His text message from Doha said: 'There’s life in the old dog yet'. On 29 January that was indisputable as our own Paul Lawrie, in his 25th year on the European Tour, was, at the half-way stage of the Qatar Masters, leading the field of eminent international golfers. One round later the message he sent was: 'So far so good'. This was certainly the case as Paul with his trademark honesty had a two-shot lead going into the last round and was in pole position to repeat the success which he had earned immediately before his British Open triumph in 1999, and again in 2012. Now 17 years on from his original superb achievement, a record third victory and an inflated prize amount of €381,458 was 24 hours away.
Back home in Aberdeen, in the wettest winter ever, Paul’s pride and joy, his immaculate nine-hole course, Aspire, now called 'The Paul Lawrie Golf Centre', was totally under water after the River Dee burst its banks. In the scorching heat of Qatar, like his visionary creation, Paul must have felt submerged as his disappointing final round left him in joint 13th place with a tenth of the winning purse. Small margins indeed! Looking at the television pictures he was desperately unlucky, particularly with a wicked lie after a slightly hooked drive at the 12th hole. When he incurred an ill-fated double bogey with South African ace Brendan Grace breathing down his neck, the writing was on the wall.
Although he has demonstrated in the past that he can come from behind, as he did in his famous Open win at Carnoustie, Paul also has proved he has the temperament to hold a lead. The worst thing in any sport is losing a lead but, although he has coped with that in the past, here he was uncharacteristically struggling to deal with a player, Grace, at the top of his game. There is an admirable courtesy enshrined in the game of golf. Yet again this was displayed by Paul when he graciously and publicly congratulated the victor, making no personal excuses.
In contrast, when doing well and in the lead, it was significant that he attributed it to his Scottish colleague, Mark Warren, whose putting advice to shorten his swing had proved invaluable. Had his esteemed friend and coach, Adam Hunter, not passed away five years ago after a brave battle with leukaemia, Mark’s advice may not have been required but, typically, Paul was deflecting the credit.
One of the significant statements I remember when chatting with Paul Lawrie was his assertion: 'If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a lazy sportsman'. That was why, when I was manager of the Aberdeen team he supports, Paul would text me on a Saturday morning to say 'Is Rory Fallon towin’ his caravan round Pittodrie this afternoon? If so, I’m no’ comin’!' He was joking, and he did come, but although Fallon was hard-working it was his languid style which prompted Paul to provoke me. If we had a bad game he would say: 'You signed them all!'. I usually had to wait a while, but when he had an atypical poor round I’d retaliate: 'You played them all!'.
The emergence of young superstars of the links like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, more than two decades his junior, makes the original and recent achievements of Paul Lawrie all the more admirable. Not only possessing, arguably, the best swing in golf, but having a short game to be envied, resulting in the nickname of Chippy, his dedication to fitness and practice will ensure that Paul lasts at the top for many years to come. The hackneyed maxim that form is temporary but class permanent surely applies to this 47-year-old talented performer. After winning the Open, one of eight tournament successes, and participating in two Ryder Cups, Paul, the antithesis of narcissism, continues to display the modesty possessed by most of the genuine sporting greats.
Recently he took part in his 572nd tour event, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and from 4 to 7 August this year he will continue to confirm his commitment to golf by linking with Scotland’s entrepreneur of the year, Mike Logie, chief executive of Saltire Energy. Mike and Paul, two unpretentious guys, hosted a superb Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play last year, won by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat at Murcar Links.
Paul’s other much appreciated obligation is his enormous contribution to youth. He has demonstrated this by originating 'The Paul Lawrie Foundation'. With the help of his wife, Marian, he organises coaching and tournaments for under 10s, 12s, 15s and 18s. His two sons, Craig and Michael, both fine golfers, exemplify the laudable foundation mission statement 'to encourage young golfers to play to the best of their ability and to have fun playing golf'. Not only golf benefits from the foundation’s generosity. Other sports such as tennis, swimming, table tennis, rhythm gymnastics, snowboarding and AFC Ladies are grateful recipients of the Lawrie munificence.
All those years ago following his stunning 1999 victory, Paul found time to visit many of the schools in Aberdeenshire. When a teacher asked the youngsters if they had any questions, one pointed to the Claret Jug which Paul had brought along and asked, 'Have you only got one of them?'. Wouldn’t it be marvellous and not undeserved, if after Troon this July, the 'old dog’ Paul Lawrie OBE could answer, 'Here’s another!'?