In a press conference yesterday at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen, the 1999 Open Champion, together with the PGA, announced three separate initiatives in support of professional golf in Scotland.
Firstly, the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre will be headline sponsor of this year’s Northern Open Championship to be contested at Murcar Golf Links on June 17-19. First staged in 1931, the Northern Open is one of only two 72-hole events on the Tartan Tour calendar. It’s an event that Paul has a strong affinity with.
“I remember fondly playing the Northern Open so it’s nice to be part of that history,” he said. “Murcar was on the rota of courses that regularly hosted the Northern Open, so it’s good to see it back in Aberdeen.”
Murcar Golf Club captain David Grant commented, “It’s a great honour that the PGA and sponsors are taking such a prestigious tournament back to Murcar Links. We are delighted to host the 2014 Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Northern Open and will extend a warm welcome to players, officials and spectators.”
The support of the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre will result in an increased prize-fund of £35,000 for the 2014 championship.
Paul stressed the importance of the multi-day events on the Tartan Tour circuit, in terms of providing talented young players with experience of the type of tournament golf they might encounter as they look towards European or Challenge Tour golf.
“A number of the young guys on the Tartan Tour are looking forward towards the big tours,” he said. “It’s great to be able to offer 54 and 72 hole events domestically. It gives the players more of an idea of what to expect and how to deal with the longer tournaments.”
With that in mind, Paul also confirmed that the 54-hole, Paul Lawrie Invitational is to be held at Deeside Golf Club on September 16-18. And the PGA in Scotland announced that the event will, for the first time, count towards the Order of Merit for PGA professionals in 2014.
The field size for this year’s Paul Lawrie Invitational will be increased from 66 to 72 players and will carry a prize fund of £40,000 – £5,000 up on last year.
The change to an Order of Merit event, rather than entry being purely through invitation, means a qualifying round will be required for those not already exempt for the tournament. This will be held at Royal Musselburgh GC on August 4.
There will still be a dozen places granted by invitation from the sponsor – The Paul Lawrie Foundation.
“My invitational was always designed to bring together some of the younger, up-and-coming talents in Scotland and give them a chance to test themselves against experienced PGA pros and one or two guys playing at the highest level,” said Paul “We’ve grown the event year on year and the fact it’s now an Order of Merit counter on the Tartan Tour strengthens the schedule.”
The schedule of the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre (PLGC) Ladies Tartan Tour has also been strengthened for 2014, as the PGA in Scotland announced it will run the circuit this season.
There are to be five events this year at – Fairmont St Andrews, Murcar Links, Dundonald Links, Macdonald Cardrona and Marriott Dalmahoy. Each will have a prize fund of £6,000 and, this season, the tournaments will be contested over 36-holes rather than a single round as they were last year.
“We want to provide a platform for the lady pros and amateurs to prepare for the day they tackle Q school and beyond,” said Paul. “Getting them used to playing two-round tournaments is a step in that direction.”
The PLGC Ladies Tartan Tour is open to all female professionals and amateurs with a single-figure handicap. The events are not restricted to Scottish-based players and last year there were a number of entrants from England and continental Europe.
Brian Mair, secretary of the PGA in Scotland expressed his thanks for Paul’s support. “Not only does Paul continue to compete at the highest level, but his ever-increasing backing for grass-roots golf and the domestic circuit makes him a tremendous ambassador for golf and the north east of Scotland.”