If you were to listen to Renton Laidlaw tell it, his golden life of worldwide travel, his exemplary career in broadcasting and journalism, and his universal popularity in golf were all a matter of luck.
“I was lucky enough to come along at the right time,” he often said.
It was the only time you could accuse him of even a little mendacity. Of course he was just, as usual, being modest to a fault.
Renton, who died on Tuesday aged 82, was a friend and mentor to more journalists than you can name, including this one and many more of far higher stature.
The global voice of golf
He was the voice of golf worldwide. His Edinburgh brogue was the soundtrack to the European Tour in North America, Australia and South Africa via the Golf Channel.
In those parts his voice was more familiar than even his friend Peter Alliss, who passed a year ago.
Renton was known in this country too as the voice of golf on BBC Radio for so many years, and the anchor host of their sports coverage for a time.
We are deeply saddened to hear of Renton Laidlaw’s passing.
With his distinctive Scottish voice, Laidlaw was one of golf’s most respected broadcasters and journalists, and provided great service and dedication to the sport.
Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. pic.twitter.com/f2G4qBMG0c
— The R&A (@RandA) October 12, 2021
Like the greatest commentators, you never even heard a slight inflection in his voice when he told listeners of another win for his beloved Hibs.
For most of that time he also kept up where he had started out, as the golf correspondent of the Edinburgh Evening News.
‘He made you feel like you belonged there’
My first meeting with Renton was in the Open press tent at Troon in 1989.
He seemed to be spinning so many plates – radio, TV, the News, the London Evening Standard – all at once it was bewildering.
But nobody ever missed their contribution. And he even took the time amongst all of that to make you feel like you belonged there, immediately.
He was an actual friend to some of the people he covered, a hard thing to do in this business.
The “luck and timing” was because Renton started just as the Big Three of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were emerging.
He was close to them all, and also to Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin, Severiano Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, And also to fellow Scots Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie.
When Ernie Els was a young pro just trying to establish himself in Europe, he and his wife Leizl lived in Renton’s cottage in Sunningdale.
It was an example of his kindness to everyone, whether they were a superstar or an up and coming hopeful.
A evocative witness at golf’s great moments
Renton was there at every bit of golf history from the late sixties to the early 2000s.
He attended all the Ryder Cups, the Opens, and the Masters, where he was honoured in 2013.
Latterly, the gruelling pace of work and travel took their toll on his health. But he was still there, whisked around events on a buggy like the royalty we all thought he was.
His output was confined to the Golf Channel commentaries by this time. He loved nothing better than a gossip with his friends in the media centre and TV compound, though.
Oh no thats very sad news. Renton documented my whole career from the 75 English Amateur on! He was the most trusted and fair, in the heat of finishing a bad round if i said something daft he'd say maybe you'd like to say that a different way! A very rare quality! RIP https://t.co/NElrWLzgyu
— Sir Nick Faldo (@NickFaldo006) October 13, 2021
I met Renton Laidlaw when I was 7. He was 22 and came to my parents house every Friday for tea ahead of his column for the Edinburgh Evening News. He was my mentor at the start of my TV career. A gifted broadcaster, an exceptional man in every way. Many hearts are sore tonight.❤️
— Ewen Murray (@ewenmurray77) October 12, 2021
Serious health problems forced his retirement to North East Fife, where he lived with his sister Jennifer.
There was no warmer welcome to be had when visiting him there or as his guest for lunch at the R&A, where he was a proud member.
Renton was simply the kindest man one could hope to meet in what can be a cut-throat business. In the lofty places he walked, there can be no greater tribute to him than that.