Jan 19, 2017: Stephen Gallacher joined an exclusive club at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Thursday by becoming just the 32ndplayer to play 500 European Tour events.
The former Ryder Cup player becomes the fifth Scot in history to reach the milestone, following Sam Torrance (706), Colin Montgomerie (605), Gordon Brand Jnr (597) and Paul Lawrie (591).
Gallacher has recorded three victories thus far in a distinguished career, including back-to-back titles at the 2013 and 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the second of which went a long way in securing his Ryder Cup debut on home soil at Gleneagles later that year.
His victory in Dubai in 2013 bridged a gap of nine years from his maiden title on the European Tour which came at the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, where he beat Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell in a play-off.
That breakthrough win in front of jubilant home fans came exactly 35 years after his uncle and former Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher had earned his first trophy on the European Tour.
Gallacher was presented with custom-made video book which featured montages of still and moving images from the highlights of his career by Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of the European Tour.
“It’s a great honour to join the 500 club,” said Gallacher. “I have had a quick look through my book and it’s certainly a journey from young too old! It’s cool though and a nice memento of a great milestone I suppose.
“I remember the first event and a lot of the old memories. I remember how tough it was first and foremost but we got there eventually.
“Obviously so much has changed since I started out. When I first came on Tour, there were still guys using persimmon woods. I would say the standard of golf’s changed. Back in the day, it was the same guys winning all the time. But now, if you’re in the field, you’ve got a chance.
“You know, the opportunities we’ve got now, and the way the Tour has grown is phenomenal. We are still growing and to be part of the latest era with the Rolex Series coming up this year is immense.”
In a glittering amateur career, Gallacher played in the victorious Great Britain and Ireland team at the 1995 Walker Cup, alongside now three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington amongst others, having won the Scottish Amateur Open Stroke Play and Lytham Trophy that same year.
Having struggled to make his mark in his first two full seasons on the European Tour in 1996 and 1997, Gallacher in 1999 began a remarkable record of 18 seasons on the tour (including this year), only having to earn his way back through Qualifying School once in 2009.
A popular figure on tour, the Linlithgow player is also a big supporter of grassroots golf in Scotland, most notably through his Stephen Gallacher Foundation, which helps to develop junior golf in Scotland.
“I’ve had some great times down the years. That’s why I say I’m blessed; I’ve been to some parts of the world, met some nice people, friends, doing something you love. There’s not many jobs you can say that. I suppose I must be a decent player to have been on Tour for so long. I think one of the biggest factors in staying on Tour is being yourself and playing the game the way that suits you.
“Another huge element to it is feeling comfortable with the lifestyle and being a part of it. Once you do that, you have a chance at longevity, like I’ve done. If you can do that and not take yourself too seriously then you’ve got a chance.
“The only problem with this award is I feel like I’m retired. I’m looking at all the stuff I’ve done, but there’s definitely a wee bit of life left in the old dog. But it’s great to get this recognition. If it was easy to do, a lot of people would have done it but there’s not many people have done it.”