Two Perthshire golfers, who have not spoken for 40 years, are reuniting to compete again, half a century after contesting a famous final.
Pitlochry Golf Club is now inviting entries for the prestigious gents Highland Open in August and officials were amazed to see two names side by side on the list.
In 1962, Ian Jones (then 21) and George Rutherford (19) played out a titanic Highland Open final, still regarded as one of the best in the amateur game. Following an epic contest, covered by the BBC and national press, Rutherford won on the final 36th hole after several dramatic twists and turns.
United by their sporting experience, the two youngsters became friends and kept in contact before finally losing touch due to work. George didn’t return to Pitlochry to defend his title and that ‘62 victory remains his only appearance in the competition - until now.
A few weeks ago, the retired printer from Perth decided to contact Ian again, inviting him to take to the fairways once more, fifty years on. Now 69 and still playing off a handicap of 6, George is looking forward to a nostalgic reunion with his old friend, now 71 and playing off 3.
“The ’62 final was a great memory and I always fancied going back to play the competition again. The year after that final, I was working and didn’t have the holidays so I never got the chance to defend the title,” he said.
“When I realised the final was 50 years ago, I said to myself, ‘right, it is time to do it again. So I got Ian’s phone number and told him I was keen for a reunion. It was great to speak to him after all this time.”
For Ian, the phone call was a great surprise but a pleasant one.
The retired financial expert from Ballinluig admits it will be hard to replicate the memorable contest of ’62 but is proud both finalists still retain their passion for the game.
“I am sure we’d both like a repeat of that final but I think the bookies would give you fairly long odds,” he smiled.
The gents Highland Open on 4th – 10th August is one of the oldest amateur tournaments in the Scottish game, founded in 1909. However, it is renowned for its social aspects, as well as its competition. Long regarded as a holiday tournament, many lasting friendships have been made down the years.
Long–term former Tournament Secretary John Brydone describes its appeal.
“From a golfing perspective, to this day, winning the Highland Open is considered a real achievement and a good item for your golfing CV. However, there are lots of players who come here to play every year and have no great expectations but just love the camaraderie and the opportunity to see old friends and enjoy the social aspect.
“For many people, it has become a part of their life and it is the same for younger ones playing now, too."