ONE of the most successful and charismatic golfers of the latter part of the 20th century has decided to retire after a long spell in both the amateur and professional ranks of the game he graced.
Harry Bannerman a former pupil at Ellon Academy called time on his career last weekend, stepping down from his post at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre where he received a farewell gift from Robbie Stewart, PGA director of golf at the centre.
The choice of Stewart to hand over the gift was entirely appropriate as like Bannerman he had held the post of professional at Cruden Bay where both were highly regarded by members and visitors.
After serving his time as an amateur, Bannerman joined the pro ranks in 1965, going on to become one of the characters on the circuit. His best year was in 1971 when he achieved six top ten finishes, finishing 11th behind Lee Trevino in the Open at Royal Birkdale.
His 4th place in the Order of Merit, the cigar smoking Bannerman gained automatic selection for the Great Britain and Ireland Ryder Cup team, captained by fellow Scot Eric Brown who went on to become a professional at Cruden Bay.
The highlight of the match was in gaining a half against one of the character golfers of the world game Arnold Palmer.
“It was a great moment when Palmer strode onto the first tee, put out his big paw and said my name is Arnold Palmer. Getting a half was big thrill,” said Bannerman who was encouraged by Aberdeen businessmen Bobby Morrison, Hugh McDermott and Jack Hall who sponsored him on the tour.
But while Bannerman was grateful for the backing of the trio it was his long standing partnership with his wife Hazel who was his rock during his time in the game.
The pair met as pupils at Ellon Academy, going on to enjoy one of the great love stories in modern sport, which produced two amateur golfers.
Sadly Bannerman’s professional career was curtailed due to back injury short which limited his appearances. He did, nevertheless, win the Scottish PGA Championship in 1972, and made a creditable showing at the Masters, finishing in a tie for 33rd place.
But for the majority of golfers in the North-east the abiding memory of the ‘’Ban’’ will be of a cigar smoking figure looking totally at ease at the Ryder Cup in 1971 among the greats of the game, including Jack Nicklaus and Palmer.
Bannerman will be fondly recalled by members of clubs throughout, especially Buchan Winter League participants, including those from McDonald Golf Club, Ellon.
“Harry was a one off. He was great fun to be with, if you wanted a bet on the game, he was your man,” said one of the Ellon contingent of the late 70s.