Charles Dernie, the head professional at Blairgowrie Golf Club in Scotland for more than 20 years, has retired.
It marks the end of an era at the Perthshire venue, where his successor, Neil Cameron, steps-up to become just the fourth pro in the club’s history. A dinner and presentation was held at the clubhouse to allow members to pay tribute to Charles.
“Anyone in golf knows what Blairgowrie is all about and in a sense it was my dream job,” said Dernie. “As an assistant to a Scottish champion, Bill Millar, at Fairhaven Golf Club at Lytham he directed me to a tournament at Rosemount, saying it was the best inland course in Scotland.
“I pre-qualified in the snow at Alyth, playing with South African Reggie Mamashela, who had never seen it before. I took a huge score at the 14th to miss the cut at Rosemount but I loved the golf course. I remember thinking it would be a nice place to work. That was back in 1977, 20 years before I succeeded Gordon Kinnoch.”
Buchanan Castle was his first full pro role, followed by a move further north to Banchory. “There were only two posts I would have left Banchory for, Prestwick or Blairgowrie. I believe more than 100 applied for the job here and I got lucky,” Dernie said.
In his younger days, Charles was a top 100 player on the European Tour dominated by the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Sandy Lyle, a teammate in an English boys’ team. Injury sustained in a car crash was to steer his golfing career in a different direction.
Charles regrets not having the chance to play with one of his heroes, Seve – Jack Nicklaus is the other – but he teed-up alongside a dozen Major champions along the way. And one of his biggest thrills was officiating Tiger Woods at the K Club Ryder Cup. The match, with Robert Karlsson, was memorable for Woods’ high profile caddie Steve Williams letting the world number one’s nine iron slip into the murky waters of the River Liffey!
“The R&A rules exam is notoriously difficult but I have had great fun doing European Tour events, starting with the Dunhill. But nothing, even the USPGA, prepares you for the intensity of the Ryder Cup. That’s a different level. As the first pro to become a referee I always felt additional pressure. I got lucky in getting Tiger’s singles match at Dublin’s K Club in 2006. There isn’t a higher profile match. It was the fourth singles tie. None of the top Americans wanted to play Colin Montgomerie and they assumed he would be listed one or two for Europe. They were avoiding him.
“There was talk of me being moved when the draw came out. I didn’t know it at the time. That would have shattered me. There were 18,000 people watching the opening shots, not to mention the tv audience. It turned out to be a high quality match in wet and windy conditions, which Tiger won 3&2.
But it is best remembered for that club dropping into the lake.
“I had gone round to the back of the seventh green and had my back turned when I heard the commotion. As the caddie dipped the towel to wet it he lost his balance and let go of the club. Tiger asked if I could get a rake to pull it out. Then a greenkeeper pointed out it was 15 feet deep! At first Tiger was taking it lightheartedly. But he wasn’t chuffed at all when he learned that. There were police divers patrolling in the vicinity but it was the 15th before Tiger got the club back.
“Williams is a great caddie but Karlsson’s man thought it was hilarious. Here we had the highest profile player in the world, with a huge television audience looking on. And Tiger’s caddie had lost a club in the water. But my biggest task was remembering I was there to work rather than watch a golfer playing shots I had never seen the likes of. Tiger was incredible.”
Going forward, Charles, 64, plans to continue refereeing, play a bit more golf and he will maintain his role as the honorary pro at the Royal Perth Golfing Society.
“Looking back, I have enjoyed my job at a club with fabulous facilities and I certainly have no regrets at what was a considered move to come to Blairgowrie. I have enjoyed my working life and Perthshire is home.”
Blairgowrie captain Peter Inglis paid warm tribute to the club’s departing pro, saying: “The respect that Charles commands within both the professional and amateur ranks is immense. He has been a fine ambassador and his knowledge and insight has been invaluable over the years.”
Pictured top: Blairgowrie captain Peter Inglis presents honorary membership of the club to retiring pro Charles Dernie, flanked by managing secretary Steven Morgan and new head professional Neil Cameron