Stalwart Scot honoured


1812Scottish Willie Skinner

Meeting five-times Open champion Tom Watson and playing a round of golf with Prince Andrew have both just been topped in the eyes of Willie Skinner.

It follows the former Royal Dornoch professional receiving the John Panton Award, the PGA in Scotland's accolade for outstanding service to golf, in Glasgow today.

"This has to be it - receiving an award in honour of the legendry John Panton," said the 80-year-old in reply to being asked to pick out the highlight of his golfing career.

Skinner, who was presented with the award by chairman Alan White at the PGA in Scotland's Annual Lunch at the Hilton Hotel, worked as a dental technician before getting his teeth into golf.

He served as Royal Dornoch's PGA professional for 25 years, welcoming both Watson and Ben Crenshaw through the door in that time as well as playing with Prince Andrew, a well-known golf fanatic.

Skinner (pictured above right receiving the award from PGA Scottish chairman Alan  White) handed over the reins to his son, Andrew, 15 years ago, marking a family connection at the Highlands club that spans three generations.

His dad, also Willie, served as club secretary for ten years while his mother, Isabel, was ladies' champion on a couple of occasions.

The highlight of Willie's own career came as an amateur in 1958, when he won the prestigious Carnegie Shield. In its 100th playing in August, Skinner was the oldest surviving winner.

"When I took on the job, Royal Dornoch wasn't nearly as popular with visitors as it is today," he said. "It took all day to get up here and it wasn't until the three bridges - Kessock, Cromarty and Dornoch - were built that people really started to come.

"Ben Crenshaw was the first well-known American professional to visit during my time and he played with [IMG founder] Mark McCormack.

"But Tom Watson (below) was my favourite visitor of all - and also the nicest of the lot."

1820Scottish Tom Watson

One of the the reasons Royal Dornoch is so popular is its Donald Ross connection, the club's former professional having designed over 500 courses in the US after crossing the Atlantic.

"It's a big thing for Americans to come up here as he had a big influence on the game in their country and want to play the course where it all started for him," said Skinner.

Guests of honour at the event in Glasgow hosted by Dougie Donnelly were former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher OBE and top English football referee Howard Webb MBE.

1820Scottish Mac Farlane

Other award winners were Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden (above), who received a Lifetime Achievement accolade, and Adam McCabe, a protegee of Gordon Sherry, who picked up the Stewart Thom Salver as the PGA in Scotland Trainee of the Year.

Money raised will go towards supporting the PGA Benevolent Fund while in addition three defibrillators were raffled off as part of the Bernard Gallacher Defibrillator Campaign which the Scot has launched to try and ensure the life-saving devices are installed in every golf facility in the UK.

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