Laureation address: Sam Torrance

Lauren Sykes
Wednesday 14 June 2023

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
Laureation by Robert Fleming, Director of Development

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Sam Torrance OBE.

Scottish golf hero Sam Torrance has spent his career distinguishing himself as an elite sportsman, from Rookie of the Year in his first European Tour season in 1972, to a professional career that has spanned more than 50 years. Coached from an early age by his father Bob, a legendary golf coach to some of the leading players in the world, Sam never needed advice from anyone else throughout his career.

Sam has played 706 European Tour events; only David Howell and Miguel Angel Jimenez have started more tour events. Sam enjoyed 44 professional wins in his career, including 21 wins on the European Tour, with his biggest career victories coming in 1980 at the Australian PGA Championship and in 1995 in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Spain. In addition, he also won tournaments in Africa and South America, as well as four Scottish Professional Championships. After turning 50, Sam won 11 times on the European Senior Tour, on which he was thrice the leading money-winner.

He also had a prolific career as a team player: Sam was part of the three-man Scotland team that won the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in 1995 and made 11 appearances for his country in the World Cup.

But it was for his Ryder Cup appearances that he will be best remembered; he played for Europe in the Ryder Cup eight times, with his debut in 1981. Following a painful defeat in 1983, losing by a single point at West Palm Beach, it was enough for the team to vow they would come back stronger and beat the USA, and it was Sam who famously holed the winning putt to clinch the trophy at The Belfry in 1985; an approach and putt to 18 for which he will be forever remembered. He was also part of the winning team in 1987, the first time the US team had lost on home soil, and again in 1995 at Oak Hill Country Club, New York, where Sam was joint highest points winner for Europe.

Seventeen years on from the Belfry win in 1985, Sam returned to the same venue as Europe’s non-playing captain and again led his team to victory, in what he describes in his autobiography as “the most important thing I have ever done by a mile and to have done it successfully was as special as anything will ever be to me”.

Colin Montgomerie commented: “Whether you were a golf fan or not, everyone who was into sport watched that Ryder Cup and admitted it was the best sporting occasion they had ever witnessed.” As a footnote to the victory celebrations which followed, the very next week saw Sam return to St Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship. In scenes which might well sound familiar to our newly graduated students, Sam was joined by others from his winning team, Paul McGinley and Lee Westwood included, at the Jigger Inn, for what sounds like a legendary night of drinking and celebration, so much so that Sam had to politely, if delicately, withdraw from playing in the tournament the following morning.

Sam was presented with the Team of the Year award in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2002 and was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to golf. Sam has also worked continuously as a commentator for the BBC and for Sky Sports, and the occasional golf course design including the Torrance Course at Fairmont, St Andrews Bay, demonstrating a love and passion for golf on and off the course. Beyond his professional endeavours, Sam has also supported many charities over the course of his career, including the Saltire Appeal in his hometown of Largs, Prostate Cancer UK, the Seve Ballesteros Foundation, Help for Heroes, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International.

Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of his major contribution to golf, his leadership in the Ryder Cup, and for a significant contribution to charitable causes, I invite you to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Sam Torrance.

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