Legendary F1 driver Jackie Stewart reflects on rounds with Connery, Crosby and the King

October 5, 2019
Jackie Stewart

Legendary Formula One driver Jackie Stewart certainly knows his way around a track. That includes St. Andrews, Prestwick, a pro-am with 007 …

Should I call you Jackie or Sir Jackie?

Sir Jackie’s the right way.

How does a kid from rural Dumbarton, Scotland, get into auto racing?

My father owned a small garage. I left school at 15 because I’m a severe dyslexic. In those days, dyslexia was not something they identified in school — they just called you dumb, stupid or thick. So I became a mechanic in my father’s garage and started racing for a rich young man whose family trust wouldn’t allow him to race his cars and I was spotted.

And golf?

Golf started earlier, at 11. I was never very good at it, but I learned the etiquette of good behavior on the course and in the club, and that helped me in life and in business. I’m a member at Prestwick, where the first Open Championship was played.

I assume you’ve played with Sean Connery, another famous Scot who…

Oh, a lot. We played a pro-am together with Bing Crosby. We won it 5 and 4, and Bing Crosby was so upset. I think he thought my handicap was a gangster handicap.

Do you still play?

I’m completely retired, [but] I’m thinking about taking it back up. I have six holes, built by the Gleneagles people, at my home in England.

Is that the house where you were neighbors with George Harrison?

Close by, yes. We were best friends. He wrote a song about me called “Faster.” “Faster than a bullet from a gun” —  that’s the chorus.

Your first car?

Austin A30. Light green. It cost me 375 pounds.

Your favorite golf course?

St. Andrews. It’s unique—the history, the clubhouse, the caddies, the wind, the weather. Golf courses in America are easier to play than in Scotland. That’s dangerous for me to say, I guess.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone in a car?

At Le Mans: 242 miles per hour in a GT-40.

What goes through your head when you’re going 242 miles per hour?

Nothing, really. Speed is irrelevant when you’re a racing driver.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone in a golf cart?

Not fast enough.

Who’s the best golfer you’ve ever played with?

Arnold Palmer. He was such a gentleman, so human. He was just a beautifully balanced man.

How is the rapport between driver and mechanic like that of a golfer and caddie?

The people you associate with is the most important thing in life. My daddy told me, “If you fly with crows, you’re liable to be shot at. If you soar with the eagles, you’re above shot.” My mechanics were above shot, and they’re the reason I’m still here today.

Now that you’re 80, do you ever feel the need to step on the gas and get that rush again?

No. I have a chauffeur.

The greatest driver in the world has a chauffeur?

Yeah. [Laughs] I’m not in a hurry anymore.

Chris Nashawaty is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story.