“Keeping my amateur status was the right thing to do for me.”

Michael Hamilton

As the clocks change at the end of March, the mornings grow lighter, and the evenings get longer, it can only mean one thing for many of us. Golf season is finally here. The Major Championships have begun and with Scottie Sheffler winning a second Green Jacket at The Masters, and an Open in Troon fast approaching, it’s only right that I spoke to an Ayrshire resident who has played in both tournaments. Peter McEvoy OBE, one of Britain’s most decorated amateur golfers, spoke to me on his love for the game, playing with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at The Open, and receiving his OBE from our king.

Born in London and growing up in Gourock, Peter’s love for golf began when following his dad round their local club. His family moved to England and he picked the game up again when he was 13/14 and joined Copt Heath Golf Club.

“I really enjoyed playing golf but at that time it was third behind cricket and rugby for me. Even though I won my first tournament at 16, it wasn’t until I got to university that I started to prioritise golf.”

An amateur career of incredible prowess followed with Peter racking up seven amateur wins before winning his first of two British Amateur Championships in 1977. He never turned professional and it is a decision he has no regrets about.

“It was so different back then, no one was chucking a million quid at you to turn pro. In 1979 I thought about it, I was back to back amateur champ, low amateur in The Open and made the cut at The Masters. I had just qualified as a solicitor, though, and I didn’t want to give that up, so keeping my amateur status was the right thing to do for me.”

Six Open Championships and three Master appearances followed, attaining low amateur twice in 1978/79 at St Andrews and Royal Lytham St Annes and, had it not been for a serious bout of illness, he would have achieved this honour for a third time in 1984.

“I was so nervous at Turnberry playing with Jack (Nicklaus). I had grown up watching this great man and then we get to the first tee and at the top of my backswing I can see him watching me. Not the best thing to be thinking about at the top of your back swing but it was so surreal and a great memory.”

Peter qualified for the Masters three times, and going to Augusta was a tremendous honour for him. His first time going out he went out ten days early to really get used to the speed and contours of the course, playing the course with current Augusta Chairperson, Fred Ripley.

“My first tournament was incredible but was a real baptism of fire. I played my opening round with Tom Watson so I was playing in front of huge crowds that day. I was partnered with Lee Elder, the first African-American to play in The Masters on day two, and again the crowds were enormous. By day four, after making the cut, I was playing with another amateur player and I went from going round Amen Corner in front of 30,000 people to playing in front of 30 people if I was lucky!”

Peter still holds the record of being the only British amateur golfer to make the cut at Augusta, a record he is proud of and not keen to relinquish anytime soon.

“Matt Fitzpatrick had a putt on 18 to make the cut a few years ago as an amateur and I remember the commentator saying, “everyone in Britain is willing this putt in” and I was thinking, not everyone! It is a record I am very proud of and thankfully it is safe for another year.”

Peter’s career was not just defined by his individual achievements but as part of a team. He represented Great Britain & Ireland five times in the Walker Cup against the USA. He played in four St Andrews Trophies against the continent of Europe and also played in five Eisenhower Trophies, a four-man team event which, in his final appearance in 1988, McEvoy won the individual event, and GB & I won the team event for the third time.

“Team golf is more euphoric. You win a singles tournament and the elation is fleeting but when you win a team event you get shared joy and shared euphoria which lasts so much longer.”
McEvoy would later go on to captain the Walker Cup team, a position that he really enjoyed and became incredibly dedicated to.

“Anyone that saw me in an airport at that time saw me reading military books on leadership as I really wanted to be a good leader. I took good things from my own captains but also tried to ensure I eradicated a lot of the bad things I experienced. Most of my team had never played in front of TV cameras before and I tried to recreate these scenarios in practice. Most of all I needed to raise our expectation levels. We were on a bad run at that point so I made a promotional video for our team, showing how talented they were. The parents of one of my team, Philip Row, told me he watched it over and over, taking a lot from it.”

His dedication to the role ended the American stranglehold on the event and he never captained a losing side. Such was the dominance, the Americans created a committee to work out where they were going wrong.

Outside of playing and captaining, McEvoy has had a lasting impact on the junior game at national level. He was asked by his club, Copt Heath, how they could honour his achievements. Not one for plaques or trophies he suggested a 72-hole tournament for junior golfers.

“Up until I was 18 I never played in a 72-hole medal. I felt it was right for aspiring young golfers to feel the pressure of 72 holes and get used to that type of competition.”

The Peter McEvoy Trophy began in 1981, the first 72-hole junior competition in the UK, and in Justin Rose and Lee Westwood, the tournament boasts some impressive former champions.

Of all these accolades he has won and been honoured with I was keen to know which took pride of place on Peter’s mantelpiece, OBE, Open silver medal?

“Receiving my OBE from our now king was a tremendous honour and my silver medals mean so much to me, but there is a tiny little trophy which is most dear to me. The 1969 Warwickshire Boys Championship was my first ever tournament win and that is the trophy which holds pride of place as it meant so much.”

Peter talks so passionately about his experiences not just at Major Championships but also in Walker Cups and national events. The Peter McEvoy Trophy is a tremendous legacy to leave on the junior game and having already nurtured one Major Champion I will be following closely to see how many more it can produce. Residing now in Ayrshire, Peter will have front row seats for this year’s British Open and who knows, a past Peter McEvoy junior or one of his Walker Cup teams could be lifting this year’s Claret Jug.