What a week this is for North East golf. Not only did I produce a semi respectable round of 76 in the Alliance meeting at Aboyne, but also our very own Paul Lawrie is competing in his second Ryder Cup over in Chicago.
Ok, so let’s start with Paul. After winning the Open Championship of 1999, Lawrie qualified to play in the infamous Ryder Cup at Brookline, Massachusetts. The event is best remembered for the US team’s over-exuberant celebrations en-route to a one point victory. Often forgotten is the fact Paul Lawrie took 3.5 points from 5 to finish joint top points scorer. It was a fantastic debut performance and one that confirmed his ability to mix it with the very top players in the game.
Paul has returned to his best form over the last couple of seasons and, with two victories this year as well as six further top-10 finishes, he thoroughly deserves his spot on Jose Maria Olazabal’s team.
Paul started his professional career as a teenager, working as an assistant to Doug Smart at Banchory Golf Club. I was just a wee nipper at the time but I can still remember counting out my pennies to buy “Mars bars” from Paul in the pro shop. It didn’t happen that often mind you, as Paul spent almost all of his time down on the practice ground. Doug had spotted potential in his young assistant and was very generous to allow him as much time as he needed to work on his game.
After the course at Banchory was re-designed in the mid-90s, that practice ground became the 14th hole. Latterly, it was aptly named “Paul Lawrie.”
What I remember of Paul from all those years ago is how nice he was to me and the other kids. There are plenty of assistant pros around the country who aren’t so tolerant of the juniors who pester them day in, day out.
On the eve of the last Open at Carnoustie in 2007, Paul wasn’t playing so well. He was under pressure from the press as they challenged him with underachieving in his career. I asked him if he felt this way. I remember his answer clearly.
“If you’d told me when I was working as an assistant professional at Banchory that I’d be an Open Champion, joint top points scorer in the Ryder Cup and multiple European Tour winner, I don’t think I would have viewed that as an underachievement!” He said it with a smile and a glint in his eye, and we both chuckled.
Well nobody is accusing him of underachieving this year and I just hope he goes on to perform as well as we know he can at Medinah. Come on Paul and come on Europe!
Apologies for this rather parochial look at the greatest event in world golf, but we Aberdonians can be a little insular. When the Titanic sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 people, the Press and Journal newspaper carried the headline – “Aberdeen man lost at sea.” It actually didn’t, but let’s not the facts get in the way of a good story.
Oh, and my 76 at Aboyne: a definite underachievement. I played reasonably but frittered away too many shots. The winning total was 68 – Kris Nicol of Fraserburgh and John Nicolson from Auchmill.