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Jock MacVicar: 1937-2021
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Jock MacVicar: 1937-2021

Tributes have flooded in from across the golfing world following the passing of legendary Scottish golf writer Jock MacVicar.

Martin

Jock MacVicar (right) being congratulated by good friend and colleague Martin Dempster in 2017 on the occasion of being honoured by a 'Lifetime Achievement' award by Scottish Golf.

Martin Dempster - Chairman, Association of Golf Writers (above) - reproduced with kind permission of The Scotsman.

“He’s gone,” said one of my closest friends, Nick Rodger, as I answered the phone on Saturday night before waiting for a short pause to be followed by “I’m only kidding”.

Sadly, he wasn’t. Jock MacVicar was indeed gone, passing away peacefully in Glasgow Royal Infirmary at the age of 83 after being admitted a couple of days earlier following a fall at his home in the city.

Like so many people, I first came across the great man at the Scottish Boys Championship after starting with the Glasgow-based David Begg Sports Agency in 1989.

I’d sort of been in his company two years earlier when, during my fledgling days in journalism with the Berwickshire News & East Lothian Advertiser, I spent some time in the press tent during The Open at Muirfield, but didn’t have the courage back then to speak to many people.

One of my first memories of spending time with the Scottish Daily Express legend was when we headed for a game at North Berwick one morning during that Scottish Boys event at Dunbar.

His car boot must have had 20 putters in it and I soon found out why out on the course, though I think after all these years he’d have a chuckle to himself to hear that I think he afflicted me on the greens.

I count myself very lucky indeed when I think about the people I shared press rooms in Scotland with in my early years covering this great game, the list including Renton Laidlaw, Ian MacNiven, Alister Nicol, Ian Wood, Norman Mair, Raymond Jacobs, Jack Robertson, John Campbell, Bob Jenkins, Colin Farquharson and Peter Donald.

Jock and writers

Jock MacVicar (right) joining AGW colleagues in visiting Renton Laidlaw (yellow pullover) during a recent Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

It was an honour and pleasure simply to be in the company of greats in the golf writing industry and the same certainly applies to the man who was known by so many in the game as “The Doyen”.

My numerous trips with MacVicar to events included four Ryder Cups in the US, where, incidentally, he’d enjoyed one of the busiest but also most enjoyable days of his career when filing an inside spread plus pieces for the front and back pages from the 1995 event at Oak Hill at the time he was the golf correspondent for the English edition of the Daily Express as well as his beloved Scottish title.

Our first trip across the pond together was for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Detroit, and I will never forget what happened one morning as we were walking out of the media centre en route to the course one morning.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a bloke making a beeline for us and, sporting the biggest smile you could ever think of, he shouted out: “Jock MacVicar, how the heck are you?” It was none other than Billy Casper, the 1970 Masters champion and three-time major winner.

Even more impressive, and this, to me, summed up his standing in the game, was the sight of Tom Watson walking into a Senior Open media centre on more than one occasion and heading straight for MacVicar to say “hello” before conducting his interview.

Jock loved Watson and was equally fond of Paul Lawrie while, in recent years, he’d taken a real shine to young Bob MacIntyre, the pair hitting it off instantly through both being Argyll & Bute boys.

On our last trip to a Ryder Cup, we ended up in an ambulance together as he fell ill the day after we arrived in Paris for the 2018 event. After requiring stomach surgery, we had to leave him in the hospital in Versailles on the Monday after the match finished before staging a successful rescue mission a couple of weeks later through assistance from the European Tour and Aberdeen Standard Investments.

We did that because we loved Jock and we cared about him. He had no immediate family. His colleagues - myself, the aforementioned Nick Rodger, Steve Scott, Jim Black, Euan McLean, Bernie McGuire, Scott Crockett and Stewart McDougall - were his family, I suppose, and that’s why we are all hurting at the moment.

Jock and Paul Lawrie

Paul Lawrie and Jock MacVicar each honoured in 2017 at the Scottish Golf awards.

He was a stubborn old bugger. Despite being urged to think seriously about calling it a day after his scare in France, he was still working for the Scottish Daily Express, having been on a video call with MacIntyre last Monday following his success in securing a Masters debut.

