A GOLFING psychologist would have had a field day inside the foyer at Deeside Golf Club yesterday, listeningd to a fascinating range of tales from some of the participants in this week’s Paul Lawrie Invitational.
From the tournament host bemoaning another frustrating day on the greens, leader David Law talking about how he’d struggled to learn to be patient in the paid ranks and Jordan Findlay admitting he’d probably have thrown in the towel by now if he hadn’t retained his self-belief, it should all be recorded as one sound bite and played to aspiring Tour pros.
It would be useful, in fact, for so many players in the third staging of this 54-hole event to sit down and chew the fat, because they’ve all found it harder to make headway than they’d imagined when leaving their comfort blanket behind in the amateur game.
“You need to be patient and, 18 months ago, I’ll admit I found that was a hard thing to do,” admitted Law after carding a four-under-par 66 – a splendid effort in a swirling wind and good enough to secure a two-shot lead over Paul Shields, the player he beat in the final to win the 2009 Scottish Boys at Royal Aberdeen, and Paul O’Hara.
“Look at guys like Craig Lee [who finished runner-up recently in the European Masters in Switzerland]. He’s doing well now but it has taken him until 36 to make his presence felt. As long as you keep progressing, that is the main thing.”
A two-times Scottish Amateur champion, Law was still in the non-paid ranks when he played in this event’s inaugural staging two years ago and was a rookie pro 12 months ago. “I feel more mature now,” admitted the 22-year-old Aberdonian, who made a flying start on this occasion with a five-birdie effort, in which his only dropped shot was a three-putt at the last.
Attached to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre and probably the person who has benefitted most from the 1999 Open champion’s mentoring of rising north-east stars, Law is lying sixth on the third-tier Pro Golf Tour money-list. With one event to come – the Deutsche Bank Polish Masters next week – he needs to hold on to that position to earn a step up onto the Challenge Tour next year.“Knowing that is secured as a minimum would mean that I can go to the European Tour Qualifying School feeling pretty relaxed and I’m straight into the second stage for that this year, which is a bonus,” admitted Law.
Having turned professional a year later than the pacesetter, Shields is in his rookie season, which has seen him mainly teeing it up on another third-tier circuit, the PGA EuroPro Tour. “I’ve been ticking over,” said the 22-year-old Kirkhill man after also signing for five birdies. “I’ve not had a sniff of a win yet, but hopefully I can give myself a chance this week.”
Like Law, O’Hara tasted success on the Pro Golf Tour but, after running out of money, the two-times Scottish Amateur runner-up reset his goals and is now sitting his PGA qualification at Clydeway Golf in Uddingston.
“I think Paul is doing the right thing,” commented Lawrie after playing with the 26-year-old in their opening round. “He gave full-time a go but didn’t have enough money to keep it going. He’s taken a couple of steps back and, hopefully, he can kick on again. Sometimes players can jump in too quick – they’ve got to learn to walk before they can run.”
Findlay, a former British Boys’ champion, has had a torrid time so far as a professional. “The only thing that has kept me going is that I know how good I can be,” he said after an encouraging 70. “It has been really bad, but I am finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
If only Lawrie could say the same with a putter in his hands. “It was the same story as it’s been all year – miss after miss after miss,” he said after a 69, which was one better than his 18-year-old son Craig and and seven fewer than his caddie David Kenney. Sitting between that pair after a 73 – a decent effort in his first competitive outing in more than two years – is Andrew Coltart. “I enjoyed the back nine more than the front,” said the two-times European Tour winner of his halves of 39 and 34.