Chris Doak re-energised for Hero Open chance thanks to Paul Lawrie
Though it is nearly seven years since he secured a career-best cheque of just under £125,000 for finishing fifth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Doak has been re-energised heading into the £1.7 million event at Fairmont St Andrews.
The 43-year-old has Paul Lawrie to thank for that spring in his step, having got the competitive juices flowing again through playing on the Tartan Pro Tour, set up by the 1999 Open champion last year, and now having the Aberdonian as his manager.
“It is an exciting opportunity,” admitted Doak of being among 17 Scots teeing up on the Torrance Course, where the action starts on Thursday, “and it’s all thanks to Paul Lawrie.
“I’ve signed up with his management company, Five Star Sports Agency, and he’s the one who pushed for an invite. He’s also managed to secure a sponsor for me, Special Piping Materials in Aberdeen, so it’s all coming together again.”
Doak, who hails from Greenock but now lives in Livingston, had his first full season on the European Tour in 2009, finishing 168th on the money-list after playing in 22 events.
Helped by a win in the Allianz Open de Lyon on the Challenge Tour, he secured a seat back at the top table in 2013, holding on to his card for the next season by finishing 101st in the Race to Dubai.
On the back of that brilliant performance in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - he closed with a 66 on the Old Course - Doak then finished a career-best 71st in 2014 before losing his full playing privileges at the end of the following season.
He’s only made five appearances on the main tour since then, most recently when he qualified for the 2019 Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, but he’s not given up hope of testing himself against the best on a regular basis.
“I’m still in the mindset that I want to get back there,” insisted Doak, who is doubly excited about this week’s assignment due to the fact he offers lessons at Fairmont St Andrews and will be back doing so once the event is finished. “I want to get back as close as I can rather than just turning up at events and making up numbers.”
Referring once more to Lawrie, who brought down the curtain on his European Tour career in last year’s Scottish Open but is still enjoying his fix of competitive action on the Legends Tour, he added: “Paul’s been great, as he has been with helping a lot of the other Scottish guys out by setting up the Tartan Pro Tour.
“I’ve always played since coming off the European Tour, a lot of the time with Jerry Sarvadi at The Renaissance Club, where I do some coaching, but, until the Tartan Pro Tour came along, the Scottish circuit wasn’t very good.”
In an ideal world, where would he like to be by the end of next season? “It’s a wee bit more difficult at the moment due to the fact that there is no European Tour Q School again this year and I don’t have a ranking on the Challenge Tour,” he said.
“I would rather have a schedule on the Tartan Pro Tour or the EuroProTour than be bouncing about mini-tours. No disrespect to the mini-tours, but it’s not really giving you an end product.”
With rounds of 62-70-70-63 for a 23-under-under-par total, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui secured an end product at Fairmont St Andrews last October as he swept to a four-shot victory in the AXA Scottish Championship.
He’s back to try and repeat the feat in the Hero Open, won last year by Sam Horsfield at Forest of Arden, with hopes high that the event could deliver a first Scottish success on home soil on the European Tour since Lawrie triumphed in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2012.
While Bob MacIntrye is over in the US playing in the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational this week, that 17-strong representation marks the biggest tartan army for an event on the European circuit since the 2015 Scottish Open at Gullane.
Stephen Gallacher, who won the Hero Indian Open in 2019 and is still waiting for his chance to defend that title due to Covid-19 cancellations, is joined by fellow European Tour card holders David Law, Richie Ramsay, Scott Jamieson, David Drysdale, Grant Forrest, Marc Warren, Calum Hill and Connor Syme.
Craig Howie, a winner on the Challenge Tour this year, is also in the field along with Liam Johnston, Daniel Young, Euan Walker, Paul O’Hara, Graham Fox and Ryan Lumsden, who has secured an invitation along with Doak.
Having been pleased with his recent form, which included a top-15 finish in the Scottish Open, Ramsay is hoping to put himself in convention on Sunday to achieve a boyhood dream.
“I remember coming to the Dunhill Cup every year, almost struggling to see over the wall on 17,” said the three-time tour winner of his early golfing memories in St Andrews.
“Dad lifting me up, sitting on the wall, watching everyone come in when they had the uniforms and were playing in their own national colours.
“Now to be playing on the European Tour in St Andrews, you’d love to have a putt to win a tournament here. When you’re a little kid, that’s what you think about.
“It’s one of those places where you want a putt to win on home soil, it’s something that is extra special – particularly for the Scottish guys.”
World No 86 Andy Sullivan is the highest-ranked player in the field, which also includes recent winners Nacho Elvira and Daniel Gavins but not defending champion Horsfield.
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