. Dougie and I never rang his bell again.

Football was the main sport at Largs high and we had gym several times a week. Although I had a good eye for a ball, I wasn't particularly good at games. I remember the gym teacher, Mr Murray, smacking Dougie with a table tennis bat so hard the bat broke. I got the strap once, but I can't remember why. We played golf matches against the teachers and sometimes we won. The headmaster, Hugh McGhee, was the best golfer on the staff.

Mr Black taught us metalwork and I made pokers and ashtrays. I think my mum still has one.

Mr Rose was the science teacher. I was useless at that. I never pushed myself at school. My whole life centred on golf; I couldn't wait to get out of school to go and play. But I never bunked off; my parents wouldn't have allowed it.

I left when I was 13. The school leaving age was 14 then and my birthday was on August 24 so after the summer holidays I just didn't go back. It was a 20-minute walk from our home overlooking the bay at Routenburn golf course - where my father was the professional and greenkeeper - to Largs high and the next step would have been for me to go on to the Adrossan Academy in Irvine which involved a 10 to 15-minute train journey. However, my father saw the potential in my golf and he was, and still is, by far my best teacher, though we have not always seen eye to eye.

I'd started whacking balls around the course when we lived at Rossendale in Lancashire and by the time we moved back to Scotland, golf had begun to take over my life. Within a year of leaving school I was playing off scratch. Dad taught me to hit the ball as hard and as far as I could, with a big shoulder turn and the emphasis on distance rather than accuracy.

"We'll straighten it up sooner or later," he said. I swung how Dad told me to swing. I worship my father, but he can be very tough and our sessions on the practice range generated a lot of electricity because we are both very strong willed.

My father is the hardest-working man I know and one of the greatest coaches in the world. Even now, at 71, he stands for hour after hour on the practice range coaching some of Europe's finest golfers - including my 14-year-old son, Daniel.

Golfer Sam Torrance was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1953 Born Largs, Scotland

1958-62 Attends primary school in Haslingden, near Rossendale, Lancashire

1962-68 Largs high school

1968-69 Various jobs, including stacking supermarket shelves and installing cable TV

1970 Turns golf professional

1971-72 Becomes an assistant professional at Sunningdale golf club

1972 Plays on European tour for first time

1981 Joins Ryder Cup team

1987 Part of Ryder Cup team that wins trophy on American soil for first time

1996 Awarded MBE

2002 Captains Ryder Cup team to victory at the Belfry; made honorary member of Sunningdale

2003 Awarded OBE; publication of Sam Torrance, the Autobiography in hardback

April 15, 2004 Autobiography out in paperback

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today