There can be few, if any, top touring professionals who maintain such a connection to grassroots golf as Scotland’s Paul Lawrie.
This week the Aberdonian was presented with a PGA recognition award for his work, through the Paul Lawrie Foundation, to support and grow the sport. The foundation was launched in 2001 and it has helped countless juniors get into, and develop, their golf. The current crop of players enjoying the support of the Paul Lawrie Foundation includes two-time Scottish Amateur champion David Law and Kris Nicol, who recently won the Q school on the Alps Tour. The Foundation has also expanded beyond golf and now supports other sports including football, swimming and hockey. To see more check out paullawriefoundation.co.uk
But Paul doesn’t just support grassroots golf; he still plays a bit of it too. He’s a member of the North East Alliance – the event I compete in most Wednesday’s through the winter. Open to pros and amateurs, we visit a course somewhere around the North East of Scotland each week, pay a tenner and play in some fairly inhospitable conditions.
You might think chapping about from winter tees, across mud and ice to rather dubious putting surfaces might be a bit below a former Open champion, and maybe not the best preparation for competing against the world’s best on pristine layouts in warmer climes. But no, when his schedule allows, Paul tees it up. And he doesn’t always win.
His last start in this year’s Alliance was at a very windy Newburgh on 23 November. He fired a two-under-par 70, but was beaten by a shot by one of his protégés Kris Nicol. (I shot a 75 if that’s of interest, which it really isn’t.) If my limited understanding of the Alliance prizemoney is correct, Paul will have picked up £80 for his efforts – money that goes straight back to the Foundation.
Two and a half weeks later Lawrie picked up another cheque, this one a little heftier, about £515,000 heftier in fact. By finishing runner-up in the Dubai World Championship, Lawrie pushed himself up to 18th on the 2011 Race to Dubai and moved back inside the World’s top-100.
How many players experience golf at both ends of the spectrum in this way? None, I’d guess. One week playing with a rag-tag bunch of die-hard golf lovers on a partly frozen course, beating all but one of them and picking up £80; then a fortnight later playing an event featuring many of the top-100 players in the world over a perfectly manicured track, beating all but one of them and picking up £500,000 – quite amazing really.
The members of the North East Alliance might need Paul’s help with a little mission that we’re embarking upon.
Next summer a new course is opening just north of Aberdeen, the owner is an American chap called Donald Trump. Apparently the track is going to be pretty good and we are kindly offering Donald the opportunity to host a meeting of the North East Alliance, maybe not next year but perhaps in 2012. We’ll see how Monty, Sean Connery et al. get on first.
Welcoming the Alliance would be a real badge of honour for Mr Trump and vindication for all the hoops he’s had to jump through to get the project through the planning process. I know that he has ambitions to hold some significant events at his new course and this would surely be a great stepping-stone. We have a field that (might) include a future Open champion, a former Walker Cup player, a former Scottish Amateur champion, a former British Boys champion, a former winner of the Northern Open and the Tartan Tour, then there’s me, my dad and a selection of other such notable figures in the world of golf. It’s a no-brainer Donald.