Paul Lawrie interviewed

Added on August 23rd, 2016 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General

FineGolf  interview with Paul Lawrie MBE OBE– (Open Champion at Carnoustie 1999)

 

paul lawrie, sandy lyle, kelsey macdonald

Dornoch Exhibition Match players

 

This interview took place on the occasion of Paul being invited to play an exhibition match in July 2016 to celebrate Royal Dornoch’s 400 years of golf.  He played with Sandy Lyle (Open Champion, Royal St George’s 1985) and Kelsey MacDonald, the Ladies European Tour pro.

 

 

FG. Paul, you have developed a good relationship with the Royal Dornoch club and have obviously played the course before. What are your stand-out recollections of it?

PL. I always enjoy playing at Royal Dornoch.  It’s normally in excellent condition.  The wind is always a big factor at RDGC with it playing 8 holes out northeastwards and most of the back 9 in the opposite direction (or in to your face on both nines if you get unlucky and the tide changes the wind, around the turn, and you can end up playing almost the entire golf course seemingly in to the wind!) The par Three holes (2, 6, 10, 13) are all testing and good, varied holes.

 

FG. As a professional, would you say that the greater distances a golf ball can be propelled these days, have widened the gulf between the amateur golf club member and the pro? The one part of golf that is financially booming is the TV sponsored Pro game. Can you, for example, ever foresee a time when there will be courses designed solely for pros, or have we already reached that stage?

PL. Many of the courses we play on Tour today are too long for the average golfer.  So the Pro course is already very different from the course played by amateurs in many  instances, depending upon the teeing grounds utilised.  The great links courses do not have to be so long.  Weather conditions, bunkering, green speeds, etc all have a huge impact on how playable a course is.  Additional length does not always play such a big part when fairways are fast and running and placement and strategy become much more important.

 

paul lawrie, carnoustie open championship 1999

Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie

FG. You spoke about your calmness at Carnoustie when you won the Open Championship in 1999. I have a saying that it is all about the two Cs. ‘Confidence and Concentration’. Clearly the local crowd were behind you, which might have created extra expectation or nervousness and could have been distracting. Were you just ‘in the zone’?

PL. I’ve spoken many times about the influence and importance of my coach at the time, Adam Hunter, especially in helping to prepare me for the play-off.  He recognised that the tough conditions were going to play a huge part in the final round and when Jean bogeyed his 12th hole he said we should go to the range.  A lot of what Adam did was to take my mind off the enormity of the occasion but the one thing he told me to do as we were driving out to the 15th tee for the start of the play-off was to take a good look at both Justin & John – he realised that (as 1997 Open Champion) Leonard had the greatest expectation upon him and that Van de Velde, having just had  a nightmare on 18, would be all over the place.  He was right.  At that point, I knew that I was going to win thanks to Adam’s clear thinking.  He helped me to remain calm & focused when it mattered most.

 

FG. Not only were you awarded an MBE after winning The Open Championship in 1999 but also an OBE in 2013. Without blushing why was this?

PL. The OBE I’m proud of as it was for Services to Golf, mainly due to the work of my Foundation, which aims to get more kids playing and experiencing the game of golf and helping to nurture talent.

 

FG. As a very keen, active promoter of junior golf, do you see it becoming harder now to lure youngsters away from other sports and distractions?

PL. There are many distractions for young kids now but that’s part of the challenge all sports are facing.  We try to make it attractive and accessible for kids to experience and enjoy golf.

 

paul lawrie. ryder cup

Paul Lawrie with Ryder Cup

FG. To be in two Ryder Cup teams played in America, one lost at Brookline in 1999 and the win at Medinah in 2012, you have said helped you become a better golfer. Unlike cricket that is a balance between individual and team, golf is entirely individual. Was it the extra team dimension at the Ryder Cup that helped you or something else?

PL. Playing as part of a bigger team can have both positive and negative impact.  We play week-in-week out as individuals so some struggle to adjust to having others relying on them and can struggle to perform.  My first experience of the Ryder Cup was hitting the opening tee shot at Brookline – that is, unquestionably, the most nervous I have ever been on a golf course – but Monty was hugely important for me.  Apart from the singles on the Sunday afternoon, I spent every moment on the course with him.  He was brilliant and I learned so much from him about what it takes to be successful in a Ryder Cup.

 

FG. My pet ‘rule of golf’ hate, is having to drop my ball rather than place it when in a bunker that is partially flooded. If you could make one change to the rules of the golf what would it be?

PL. Plugged ball extended to through the green maybe…..(this is the local rule all tour pros play in any case)

 

FG. You have won on ‘running-golf’ courses like Carnoustie and at the Dunhill but also at ‘target-golf’ courses like Celtic Manor. You say that outside Scotland your favourite place is Dubai where its hot climate necessitates courses that are soft and target-style in design. Do you have a preference to target-golf or running-golf?

PL. I grew up playing on links-type courses and The Open is played on links golf courses.  I always enjoy the variety of shots that links golf demands.  Dubai is great for us because of the climate and service so I enjoy it for different reasons.

 

FG. Most golfers are forthright in their views about how courses should be set up but actually have none or little knowledge of the agronomic maintenance dichotomy between fine grasses (Fescues and browntop bents) and weed grasses (Annual meadow grass or Poa annua). Have you had any inclination and time to speak with greenkeepers over the years and discover what is it that helps the game be so much more fun played off tight turf to firm greens than off lush grass to soft greens? What have you learnt from their response?

PL. I’ve had a little experience of golf course design but I’m not an expert.  It’s something I would be interested to know more about and will spend more time on in the future.  I feel that with my experiences of playing so many different courses & styles of courses around the globe I have good ideas and would enjoy working in conjunction with expert course architects and agronomists.

 

paul lawrie foundationFG. You have invested in the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre at Ardoe on the banks of the Dee a couple of years ago and have seen it devastated during recent wet weather, the worst since 1924. How is it recovering and what are your ambitions going forward?

PL. It is now recovering well.  Some damage is still evident and it will take another couple of months before it has completely recovered but considering the damage sustained it is in remarkable shape.  We have a second Paul Lawrie Golf Centre site at Inchmarlo, Banchory (about 20 miles to the West of Aberdeen).  It is along similar lines to PLGC Ardoe with a 20 bay range, short game area and 9 hole course (Par 3s & 4s).  We continue to invest in order to deliver the best possible environment for golfers to play & improve their own games.

 

FG. You are described as a charming gentleman who has worked tirelessly for Scotland’s children golfers. What would you like your legacy to be and how would you like to be remembered?

PL. As someone who gave back to the game that served him (me) so well.  Hopefully we’re doing that through the work of the Foundation.  I’d love to see one of the kids that we’ve assisted make it to the top level of the game and be successful.

Interview conducted by Lorne Smith 2016

 

 

 

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