Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie is looking forward to a whole new game of golf.
Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie isn’t particularly one for looking back, despite the British Open Golf Championship returning this year to Carnoustie, the site of his win in 1999.
“Well I remember, the play-off, and I remember the shots that I hit and the clubs that I hit; that will never go away,” he says. “I don’t remember every detail of the final round, but there are obviously bits of it which stick out; you’re never going to entirely forget such a big event as that.”
At the time it was his third victory, and definitely the biggest. “I’d been on the Tour for seven years at that point; I’d gone through and done my apprenticeship, as it were,” he says. “The Open was the tournament I’d always hoped that I would have a chance of winning, and it was a perfect time to win an event like that.
“Any British golfer wants to win The Open; it’s the biggest event for us. I always thought I had a chance at some point, because I enjoy that form of golf, so it was great to win it.”
Winning at Carnoustie meant Paul found himself playing on a whole different level. “I went to America a bit more, and I got on the Ryder Cup that September,” he adds. “Though I would have got on the Ryder Cup team that year no matter how I’d played at Carnoustie. Even if I hadn’t won, I’d have still been on the team; The Open didn’t make much different there. But to play in the Ryder Cup was cool.”
Winning one of golf’s four major championships (the others are the Masters Tournament, the US Open, and the PGA Championship, all held in America) is something that’s going to catapult any player into a higher level, and he has represented Scotland and Great Britain on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, Paul has always displayed a remarkably grounded approach to the game.
“It’s just my job,” he says. “I play golf for a living, so if there’s tournaments, you do your schedule at the start of the year; I have played an average of 23 or 24 tournaments a year for nearly 30 years. You try to get ready for the tournaments you want to play well in, the tournaments you want to play in.”
His dedication to the job has resulted in being one of only eight current players to have competed in more than 600 European Tour events. “I don’t think it’s something that you aim for, but it shows that there’s longevity,” he points out. “I’m really proud of it, it’s a lot of tournaments to play. There are quite a few people who go through 500, but 600 seems to be ‘not many’, and there’s only one man who has gone through 700, which is Sam Torrance. I have pretty high hopes of reaching the same number as Sam if I can!”
The last few years have seen Paul increasingly busy away from the golf course, thanks in part to the Paul Lawrie Foundation, which provides opportunities for young people to start playing golf and compete at the highest level they can.
“The plan was always to give back as much as possible; the game’s been extremely good to us, so myself and my wife Marian set up the Foundation in 2001,” he explains. “It’s grown steadily every year to the point now where it’s massive, and we’re very proud of it. I wanted to do it a little earlier than we started it, but didn’t think I was well known enough for the kids. Then all of a sudden the Open came along and it gave us the opportunity to launch something, to give something back to the kids where we live.”
The Foundation is based at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Aberdeen. “We do a little bit up north, and have events that people enter, from all over Scotland, but they’re played here, where lot of the kids play and practice and work on their game. We do some coaching; we have an Academy, and I try to pass on as much as I can of what I’ve learned through the years.”
The centre was originally one he and his family played at, which they bought when looking for a base that his Foundation could call home. “It was called the Aspire Golf Centre, it came up for sale, so we bought it. It’s a commercial business interest of ours; we spent money on it, to upgrade it and get it to the level it is now, which is absolutely beautiful. It currently does alright, but not great; we’re certainly not making any money out of it yet, but it was a longterm plan that we put in place so hopefully one day it will do alright.”
Much the same can be said for the Cardinal clothing brand, which they inherited with the Centre and subsequently relaunched. “That was something that our youngest son Michael really wanted to do,” he says.
“We use it quite a lot for supplying our young pros; some of the gear for these guys is quite expensive, so it’s a good way for us to support them. We sell it online and at the golf centre. Again, it’s a kind of commercial business, but right now it’s certainly very early days. It doesn’t make any money yet but the plan for it is to do that.”
Golf has certainly become something of a family affair, but this wasn’t always the case. “My father and brother both played when I was younger, but not at any level,” he says. “When I was young, I wanted to be a footballer, but then realised quite quickly that I wasn’t good enough, so turned my attention to golf when I was about 15 or 16. I started practising, started working, turned pro and did alright straight off the bat, so your confidence just grows, and off you go.
“My eldest son Craig is a professional; this is his fourth year, playing on the EuroPro tour. Michael is just finishing his first year at Stirling University. We’ll need to wait and see how he gets on there, but he’s a top amateur. Both the boys are very good golfers, and both have a plan to follow their old man, which would be nice. Obviously, we never pushed that, but they both chose that life, so we’ll support them all we can.
“Golf’s a great life if you’re good at it. If you’re at the top of the sport then it’s a hell of a good way to earn a living and it’s great fun, but if you’re not good at it, it’s hard work. So it’s up to them to be as good as they can, and hopefully kick on. Even if they don’t, they both love the game, they both enjoy playing, so as long as they keep that, we’ll be happy.”
Paul is also looking to his own future in the game, as he approaches his 50th birthday in January – and the Seniors! “This last couple of years I’ve still played, but golf has taken a little bit of a backseat,” he says. “Next January I plan to get going again and start playing full time because I’m going to be competitive, when I get to 50 and the Seniors tour. I’ve always been a very competitive person, but when you get to your late 40s on the Regular Tour it’s very very hard to compete with these young guys.
“I’m really looking forward to January, when I turn 50, and I’ll be the youngest on the range as opposed to the oldest! I mean, what a difference that’s going to make. My competitiveness will come back, and I think I’m going to be a really good senior.”
HOPES FOR CARNOUSTIE
So what does Paul think of the current state of Scottish and British golf?
“There’s a number of English lads who are all doing extremely well at the moment,” he says. “England have really a lot of players high up on the world rankings; so, at the moment, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, obviously Ian Poulter who won the Houston Open in April. They have a huge number of players who are all in the top 20 of the world rankings.
“As far as Scottish lads go, obviously we are not going through a great spell at the moment,” Paul admits. “We have no one in the top 100 of the world rankings, which is obviously disappointing. All the players are disappointed about that, but we have a number of people who are capable of playing in the top 50, never mind the top 100, so it would be nice to see a couple of Scottish guys in there with a chance to win the Open. In Carnoustie. Obviously it’d give everyone a bit of a boost; it would be nice to see some Scottish boys playing well.”
First published in The Scots Magazine, #July 2018.