Exclusive: Hungry Gallacher hopes to roll back the years at Dubai Desert Classic

Talented Scotsman made history as the only player to win consecutive Dubai Desert Classic titles in 2013 and 2014



Stephen Gallacher of Scotland during the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 31, 2013. — Wam
Stephen Gallacher of Scotland during the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 31, 2013. — Wam
by

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Mon 23 Jan 2023, 11:34 PM

It’s been close to 10 years since Stephen Gallacher made history when he became the first player to win the Dubai Desert Classic in consecutive years, but the amiable Scotsman still believes that he has the resolve, and ability, to win the region’s premier golf tournament for a record-equalling third time.

Gallacher made his pro debut in 1996 at the age of 21, but it was only seven years later that he hit his peak to win the European Tour’s showpiece event at the majestic Emirates Golf Club in 2013-2014.

It was arguably one of the highlights for the extremely talented and driven golfer who during a brilliant amateur career helped Great Britain & Ireland win the Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales in 1995 against a strong American side that included a certain Tiger Woods. On Thursday Gallacher, now an evergreen 48, will step onto the first tee as he bids to make more history in the 34th renewal of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, the second Rolex Series event of the 2023 DP World Tour season.

“I’ve got some great memories and I’ve had some of the best times of my life on a golf course out here,” Gallacher told the Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

“I’ve had two Hole in Ones, shot a 62 and 10-under for the last nine, and won it twice,” he recalls. “Magical things just seem to happen for me here in the Emirates.

“When you go to a place that you love it always brings out great memories. You feel a couple of inches taller just walking out onto the tee. It’s a special place for me and my son (Jack, his caddie).”

When asked if he still feels motivated and has the hunger to win, Gallacher’s response was an instant: “I wouldn’t be here if I thought I couldn’t.”

Gallacher is aware that he has to play some of his best golf if he hopes to lift the famous Dallah Trophy, a symbol of supremacy in the UAE, at the end of four intense rounds of golf on the formidable Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis Course.

“Hopefully we can play our best over the week,” he said. “But then again there is only so much you can do to prepare yourself well and hope it all happens. And if it doesn’t, there isn't much you can do.”

Weighing up the opposition that includes the likes of 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry and fellow DP World Tour stars and two-time Abu Dhabi winner Tommy Fleetwood; New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, who sealed an outstanding 2022 season by finishing second behind world number one Rory McIlroy; and Tyrrell Hatton, who was runner-up at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last season, Gallacher remained realistic to what he can accomplish.

“There are 130 guys playing this week and anybody can win,” says Gallacher. “You look at the Rorys and Shane Lowrys the talent is unbelievable. It's a really, really strong field.

“But there’s a lot of elements involved as well. Conditions change during the day and you have to adapt and innovate.”

Gallacher admitted that golf has undergone a sea change since Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman or Colin Montgomerie held sway, and that a brigade of young players in their 20s have led the youth onslaught and yielded a rich and deep talent pool.

What led to the generational movement?

“Without a doubt, Tiger Woods was a massive influence,” he says. “Now, it’s Rory McIlroy’s turn. We’ve got some great figureheads, great ambassadors for the game that people look up to. You only have to look at how young, talented, and fit the kids are now.

“Tiger brought a certain athleticism into the game which led to kids becoming pros at a much younger age thanks to the evolution of golfing technology.

“When I was a kid I used my father’s clubs which we cut down to size now there are clubs for every age, every level as you grow up. Golf has definitely gotten more professional and has changed a lot.”

Asked to comment on just how much commitment is required to become a golf standout, Gallacher, says: “You have got to do the 10,000 hours thing. It's hard work. There are no shortcuts. You don’t get good by not practising. You’ve got to work so hard to get to the top.

“You’ve got to want it more than the guy that’s next to you that’s working equally hard. So it's fitness now and then it’s your technique and commitment.

“At the end of the day, that’s what golf is all about, you’re always learning by looking at players like Tiger and Rory. You need to leave no stone unturned if you want to win.”


More news from Sports