He never married but showed real charm in the company of women, though tears will have been shed by grown men as well over the past couple of days amidst a staggering outpouring of sadness.

Golf has lost a great man and some of us have lost a great friend. Angus John MacVicar, though, will never be forgotten by the vast majority of people he came across in life and that says it all.

Rest in Peace, our Doyen.

Nick Rodger

Golf was Jock MacVicar’s life. And it was a life well lived. To the end, Jock, who passed away peacefully on Saturday at the age of 83, was still filing regular dispatches to the Scottish Daily Express. He’d been doing that, as he would gently chortle, “since the days of Caxton.”

Jock’s longevity was inspiring. His passion for golf and his work, unwavering. He covered his first Open back in 1962 and became as much a part of the game’s oldest major as the Claret Jug itself.

As a colleague, but most importantly, a friend and a mentor to me for the last 20 years, I used to joke that he would out-work us all. When I was made redundant from my full-time post as golf correspondent with The Herald last year, there was some truth in that prophecy.

Covering the game he loved sustained Jock. Golf was good to him. But he was good for golf. From the grassroots of the domestic amateur circuit to the showpiece occasions on the global professional stage, Jock straddled this Royal & Ancient pursuit with terrific authority and boundless enthusiasm.

The tributes that have poured in from all walks of golfing life since his passing speak volumes for a revered journalist but, most of all, a lovely man who was cherished my many. “Speaking to Jock was like speaking to an old friend,” said Colin Montgomerie. Plenty would agree.

Jock was a warm, all-embracing and sociable character whose career spanned the decades. A veteran player at the Senior Open coming up to him and saying, “Christ, you were covering me when I played in the Scottish Boys’ Championship” underlined this startling durability.

Jock’s Tuesday column in the paper that he served with such loyalty, diligence and attention to duty was always a must read. He was Scotland’s Voice of Golf. To his colleagues, he was known fondly as The Doyen. Jock’s considered, informative and engaging copy always provided readers with insight and illumination. He wrote with a balance and a fairness which players and golfing officialdom respected, even if they didn’t particularly agree with his observations.

Even though his last couple of years were hindered by significant physical challenges, Jock’s mental fortitude and unquenchable drooth for his profession endured. In Masters week, there is a poignancy that he will not get to see Oban’s Robert MacIntyre, Scotland’s leading golfer on the world rankings, make his Augusta debut. As a proud, born-and-bred Argyll man himself, Jock had that extra fondness for the young left-hander from his ain’ county.

His regular skirmishes with technology, meanwhile, always kept Jock on his toes and his fellow scribblers royally entertained. Jock seemed to possess more laptops than a PC World warehouse and, like a football manager rotating his starting XI, each one would get an outing before being side-lined amid much muttering condemnation.

A carefully crafted piece suddenly disappearing from his screen at the touch of a button would see companions rally round his computer in the kind of sizeable salvage operation that was akin to raising the Mary Rose.

To his credit, though, Jock welcomed all the various advancements in technology. Nothing made him more happy at an event than a good, strong WiFi signal – and a nice lunch, of course - while the sudden emergence of Zoom and Microsoft Teams in this pandemic-ravaged year took him into fresh, hi-tech territory. He was a game soul.

Writing ran in Jock’s family. His father, Angus, was a prolific wordsmith and penned countless books. Jock preferred the cut-and-thrust of newspapers, however, and the daily deadlines stirred his senses and invigorated his mind. The jovial, glass-clinking camaraderie at the end of the working day, during which we all drank far too much, was a nourishing reward for those endeavours. “I don’t know about the secret to good golf writing, but it is essential that you have a great love of the game and a pretty good constitution to keep going,” he once said.

Jock was certainly built to last but even he couldn’t go on forever. The memories of a true gentleman will live on, though.

Renton Laidlaw – Former AGW President, Chairman and Secretary

Like so many I am saddened by the loss of our President Jock McVicar.

For over 50 years he worked for the “Scottish Daily Express’ turning down an offer to move to London to the “Daily Express” because he felt that Fleet Street was not his scene. His decision had an influence on my life because the “Express” persuaded, a reluctant Mark Wilson, the golf correspondent of the “Express’s” sister paper the” London Evening Standard” to take over the job first offered to Jock. My good luck was that I was hired to replace Mark as the “Standard” golf writer.

