THE FA Cup has no monopoly on giant-killing heroics in sport, as Gary Lockerbie and others have the ability to illustrate when they tee off in the same field as the biggest names in golf in Abu Dhabi this morning.
As is the case with two other highly-capable professionals flying the flag for the North East and Cumbria in the HSBC Golf Championship – Graeme Storm and Chris Paisley – it would be stretching a comparison grotesquely to describe Lockerbie, a six-foot former rugby union player, as a non-league golfer.
The 30-year-old is in the early stages of his third spell on the European Tour.
He has a respectable pedigree as an ex-Walker Cup man and a former English Amateur and England Boys champion and won the Sunningdale Foursomes with his coach Paul Jenkinson in 2005.
However, today’s first round includes the marquee grouping of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Martin Kaymer – the world numbers one and two plus the man who sunk the winning eight-footer in the Ryder Cup to end all Ryder Cups.
If any of Lockerbie, Storm (pictured below) and Paisley make headlines in such company, the adjective romantic would barely start to describe it, especially if the headlines involve Sunday’s climax.
An unusual aspect of Lockerbie’s background is that since the player’s last spell on the tour, coach Jenkinson has completed a career switch to become a primary school teacher.
This is not a natural fit placed alongside the full-on entourages which surround most of the world’s top golfers.
The 41-year-old Jenkinson, who teaches at the High Hesket school halfway between Carlisle and Penrith, said: “We can safely say Gary is the only man in the field with a schoolteacher as his coach!”
Their system works. Last year Lockerbie outranked Paisley – both men were promoted from the Challenge Tour – in that he secured the top-ten finish which guarantees more starts on the European Tour.
It was six years ago when Jenkinson, then a highly successful golf coach based at Penrith Driving Range, decided on his change of lifestyle.
Having established a flourishing junior academy at the Penrith range – double McGregor Trophy winner Seb Crookhall-Nixon is among his protegés – Jenkinson had always been at ease dealing with youngsters.
He added: “I have something of a big brother relationship with Gary.
“I have been coaching him since he was 15 and I knew him before that so I understand him and his game well.”
Lockerbie started playing at the age of eight at the Keswick club with his father Tim, “just to get out of the house.”
He switched to Penrith Golf Club at 13 and later won the club championship six years in a row.
Coach Jenkinson added: “Gary’s golf has seen him re-establish the basics over the last year or so and he has started going down to the gym and getting fitter.
“He is the only player I coach now and even though this is the start of five tournaments in a row , I can keep in touch with his game to some extent by him sending me videos over the internet.
“That is going to be easier on the European Tour because some of the places they play on the Challenge Tour have poor IT connections.”
The way they operate this is the player sends a video, the coach makes suggestions and Lockerbie replies saying either “I don’t get that” or “cheers.”