Despite an adult day ticket for the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event costing just £15 with kids getting in free, the attendance for the four days in East Lothian last week was extremely poor, barely reaching the 10,000 mark, which represented a drop of around 1,000 from 12 months ago.
In fairness, the weather didn’t exactly play ball, with heavy rain on Friday morning perhaps putting people off then Sunday’s action being reduced to just the final and a third-place play-off after the schedule was re-jigged due to the high winds that swept in on the last day.
That aspect aside, however, Lawrie was delighted with the East Lothian venue as it staged a European Tour event for the first time hot on the heels of Gullane doing likewise when it hosted the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last summer.
“It couldn’t have gone any better from our point of view as it has been brilliant from start to finish,” said the former Open champion of an event that saw Englishman Anthony Wall bridge the biggest time gap in European Tour history to win for the second time on the Tour. “The venue has been different class. Every single player said it ticked all the boxes. That was the same for everyone I spoke to from the Tour to the media.
“We had a range, a short game area, a putting green and a spectator village within 30 yards of each other and a golf course of that quality. The venue was way up there.
“We learned bits and pieces from last year at Murcar and took that into this year. The spectators’ village was a lot better than last year – it was top notch and well designed. I think that was the biggest improvement.
“The weather on the final day maybe stopped a few people coming and that is understandable. But the quality of golf was very high and that is all that matters.”
This year’s event came at the end of a run that had already offered Scottish golf fans an opportunity to take in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, The Open at Royal Troon, the Scottish Ladies Open at Dundonald Links and the Senior Open at Carnoustie, so that perhaps contributed to the attendance figure not really meeting expectations.
Next year, though, two of those events are being staged outwith Scotland, with The Open heading to Royal Birkdale and the Senior Open returning to Royal Porthcawl for the second time in four years.
“We are certainly not disappointed with the numbers this year and I spoke to those who did come and the feedback was brilliant, but next year is a whole different matter,” added Lawrie.
“As for where the event will be held, We don’t know. We have one year left with the Tour. We have a debrief meeting coming up in a few weeks’ time, which will go through a lot of different things.
“If it was anything to do with me personally, then I would like to stay here. I think it is an awesome venue and it couldn’t have gone any better for us. But there are a lot of people on the Tour who will have a say on that, so we have to sit down with them.”
Having previously staged both the Scottish Ladies and Scottish Senior Opens – the latter returns for a second time next week, when Senior Open champion Paul Broadhurst will defend the title – it was the natural next step for Archerfield Links to host a European Tour event and chief executive Tom Young was pleased with the tournament’s success.
“We were delighted to host the event and pleased that all the players enjoyed Archerfield and the Fidra Links,” he said . We will certainly talk with Paul and [promoters] 4SPORTS about the event for next year and will also talk to East Lothian Council as well as they were a great support in helping to bring the event to the area.”
The nature of a match play event, of course, means that there’s a danger of crowd- pullers being knocked out early, which was the case with Ryder Cup contenders Chris Wood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, as neither of them made it to the weekend.
Is Lawrie tempted to change the format? “That will be part of the meeting we have,” he said. “From a players’ points of view I think the format is really good. The only danger is that at the weekend you have less golf to watch. People want to watch players play golf and with a stroke play event everyone is there at the weekend. In match play that is the only thing that goes against it. We will have a sit down like we did last year and iron out a few things. If you can’t learn, then there is no point.”
Wall’s win came 16 years and 204 days after his breakthrough success in the 2000 Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. The 41-year-old had played in 430 events between that victory and his second one, rewriting the record books on both counts.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” said Lawrie. “When you have not won for that long, it can be tough. I was nine years between wins. Sixteen years is incredible, so I was chuffed to bits for him. He works very hard and has had a lot of second places in that time. He is a great champion for us.”