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Each year as the Open draws to a close, television cuts to the steady hands of Garry Harvey as he tenderly engraves the base of the Claret Jug, just as his father did before him. We get the inside track from the latest in the dynasty of golf’s greatest engravers.
Your day job is competing as a pro on the senior circuits in Scotland and Europe. What has been your highlight as a player so far? I won the Kenyan Open back in 1985, in the days when a lot of European Tour pros played in Africa. I played in the final group with José Rivero, and the first prize was around £12,000, but then I got landed with Kenyan tax, which accounted for about £4,000 of it!
How did your family become the engravers for the Claret Jug? Until the late 1960s, the Open winners would take the jug away and have it engraved themselves, but one year Roberto De Vicenzo (Open Champion of 1967) brought it back without his name engraved. There was another problem when Gary Player’s name was engraved in huge letters that took up about two columns. It does stick out a bit, even now.
So The R&A decided to do it themselves. They employed my father because he did the engraving for the shop in St Andrews that The R&A used for all its silverware.
In the great craftsman’s tradition, did your father teach you everything he knew? Yes. I learnt to engrave when I was a schoolboy to earn extra pocket money. It was quite hard at the time, as you need to learn lots of different styles of writing and lettering. It’s a seven-year apprenticeship so it takes a while, but I qualified working under my father.
You were an aspiring golfer when your father was appointed. Did you dream that he might one day engrave your name on the jug? Aye, that was always the dream. I tried many times to qualify for the Open and I managed it on one occasion, the year Seve won at Royal Lytham in 1979. It’s quite hard to qualify for that thing you know! I didn’t make the cut [Harvey shot 82-80]. My week was going all right until the morning of the first round, when my local caddie went off and caddied for another Scottish pro, Willie Milne. So on the morning of the first round I was scurrying around trying to find a caddie. It wasn’t the best way to prepare for the first round of the Open!
When did your father hand responsibility for the engraving to you? The first Open Champion I engraved was Todd Hamilton in 2004, so since then I have done Tiger Woods twice and Padraig Harrington, although I was ready and waiting with Sergio Garcia’s name pencilled in last year. My father is 83 now and quite frail, and it came to the point when he didn’t want to travel to the Open every year. The R&A had already asked me to take over when my father stopped and I said I’d be delighted.
Have there been any mishaps for you so far as the Claret Jug engraver? No, no. The only thing that can trouble an engraver is the size of the name, but you can always accommodate it. “Padraig Harrington” was a fair squeeze but it was okay.
Do you enjoy having your hands filmed? It’s all part of the Open routine to have the TV camera filming right over my shoulder. The tension builds up a bit on the Sunday while I am waiting to find out which name to engrave, but once the golf is over and I get started there’s no pressure.
Robin has worked for Golf Monthly for over a decade.
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