Malcolm Gregson in action during the De Vere Hotels Seniors Classic at Slaley Hall in 2002

Former Ryder Cup player Malcolm Gregson passes away

Malcolm Gregson, a member of the 1967 Great Britain Ryder Cup team, and a stalwart of the early years of the European Tour, has passed away at the age of 80.

Born in Leicester, and educated at Millfield School in Somerset, Gregson showed great promise as a golfer in his early teens when, a week after his 14th  birthday, he reached the last 16 of the Boys’ Amateur Championship. He followed up by twice representing England Boys in their annual encounter with Scotland and, on turning professional in 1961, joined Pat Keene as an assistant at Moor Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire.

Attachments with Dyrham Park, West Sussex, Moor Allerton, Badgemore Park and Almaina Park Golf Clubs followed, but not before Malcolm had confirmed that early promise in 1964. He won the Gor-Ray-sponsored PGA Assistants’ Championship at Hartsbourne and then delivered what proved to be his best Open Championship performance by finishing 19th at St Andrews. He played his final two rounds of the championship in tandem with Gary Player.

In 1967 he won the Schweppes-sponsored PGA Championship at Hunstanton and in doing so became only the third player after Dai Rees and Peter Alliss to complete the PGA Assistants’ and PGA Championship double, a trio that later turned into a quintet with the additions of Tony Jacklin and Neil Coles.

Gregson went into it buoyed by two more tournament successes – the Daks at Wentworth and Martini International at Fulford – and being awarded the Harry Vardon trophy for winning the tournament players’ Order of Merit.

The trip to Texas for the 1967 Ryder Cup, by contrast, proved to be a chastening experience for Gregson and his Great Britain teammates. The former lost all four of his matches and Great Britain, captained by Dan Rees, finished 15 points adrift of their hosts at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, with the score finishing 23.5-8.5 – a record defeat. Ben Hogan captained the 10-man US team that included Arnold Palmer, Gay Brewer, Doug Sanders, Julian Boros and Al Geiberger.

Malcolm Gregson pictured in action on the European Tour  in 1978 

Despite the disappointing outcome, Gregson retained fond memories of the experience, not least overhearing Ben Hogan, the American captain’s team talk. “We watched and listened to as best we could in our locker room to Ben Hogan’s opening team talk,” he recalled. “You’d have thought that Messrs. Palmer, Boros, Casper, Sanders, Littler, Brewer, Dickinson, Geiberger, Pott and Nichols were all naughty school boys being instructed by their headmaster. Then, when it was time to warm up on the range, the Americans had to watch Mr Hogan practise first … No doubt to gain inspiration!”

In terms of on course success, Gregson fared somewhat better while representing England with Alliss in the World Cup which was played a few weeks later Mexico City. He finished tied sixth in the individual standings and his hot streak in domestic tournaments continued seven months later when he won the Daks for the second year running. That turned out to be his last tournament victory in what became the European Tour in 1974 and, having qualified for the PGA Tour in October 1968, success in the USA proved similarly elusive.

He made his debut on the European Senior Tour in 1993 and went on to play in more than 200 events, winning five of them before making his final appearance in 2008. His last victory came in 2004 when he won the De Vere Northumberland Seniors Classic at Slaley Hall with his 13-year-old son Matthew on the bag.