Building business links
Nineteen years ago, Paul Lawrie checked in at Carnoustie on a journey which would change his life forever.
On a rainswept final day of the 1999 Open Championship, the Aberdonian came from 10 shots behind to win the Claret Jug after a play-off involving Justin Leonard and Jean van de Velde, the Frenchman having earlier famously blown his chance of glory on the 18th hole.
Injury has sidelined Lawrie for the remainder of the season but attending the Scottish Open at Gullane and being back at the scene of his triumph for this week’s Open, which tees off on Thursday, for a raft of media duties, has refocused his desire to return to the fairways early next year.
“This is my 27th year of tour and I haven’t really missed it,” he said. “I have been a golf pro since I was 17 so the first couple of months of not playing was actually quite easy.
“Coming to Gullane on the first morning was the first time I thought: ‘I’d quite like to be warming up’.
“The guys were on the range and chipping and stuff and getting set to play and that was the first time I really missed doing what I do.
“I wasn’t missing it at all until Gullane. The Scottish Open and Carnoustie were the only two events I knew would be quite difficult.
“I never get fed up talking about it (1999) which is a good thing.
‘It will be difficult working and not playing but I’ll just need to handle that’
“It’s going to be a tough week. I’m going to be around all week, doing various media things. It will be difficult working and not playing but I’ll just need to handle that.
“It’s not that other tournaments aren’t important to me but the Scottish Open and The Open, when it’s in Scotland, are the two biggest weeks if you’re a Scottish golfer so I need to get myself fit and ready as I want to keep playing.”
His Open victory catapulted Lawrie into the public eye and was the catalyst for him to set up the Paul Lawrie Foundation two years later to give children of all ages the chance to play golf. In 2012 he established the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Ardoe to provide a base for the flourishing foundation.
As someone who always had an interest in the business world, both enterprises have helped him cope with his enforced absence from competition as he struggles to overcome foot and back problems.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Business, Lawrie, who will be eligible for the Seniors Tour when he turns 50 on 1 January, said: “Growing up, Martin Gilbert from Aberdeen Standard Investments and Stewart Spence, who owns the Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, were very influential with me.
“I spent a lot of time with them and learned bits and pieces. Eric Herd of Farmfoods has been a great supporter of what I have done so I run a lot of things past him business-wise. When you spend time with these guys who are successful in what they do, you learn from them all.
“I wanted to do the foundation a little bit before we did but I didn’t think the kids would know who I was. I wanted to do it when I was an active player and The Open came around and that gave me the opportunity and the platform for everyone to know who I was.
“That was especially important for the kids. It is easy to do these things when you’re retired and have the time but I wanted to make time for the kids; I wanted them to see that even though I was busy and a full-time player, I was able to spend time with them and come along to events.
“Then we bought the golf centre in 2012. I wanted a home for the foundation as it was getting busy and getting big. People think the golf centre makes a fortune but it doesn’t make any money. We put a lot of money into improving it to make it a better facility.
“The idea is just to provide a centre for the people in Aberdeen to come to and enjoy their golf.”
A former Ryder Cup star and European vice-captain, Lawrie is a great ambassador for the game in this country and is regarded by many as an unsung hero given how much he ploughs back into the sport which has been so good to him.
“It wasn’t a conscious effort, it just happened,” he added. “I knew if I was injured, struggling to play or lost form, I would have to have something to do. That was always the idea of the foundation more than the golf centre, where I would spend my time passing on what I have learned to kids.
“That’s what we all have to do. I was lucky enough to have been helped when I was young and had a decent career. There are things I have done well, and things I haven’t done well and kids can learn from that.
“My work ethic is whatever you put into something, you’ll get out of it. If you don’t put work in, you’re not going to get results, whether you’re a business guy or a golfer. From that point of view, I have never been scared to hit balls all day and all night if that’s what it takes.
“It is the same with the business stuff at the moment. I’m not playing, I have time on my hands so have been a bit more involved. It’s quite hard work – playing golf is way easier than the business side of it and that’s why people say play golf for as long as you can.
“I have always had one eye on a little bit of business. You tend to find that golfers want to be business guys and business guys want to be golfers.
“It’s amazing how it works. I always wanted to be a business man and make money but I’m a golfer! I’ve got to try to combine the two.
“In the back of my mind was the fact I can’t play golf forever and there would come a point when I wouldn’t earn money from playing golf so I had to have something else I could do.
“It’s not easy being a golfer but it’s a lot easier than having to work full-time!”
Education: Robert Gordon University, turned professional golfer 1986
Golf career: debut tour win at the 1996 Catalan Open; won Open Championship 1999; vice-captain for the European Ryder Cup team in 2016
Created Paul Lawrie Foundation 2001
In 2012 he bought Aspire Golf Centre in Aberdeen (now called the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre). Partly due to this, he was named by the Golf Club Managers’ Association’s magazine as the 37th most powerful person in British golf.
Other points of interest
Appointed an MBE in 2000
Lawrie is a fan of Aberdeen Football Club and is an author of numerous books