PAUL Lawrie, a two-times winner, has handed the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship a major boost by pledging to play in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event in just over a week’s time.
Having decided to skip the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, a new addition to the European Tour schedule this season, the 1999 Open champion will instead join Scotland’s leading home-based players in the 72-hole event when it is staged for four days over the King’s Course starting on Sunday week.
“I’m playing this year as it fits into schedule, which it hasn’t done for a number of years,” Lawrie told The Scotsman from Shanghai, where he is playing in the Volvo China Open. “I’m really looking forward to it as it is always nice to see and play with the guys who I played with in my Tartan Tour days. It will also be good to play the King’s Course and stay at the hotel.”
Lawrie had only just started playing on the European Tour when he claimed the Scottish title for the first time in 1992, his victory at Cardross being sandwiched by a brace of successes by Sam Torrance. The Aberdonian’s second victory in the event came 13 years later at Gleneagles, where his presence for the 2015 edition is much appreciated by Brian Mair, the PGA in Scotland secretary. “It is testament to the stature of the venue that we have attracted such a strong field,” he said. “To have the likes of Paul teeing up is a great filip for the Tartan Tour and our flagship event and typifies Paul’s support of golf in Scotland.”
In recent years, Lawrie has played in his own Invitational event at Deeside as well as the occasional pro-am, including an annual one at Skibo Castle, where he is attached. Last year, he put his name to the Northern Open at Murcar Links but could only play in the pro-am before heading off to play in the Irish Open. To get him an event whose profile has dipped since the days when it was held at Dalmahoy and attracted decent-sized crowds is, indeed, a welcome boost.
It coincides with the field having been doubled in size – to 132 – and the £40,000 event being held over four days instead of three. “I believe is it appropriate for our flagship event,” said Mair.
Lawrie, who also, of course, won the 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship at the Perthshire resort to secure his second Ryder Cup appearance that year, will face some stiff competition in his bid to complete a hat-trick of victories in this tournament.
West Linton’s Gareth Wright, last year’s winner, won’t give up his title lightly while Lawrie also knows that his fellow North-East loon, Greig Hutcheon, is as stuffy as many of the competitors he crosses swords with on the European Tour.
“We are delighted to confirm another exceptionally strong field,” added Mair. “In addition to Paul, this includes defending champion Gareth Wright, Tartan Tour Order of Merit champion Greig Hutcheon, former European Tour winners Stephen McAllister, Ronan Rafferty, Jonathan Lomas and Andrew Oldcorn as well as European Tour/Senior Tour regular and four-times former Scottish PGA champion Ross Drummond. We look forward to four great days over the magnificent King’s Course, a wonderful curtain-raiser for the 2015 Tartan Tour season.”
The field will also include Heather MacRae after the host club player successfully came through one of two qualifiers held earlier this week at Crieff. It won’t, of course, be the first time she has been involved in a “battle of the sexes” in this event, having found herself firmly in the spotlight at the same venue, though on the PGA Centenary Course, in 2009, when she became the first woman to tee up in it for 76 years.
Though the Dunblane player missed the cut on that occasion, she is much better equipped for such a test these days after using a combination of the Paul Lawrie Ladies Tartan Tour and the Access Series to earn her card for the Ladies European Tour this season.