The Aberdonian continues to receive knockback after knockback from his personal requests to secure invitations for the Champions Tour, having played in just one regular event on the US-based circuit since turning 50 in January.
As a major winner, Lawrie feels a deep sense of frustration about that but, at the moment at least, America’s loss is definitely Europe’s gain. In just his third start in a regular event on the Staysure Tour, he made a winning debut in the Scottish Senior Open.
At the end of three windy days at Craigielaw, he was the only player in a 54-strong field to finish under par. In even tougher conditions than the opening two days on the East Lothian coast, Lawrie battled his way to a closing 71. He ended with a two-under 211 total, winning by two shots from Englishman Peter Baker (70) and Australian Peter Fowler (75).
It was his fourth big success on Scottish soil as a professional after The Open (1999), Dunhill Links Championship (2001) and Johnnie Walker Championship (2012). “It’s always nice to win in your own country,” he admitted of a success that was worth £37,500. It was delivered, incidentally, exactly 20 years and one month after that Claret Jug win at Carnoustie.
“It’s a nice win,” he added of joining David Huish (1998), Bill Longmuir (2004), Sam Torrance (2006) and Gary Orr (2018) as home champions in the event. “I’ve not won since 2012 on the main tour and, though I won the Dimension Data [on the Sunshine Tour] in 2017, I’m a senior now and I want to be one of the top players and one of the top seniors.”
Two behind Fowler at the start of the day, Lawrie birdied the second, fourth and seventh to be out in two-under and turned for home with his nose in front. After bogeys at the tenth and 13th, it had turned into a tense affair in a final group that also contained Fowler and Austrian Markus Brier.
In the end, the par-4 15th proved pivotal. Right off the tee, Brier paid the penalty for missing the green on the left with his approach and ended up taking 6. Fowler’s 5 at the same hole left Lawrie with breathing space before Baker, playing a couple of groups ahead, birdied the par-3 17th.
It was timely, therefore, that Lawrie produced “one of my best shots of the week” to save par there. “It was sitting really bare and I managed to nip it and get a bit of spin on it,” he reported later, having signed off with a regulation par to finish the job off. “It doesn’t matter what tour you’re playing on, winning is not easy,” said Lawrie. “A year or so ago I didn’t know if I would even play again, so to win is pretty cool. When I stopped and my foot was diagnosed as a torn ligament and a raptured tendon, you think ‘man, that sounds pretty serious’.
“But my surgeon, Gordon Mackay, did a tremendous job and my foot is almost better than it was five or six years ago. Stuart Barton has done a great job physio-wise, too. The two of them have been brilliant. I didn’t think winning tournaments would happen.”
Lawrie had been set to secure a two-year exemption for the Champions Tour before that was scrapped 18 months ago, leaving him having to beg for starts in the US. “I’ve had knockbacks for every event on the Champions Tour for the rest of the year after writing to them all personally. I get a reply all the time, but everyone is exactly the same – really sorry but you’ve not got an invite. Then they ask you to go to the Monday qualifying, which is just hilarious because you are not going to jump on a plane to go to California for that, are you?
“It’s up to them and they don’t have to invite me, but I feel hard done to and I think [former US Open champion] Michael Campbell feels the same. It is their tour, it is their rules. It is just frustrating that you can’t get in. I would have had a two-year exemption from my Open win, but they changed it and I went from a two-year exemption to no exemption, which seems harsh to me. A lot of players feel the same.”