Colin Byrne: Farewell Mac and thanks for the memories

Value of life should have been put before the amusement of a golf tournament

Caddie Ian McGregor: “Farewell Mac . . .  You left too soon but touched the tour with your raconteuring and camaraderie.”

Caddie Ian McGregor: “Farewell Mac . . . You left too soon but touched the tour with your raconteuring and camaraderie.”

Thu, May 22, 2014, 12:00

Santo da Serra, 2,000 feet above sea level on terrain that would challenge the most balanced of goats, was where one of the European Tour’s veteran caddies, Iain McGregor, passed away, seemingly peacefully heading up the ninth fairway during this year’s final round of the Madeira Islands Open.

We have all joked about a certain venue potentially being our last one due to the severity of the inclines on the course and the Madeira track is pretty high up on the physical assault course list. There are two great challenges at the Madeira venue; the taxi ride up the mountain driven by impatient drivers, who seem to include hair-raising overtaking as part of the fare. If you are not shaken by the scary ascent then the trek around the mountain, with the golf course on top of it, is sure to leave you gasping in a different way than the taxi ride itself.

After a traditional week of low, dense clouds and mountain mist delays, the tournament looked like it was going to reach a conclusion without further delay on Sunday albeit with half the amount of holes that should have been played. It had been reduced to a 36-hole event.

Iain was heading up the ninth fairway towards the top of the mountain with Alistair Forsyth’s bag on his back when he collapsed and died, the cause is still not clear. I suppose despite the sadness that we all feel for Mac’s passing at such a young age – he was only 52 – it was, perhaps, a fitting way for a club Sherpa to take his final step very much in the thick of what had become his life for the past couple of decades. Left school Iain joined the army when he left school in what was his native Rhodesia and developed a reputation for being fearless and capable of survival in the bush for long periods of time unarmed. He left the army and moved to South Africa where he became a cabinet maker of bespoke furniture. He was a good amateur golfer and like so many of his fellow southern African colleagues decided to use his golf knowledge as a way out of Africa and towards a new life in Europe.

I first met Mac in the late 1990s in south west France, where a number of us spent an enjoyable week together in a farmhouse while working at the French Open in Bordeaux. Mac introduced me to bobotie, a southern African dish which he presented to us on the night it was his turn to cook. With evocative tales of Africa and the bush, there was no doubt about his affinity with wildlife and survival.

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