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Sam Torrance
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Torrance eyeing 1999 Ryder spot

Torrance eyeing 1999 Ryder spot

Nobody, but nobody, will try harder to win a spot on this year's European Ryder Cup team than Sam Torrance.

Having been an ever-present force from 1981 to 1995, the universally popular and immensely gifted Scot missed out on Valderrama two years ago.

The man who holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 1985 to end America's 28 year domination is unquestionably the most ardent supporter of the contest. He adores the Ryder Cup and all it stands for, and he loathed not being part of Seve Ballesteros' triumphant squad in 1997.

"That was an evil experience," Torrance said as he looked forward with anticipation and renewed ambition to his 28th campaign as a Euro tourist. "I regard missing the Valderrama Ryder Cup as a lesson really well-learned. I am now 45 and this year could my last realistic fling at making the side."

For many of his first 27 years on tour Torrance was ready to be the life and soul of any party. A gregarious character by nature, he was not averse to fueling his capacity for sociability with a modicum of alcohol.

Not that Torrance was ever a big-time drinker. That's not to say he was entirely abstemious 52 weeks of any given year, either.

But having known him since before he made his Tour debut in 1971 -- and frequently enjoying his company in several far-flung points of the globe -- I can swear to the fact that he has never been in any danger of becoming addicted to the demon drink.

However, the shock of failing to make the last Ryder Cup team hit him like a thunderbolt. He sat down and reassessed his career. One of his first moves was to quit drinking entirely and devote himself to the straightest and narrowest of roads.

It is now 14 months since a drop of any kind of liquor passed his lips. As a result, Torrance -- never the most svelte of figures -- lost 28 pounds. He also recaptured his golf game for a second time, winning the 1998 French Open for his 31st career victory.

The first time his game went south was in 1992. That was because of the yips. The man who sank that historic 15-footer against Andy North on the 18th green at The Belfry in 1985 had lost his nerve on the greens.

It was as simple as that. He slumped to career low of 62nd in the Euro money list seven years ago and knew something drastic had to be done or his career was over.

But what? The long, broomhandle putter had been seen around practice putting greens for some time, but Torrance was the first man to have the nerve, temerity, guts -- call it what you will -- to take it out in public and face the scorn of both the paying spectators and his peers.

 

TW 7/1/99