Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, was suffering from first-tee nerves and did not mind admitting as much. “My heart’s pounding,” he said. “It’s terrible.”
Only once the ball was bounding safely down the fairway did he start to relax. His 15-year-old son Craig was safely on his way in his first national junior championship, the Scottish Boys’ at Dunbar.
Lawrie senior was as any other father at Dunbar…
Half an hour before the tee off, he was sharing in all the talk about what had happened to Rory McIlroy on the Sunday at the Masters. Paul’s contribution was to emphasise the player’s youth. “Rory,” he stressed gently, “is very young and Augusta calls for more experience than anywhere else.”
Twenty minutes ahead of the starter’s call and he was “following orders” to buy his son a bottle of Lucozade, along with a couple of the same chocolate Snickers bars which, would you believe, Gary Player eats on the quiet.
Lawrie followed all 17 of the holes Craig took to defeat 17-year-old Lewis Kerr from Renfrew and, at the end, he pronounced himself “very proud.”
Though the wind was ripping through the links, there had been no additional huffs and puffs from his offspring to suggest that the conditions were impossible. In truth, Craig went a long way towards earning the same “good bad-weather player” label that his father has enjoyed across the years.
As yet more Ian Woosnam than Paul Lawrie in terms of build, this mannerly young golfer hit one smartly struck wood after another into and against the gusts. His irons, too, were nicely clipped from the linksland fairways.
There were a couple of three-putt greens, which prompted his father to wince, but those mishaps apart, he did not put a foot wrong.
Not every major championship winner’s children want to play golf and Craig’s first round in the Scottish Boys’ – he would not lose until the home green in the third round – highlighted at least one of the drawbacks of having a famous father. Far from being able to come in under the radar like the rest of the first-timers, he had to play in front of half-a-dozen members of the Scottish press.
Had he minded?
Not at all. Though Paul has never exactly revelled in being in the public eye, that has not stopped him from dinning into all the youngsters on his famous Paul Lawrie Foundation that they must be prepared to speak to the press at the end of a good day or, no less importantly, a bad one.
Though Paul himself keeps close tabs on the Foundation players, he uses a local Aberdeen professional by name of Bill Fyfe to work on their long games. Craig and his 12-year-old brother, Michael, come under Fyfe’s wing in that department, though Paul has taken charge of their short games.
At the family home in Aberdeen, they have a green which is lovingly tended by Paul’s father-in-law. And it is there that Paul, Craig and Michael engage in endless hotly contested chipping contests from nine different starting points, including bunkers. “The boys beat me all the time,” said Paul with a chuckle.
There is no teeing up at the start of a hole. Instead, Paul insists that the balls are thrown down and played from wherever they land, however unprepossessing the lie.
That father and sons enjoy such a good relationship almost certainly has not a little to do with the fact that the boys play because they want to play. Paul, who came from a non-golfing family and made his own way in the game, has never felt inclined to push his children.
“In Craig’s case,” said Paul, “he’s up hitting balls in our indoor net before he goes to school every morning.
“He’s miles better than I ever was at his age,” continued the Ryder Cup man. “He’s already got a three handicap whereas I was still playing off five when I turned pro at 17.” For the record, Paul improved dramatically once he had made the switch, making off with the winner’s cheque from his first professional event.
When Craig was asked if he planned on a career “like his father had,” Craig answered in the affirmative. At which point, there was a cheerful interjection from the corner of the pressroom. “Like his father is still having,” corrected Paul, in a reference to the Open de Andalucia he had won in Malaga less than a month ago.
It is too soon to think about whether Craig will stay in the UK and play amateur golf when his schooling at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon College is done or whether he will head for an American university. In Paul’s eyes, each route has as much to recommend it as the other.
Either way, if the teenager eventually shows that he has what it takes to turn professional, Paul would love for it to happen.
“Golf,” he says, casting a contented smile on his family, “has been good to us.”