Sweden's Henrik Stenson makes his birdie putt on the 18th green during his final round 63 to win the Championship. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Friends of Mike Gerbich, who died of cancer aged 74 last week, say memories of the former Emirates Golf Club captain helped spur Henrik Stenson to his first Major victory in the British Open Championship at Troon on Sunday.

Stenson, who lived in Dubai for almost a decade until 2012, carded a record lowest Major-winning score of 20-under-par to finish two shots clear of Phil Mickelson, before dedicating his victory to his friend and mentor Gerbich, who was himself a fellow former resident in the emirate from 1989 to 2009.

“He was one of the real good guys back in Dubai,” said Stenson, who wore a black ribbon in his hat in honour of the American.

“I’ve known him for many, many years, and he was a very keen golfer and a great man,” added the Swede. “He’s been battling cancer for a long time, but I had news on Tuesday that the end was near, and unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday over in the US.

“He’s always been there as a big supporter of mine, and in good days and bad days he’s always sent me messages and been out at events. This one is dedicated to him, for sure. I felt like he was there with me this week.”

Rodney Bogg, who was the founding manager of Emirates Golf Club, and in charge from 1987 to 1993, said: “I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Mike helped inspire Henrik to victory. There’s even a comment on Facebook that asks: ‘Did Mike blow that last putt in Henrik?’

“That Henrik felt it appropriate to mention Mike in the prize giving of a Major is a massive tribute. Not many are bestowed with that honour, I’ve certainly never seen it in all my years in golf and it just sums up how highly regarded Mike was and what a great guy Henrik is.”

James Williams, who was the head professional at Emirates Golf Club from 1987 to 1997, said: “Mike was a fabulous guy who was the life and soul of the golf club. It needed members like him to bind everyone, of all different nationalities, together. He was one of, if not the, best members in my 45 years of golf.

“Henrik would have met him at the club earlier on in his career when he didn’t have much money and Mike would have put him up at his house because that’s the sort of thing Mike did.”

He added: “I think Mike’s passing hit Henrik quite hard, and with thoughts of him in his mind, it inspired him to finally get over the line in a Major.”

Surender Singh Kandhari, another former Emirates Golf Club captain, also worked alongside Gerbich at General/Continental Tyres, and was instrumental in bringing him to Dubai as the firm’s general manager.

Kandhari said: “He asked: ‘Is there a golf club’ and I said: ‘yes’. Emirates Golf Club had just opened in 1987, so he came over, we played a round of golf and he said: ‘I’m staying’.

“They made him captain not long after that and he became the most popular guy on the local golf scene, everyone misses him. He was fun loving, happy-go-lucky and he was the same in the office as well, always buying samosas for everyone, a good soul and a good human being who felt like a family member.”

Chris May, chief executive officer of Dubai Golf, said a gathering was organised at Emirates Golf Club for friends who couldn’t make Gerbich’s funeral in Arizona on Saturday. May confirmed an annual memorial match would be added to the club’s calendar to honour Gerbich’s contribution to local golf.

Gerbich is survived by his wife Francie and two sons Cuyler and Kashe.