Jock enjoyed his life in Glasgow from where he could make irregular trips down to his other home at Southend – not the one in Kent but the one on the tip of the Mull of Kintyre close by Machrihanish and to his favourite Dunaverty, a course he always enjoyed playing. Staying in Scotland also gave him the chance to watch Motherwell FC. though just why he did not choose to support Rangers, Celtic or Patrick Thistle (whose ground was close to his city centre apartment) remains a mystery.

Jock, son of prolific author and playwright Angus McVicar, was also a wine connoisseur and in his spare time often went off to the Continent on wine -tasting trips. His dedication to golf earned him a Lifetime Achievement award from the Scottish PGA and, until recently, he was continuing to travel abroad on assignment and do regular columns for his paper.

I should like to recall an incident that occurred at Versailles in France round the corner from where the French Revolution was plotted in the late 18th century. Jock was enjoying a refreshment in a bar there and had been persuaded by some locals to take part in soccer match on a specially constructed pin table. You can imagine the scene six men – three on each side working the rods in an effort to score goals Innocent enough you might think until an over enthusiastic Jock, had a chance to score. Instead of hitting the ball, however, he blew out his front denture and sent it down the chute that collects the balls Maybe that could have count as a somewhat unusual goal or maybe not but what was certain was that the teeth were firmly stuck. Play had to be abandoned for an hour while the locals did their best to retrieve his plate by up by man-handling and up ending the heavy football table. Play resumed when the teeth finally fell out but Jock was no longer a welcome guest at the table. He had been given a Carte Rouge by the other players!

Lewine Mair – Former AGW Chairman

A gentle giant among sportswriters

There are some hard hacks in the sports-writing world but Jock MacVicar was not among them. He was a gentle journalist who kept The Scottish Daily Express informed about the world of golf by treating everyone with respect and knowing his subject inside out. He could be critical where necessary, though I never met anyone who thought he was less than fair.

Jock was engrossed in his job but he also knew how to relax and would never spoil someone else’s dinner - or his own - by fretting over some trivial error he felt he might have made in his report. He would enjoy the odd glass of wine, while he never failed to entertain his dinner-time companions with recollections drawn from a career spanning seven decades.

Like his famous fiction-writing father, Angus, Jock had time for everyone. By way of an example, whenever he turned up at one of the regular stopping points on the European Tour in the days of hand-done scoreboards, he would recognise all the people who had been manning the boards the previous year. As often as not, he would remember them by name. Again, when some old friend arrived in the press tent for a chat at a stage when he had a deadline to meet, he was able to do the difficult thing of dispatching them in a way which did not give offence.

Just as he had the utmost respect for the players, so they had the same for him. Indeed, in the aftermath of the 2018 Ryder Cup where he was taken ill, Scottish players who were summoned for a press conference would often hold back from talking about themselves to ask, “How’s Jock?”

Players, press, administrators and so forth are going to miss this great old soldier. He was endlessly brave in the way he tackled ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ which caught up with him in old age, and he was a first-class President of the AGW for the short time he was at the helm. How sad that he was not in that position for longer.

Jock MacVicar in the Dunvegan (2)

Jock MacVicar with colleagues Euan McLean, David Facey and Iain Carter at the Dunvegan in St Andrews

Jim Black - Scottish Sun

I have known Jock for more than half my life, 46 years to be exact.

I first met him in the winter of 1975, not, as you might imagine, at a golf tournament but rather on a midweek evening when your paths first crossed in the dingy surroundings of the old Firhill press box where we were huddled along with the pigeons and various unpleasant detritus while covering a football match.

Mercifully, much has changed for the better at Partick Thistle’s stadium in the intervening years.

But one thing that never changed was my fondness for Jock. Yes, he could be a bugger at times with his infuriating habit of ignoring sound advice from colleagues to ease back a little and also pay greater attention to his health.

His insistence that “I need to get something to eat” when what eventually became the Gang of Seven – our chairman Martin Dempster, another of Jock’s dear friends and “minders”, Nick Rodger, Steve Scott, the AGW secretary Bernie McGuire, Euan McLean and myself – were just about to order another round also drove you nuts at times.

