To borrow 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie’s well-used nickname, son Craig is now truly a “Chippy” off the old block. With his father’s full backing, the 18-year-old, the older of Paul’s two sons, has turned professional and makes his debut today in the paid ranks in the North-East Alliance at Ellon.
While he had first considered furthering his education with a golf management course at the University of Highlands and
Islands in Dornoch, Craig’s long-held ambition to follow in his old man’s spikemarks has led
instead to him leaving the amateur ranks to embark on an exciting new playing career.
Having secured support from three backers, including two that have had a long association with Lawrie Snr, Craig will compete initially on two third-tier circuits, the German-based Pro Golf Tour and PGA EuroPro Tour in Britain and Ireland.
He will have some familiar faces for company on the EuroPro Tour in the likes of David Law, Kris Nicol, Philip McLean and Jordan Findlay.
They are all attached to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen, where Craig has the fallback of being able to enter the PGA training programme. But, describing him as “far better” than him at the same age, Lawrie Snr is confident that will not be necessary.
“For Craig to follow up what I do is hugely exciting for us,” said the two-times Ryder Cup player at an announcement yesterday that was also attended by his wife, Marian. “He showed interest very early on that he wanted to play golf for a living and that’s always been the plan. Craig was going to go to college in Dornoch for four years but plans change. Craig decided pretty quickly that he wanted to have a go at playing and I think I would have done the same. College for four years or turn pro right away – I know what I’d be doing.
“One of the discussions we had was for him to stay amateur one more year. But, after talking with a few people, we felt that he would be better turning professional now. The plan is for him to play full-time next year. He will mainly play Pro Golf Tour and EuroPro Tour events as well as Tartan Tour events in the summer. His first professional event will be tomorrow at Ellon Golf Club in the Alliance, where I cut my teeth as a pro.”
Craig, the Deeside junior and men’s stroke-play champion this year, has already dipped his toe in professional waters. He played in this season’s Paul Lawrie Invitational at his home club and came up against the likes of Robert Rock and Paul Baker, both European Tour winners, in the British Par-3 Championship earlier this year, when he claimed the amateur title in that event.
“I’m still pretty young and I want to kick on,” he said, having reduced his handicap to plus one in a fairly short spell.
“There’s time afterwards to do my PGA training if it doesn’t work out. But I want to play golf for a living and I couldn’t have anyone any better than dad to guide me. He’s seen it all, from working in the pro shop to winning The Open and playing in the Ryder Cup.”
The latest Lawrie recruit to the pro ranks – and don’t be surprised if the dynasty is added to as Michael, a 14-year-old who plays off two, is keen to follow suit in due course – will wear the Aberdeen Asset Management and Hunting logos in the same spots on his clothing as his father, who is also delighted that a third company, M I Swaco, is also supporting the youngster.
Recalling the move he made in 1986, Lawrie Snr said: “I turned pro a year earlier than Craig is doing. I was playing off five handicap and wasn’t very good, to be honest. So Craig is a whole lot better than I was at that age, though I kind of improved quickly when I turned pro. Seeing both Craig and Michael start to get better in recent years is one of the reasons for my resurgence. I remember when I got home after Craig beat me for the first time. I poured myself a huge glass of wine and Marian thought somebody had tried to shoot me. It felt worse than that!
“It made me practise and work more. I love playing with the boys. It’s great fun. We always play competitively. There’s no bounce games so they definitely kicked me on.”
Craig has just returned from Texas, where he enjoyed an “awesome experience” as part of the Grampian Houston Junior Golf Exchange. “Trips like that weren’t there in my day,” added Lawrie Snr.
“My most important piece of advice for Craig is not to get too downhearted too quickly,” he added. “Some people take to it quickly like Rory McIlroy, others take time. You’ve got to keep your head up.
“Craig hits it quite far, irritatingly a little bit further than me at times, which is annoying. Even more annoying, his younger brother, Michael, sometimes hits it as far as me. I’m sure he’ll be next to stress his mum out by following in my footsteps!”