Even at the age of 48 and despite having a major, two Ryder Cup appearances and 13 professional victories under his belt, Paul Lawrie still needs a cuddle every now and again.
His wife, Marian, has been a rock in that respect when it has come to life matters, but the Aberdonian has felt something of a void from a golfing perspective since the death of his coach and friend, Adam Hunter more than five years ago.
It’s one of the main reasons, in fact, behind his decision, one that raised the odd eyebrow in the game, to sign for Andrew “Chubby” Chandler at ISM, a management move that was announced in the wake of Lawrie returning to winning ways at the age of 48 last weekend in the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt in South Africa.
“I felt for a long time that I haven’t really had somebody who can put his arm round me and manage me as Adam used to do, and he’s been gone for a while,” said Lawrie. “That’s been the biggest thing that’s been missing, so I spoke to Chubby and he does that with Lee [Westwood] and Darren [Clarke]. I spoke to Darren at the Ryder Cup and he said, ‘for what you’re looking for there’s no-one better’.
“No matter how good a player you are or how long you’ve played, you need someone you can run things past. Someone you respect, someone who has been through it and done it. That person for me was always Adam. I ran things past him and he was there to give advice. I just felt that I need that right now.”
The link up, which follows the pair playing together and clearly enjoying each other’s company in the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek last November, might have happened after Lawrie’s Claret Jug success at Carnoustie in 1999.
“I could have gone to Chubby straight after The Open, and wished I’d gone,” added the Aberdonian. “I’ve always liked Chubby. He’s a character and he gets on with everyone and you can see him dealing with your sponsors really well. Commercially with him, there’s more opportunities, and I also need to be ready when I’m 50.”
By that, of course, he means hitting the ground running on the Senior Tour. “I need to keep playing,” he said. “When I get to 50, I feel could could be a hell of a senior. A lot of guys in my era, when they got to 50 they were kind of done. I don’t feel I’m going to be in that category. I feel I’m still going to be competitive on the main Tour and mix in a bit of seniors, as opposed to the other way. I think I’m going to have a hell of a schedule, which will include going to America bit for the Champions Tour, in two years’ time. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
As is Lawrie’s next event, which will be a debut appearance in the Sunningdale Foursomes in a fortnight’s time. His oldest son, Craig, is partnering him in that, after Lawrie snr joined forces with his other son, Michael, in the team event in the Dimension Data Pro-Am. “I’d always wanted to play in the Sunningdale Foursomes and every single year it never fitted in,” said Lawrie. “I was always away or whatever, but a few months back I looked at the dates for this year and I thought, ‘man I can make the Sunningdale Foursomes this year’. Michael is going to caddie for me and Craig is my partner. I’ve never played foursomes with Craig before, so we will have to work out our strategy (smiling). I’m looking forward to it.”
As for Lawrie’s next European Tour assignment, it could be the Portugal Open in mid-May, which isn’t giving him a chance to strike again while his irons are hot, so to speak, but he is quietly confident that he’s not done with winning yet on his home circuit.
“I don’t see why I can’t get back in the top 50 in the rankings. I really don’t,” he insisted, having climbed more than 200 spots to 246th on the back of his South African success before dropping six places in the latest rankings. “I understand I haven’t been producing that kind of golf for a while, but I work the same, I hit the same amount of balls, put a lot of time into it. I don’t think I’m past the best of it yet. But you’ve got to produce it. There’s no point in saying that. You’ve got to get the jobs done, get the results. But I honestly feel I can still win at the highest level.
“I’ve felt great, physically, for a good few months now. For a while I wasn’t able to hit many more than 40 or 50 balls and I was struggling. But now I’m hitting 400-500 most mornings at my golf centre five days a week. I feel ready to go but, at 48, travelling all the way to places like China and India isn’t not for me.”
As tournament host, Lawrie will be teeing it up in the third Paul Lawrie Match Play, which, after being held at Murcar Links and Archerfield Links over the past two years, is heading to the Bad Griesbach resort in Germany in August.
It will be business as normal for the Scot in that despite his management switch. Referring to the company he’s just left, he said: “4Sports own it. It’s their tournament, and I’m contracted with them to do three years, and this is the last year. I don’t think it will be awkward in any way. We left on good terms and I’m sure Chubby will be there anyway and making sure everything goes smoothly as well.”
Lawrie was speaking as he received an Inspiration Award from Scottish Golf to mark his efforts in growing the game at grassroots level through his foundation, founded in 2001.
Just as important to him, though, is proving an inspiration to players he mentors like Ross Kellett and David Law as they bid to reach the European Tour via the Challenge Tour.
“Davy and Ross, both guys in their 20s, watched me win last week and it shows them, man, you’ve a helluva career if you keep going,” opined Lawrie. “Sometimes I wish they would call me a little bit more. But, at the same time, I think it’s up to them to find out for themselves from the mistakes they make as you learn and kick on.”