But you could never stay annoyed for very long, not even on the evening in Aviemore when Jock was fortunate to procure the last fish supper at the local chipper while the rest of us went hungry and then complained that it was “pure muck”.

Even when he ignored all the warning signs and ventured to France for the Ryder Cup three years ago while clearly far from well and very much against the wishes of his closest colleagues it was impossible to be angry with him.

We got it. Golf was Jock’s life and with no wife or family to go home it was what kept him going until the age of very nearly 84.

But that stubborn determination very nearly cost him his life. But for Martin’s timely intervention and the European Tour’s wonderful support in having Jock admitted to hospital without further delay the obituaries would have been written back in 2018.

A proud Argyll man who never lost is affection for his home village of Southend, Jock returned to the Mull of Kintyre as often as possible and it is where he will be laid to rest alongside his parents in the local cemetery which has a view as far as Northern Ireland coast on a clear day.

It was only fairly recently that he sold the family home in the heart of “God’s country” just a short walk from Dunaverty Golf Club where he was a popular and well kent figure.

Words like legend and doyen are often misused to describe individuals unworthy of either description. Not in Jock’s case.

Everybody who mattered in golf knew Jock, albeit he would often ask: “Who was that?” after responding to a greeting with a cheery “Aye, how are you?” when he clearly didn’t have a bloody clue who he’d just addressed.

It was a measure of Jock’s status in the game that he was known and recognised across the globe by the great and good and the not so great.

Tom Watson walking into a press conference prior to a Senior Open and saying: “Hi, Jock. What’s happening?” said it all, really.

Jock died in harness, as it were. Just five days before his sudden passing he participated in a video call with Bob MacIntyre and he left us still as the Scottish Daily Express’ golf columnist. I’m glad about that.

The glowing tributes from across the world, the hundreds of thousands of social media hits, the clear evidence of the emotions experienced by his closest friends and colleagues sum up just how much we will miss him.

Not only was he an authoritative and knowledgeable writer on the game, he was a fascinating character who was always in good company, entertaining and very funny at times – though I’m not altogether sure the humour was always intended!

After my dear friend Dougie Lowe passed away in 2011 I recall my first tournament back at St Andrews, where the pair of us had spent so many weeks of our lives covering golf, drinking, eating fish suppers at one in the morning and feeding the seagulls, and it just wasn’t the same.

It hasn’t been since and I fear golf tournaments will never be quite so enjoyable again without Jock’s presence.

But at least we’ll have Nick to bring Jock back to life with his wonderful impressions of the man who had appeared immortal.

The past few days have felt surreal, as if I’ve been walking about in a fog of disbelief. I suspect that feeling will persist for a long time to come.

So, too, will the memories.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Jock is rightly lauded and respected for his work as a golf writer where he was justly known as the doyen. However, he was also a skilled and astute football writer and I always respected his knowledge and his views in that field. He was a man you could trust, too. It is instructive and fitting that all tributes have acknowledged his innate decency. He was a fine journalist and a good man

Dermott Gilleece

So sorry to hear of the passing of an old friend and deeply respected colleague. Given that I’m 80, our venerable status often arose in the chats Jock and I had in recent years. We’d eye each other up and remark cheerily: “You’re looking good. Any thoughts of retirement?” We last met at Royal Portrush for the 2019 Open, when, sadly, Jock was beginning to show the years. I thought highly of him as a colleague whom I first got to know more than 40 years ago, during the Men’s Amateur Golf Home Internationals at Royal Dornoch. As we say in Gaelic: Ar dheis De go raibh a anam (may his soul rest on the right hand of God).

Tom Watson

It is with sadness that one of the best golf writers during my six decades in professional golf has passed on to greener fairways, Jock MacVicar. We in the world of golf will miss him and the wonderful manner with which he conducted his journalism.

Jock, Padraig, Renton, Lewine and Martin May 2018 Carnoustie

Jock MacVicar, Padraig Harrington, Renton Laidlaw, Lewine Mair and Martin Dempster - May 2018 Carnoustie

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