Just as I was wondering what to write about this week, someone asked me: What is your connection to madillgolf.com? Wow! How to answer that? Without resorting to the words that I’m trying to eliminate from my vocabulary?
My eventual reply was, I thought, succinct, measured and polite: Maureen’s big sister and co-founder of the blog, Madill being our maiden name. After all, why on earth would the questioner have bothered looking at the blog in the first place and discovered the connection? Far too simple.
Now that the over-70s automatically regard me as one of their own the time for delusions/illusions is long gone and I leave the big questions to others: Why am I here? What’s it all for? Who knows? As my aunt used to say: Just get on with it, dear.
So, that still begs the question: What am I going to write about!Well, Paul Lawrie is as good a place as any to start – and finish. Now 51, he’s playing in his 620th – and last – European Tour event, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club, near North Berwick, not too far from Muirfield. The 1999 Open champion felt that finishing at home was spot on and said: “There are a lot of factors behind the decision, the main one being that I don’t feel I can be competitive week in, week out at this level. My back is not very good. I’ve got a herniated disc and I struggle to practise enough. I’m not able to hit the amount of balls I need. I’m not particularly talented so I lose my game quite quickly.
“It’s not a bad innings considering I turned pro [in 1986] with a 5 handicap and didn’t think I’d play any European Tour events. I haven’t been a great player but I’ve been decent and that’s all you can ask for.”Lawrie’s first win was the Catalan Open of 1996 and he went on to win six other tournaments plus the big one, his major championship at Carnoustie. He played in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline and he and Colin Montgomerie played together in the foursomes and fourballs, winning two matches, halving one and losing one. In all the mayhem of the final day singles, playing in the anchor match, Lawrie kept his head and his nerve and beat Jeff Maggert by 4 and 3. It was an impressive effort, overshadowed by all the whooping and the hollering of the American comeback from 10-6 down.
He won the Dunhill Links Championship in 2001 and the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open in 2002 but didn’t win again until 2011. In 2012 he won twice and skipped the US Open, even though he was exempt, to concentrate on securing his Ryder Cup place at Medinah. “The US Open was never an event I did well in,” Lawrie said. “It wasn’t my type of golf. I’ve never been the straightest off the tee or the strongest getting balls out of the rough……There was no point in me going there and with travelling I thought that was basically three tournaments I was taking out of my schedule….I got a lot of stick for the decision…..but I stuck to my guns, decided it was the best thing for me and it worked out perfectly because I got to Medinah.”
This time it was the Europeans who resurrected themselves on the last day and Lawrie, who’d lost his two fourball matches, defeated Brandt Snedeker 5 and 3 in the singles, one of the highlights of his career.“When I look back,” he said, “the Ryder Cup at Medinah and my win at the Open stand above the rest…They were both special. Medinah was huge because I hadn’t played for Europe in 13 years. I’d lost my game completely in that spell for a wee while, so to come back from lower than 400th in the world to a place in the Ryder Cup team and get back into the top 30 in the world rankings again was a huge effort. I did a lot of work, so to get back into Team Europe and to play with guys I hadn’t played with for a while was amazing for me. And then to come back on Sunday from 10-6 down, to win my singles match, it doesn’t get any better. Medinah was magic. The Open will always be the biggest thing I ever achieved but Medinah was close.”
Proud as he is of his success on the course, Lawrie, an Aberdonian born and bred, is even happier with the work he and his wife Marian have done off the course. “She’s been with me every step of the way and as soon as we got to a level where we thought we could give back we did because it was always something we wanted to do and we really enjoy it. Things have just snowballed since.”
There’s the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, the Paul Lawrie Foundation, the Five Star sports agency and the Tartan Pro Tour – Neil Fenwick, who won that tour’s order of merit recently, is playing at the Renaissance Club in his first European Tour start and Lawrie couldn’t be more chuffed: “To see Neil playing this week is huge for us. That was what the Tartan Pro Tour was designed for, to give guys like him the opportunity to step up.”
Lawrie won’t be abandoning the practice ground altogether, however, because he’s an ambassador for the Legends Tour and will be putting in some work over the winter. “I’ve definitely got ambitions,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to beat them all, all of the time but I feel as if I can win a few and do well. It’s got some huge potential, so I’m going to put all of my attention into that and what I do outside of the game.”
A decent man who’s had a more than decent career.