With his career drifting along — maybe even winding down — and his British Open victory a distant memory, Paul Lawrie got the kick he needed when his 14-year-old son beat him over nine holes.
The Scot decided then he just wasn’t working hard enough.
Lawrie’s rude awakening at the hands of oldest son, Craig, three years ago was the catalyst, he said, to a strong comeback year in 2012 when he finished in the top 10 on the European Tour money list for the first time in a decade.
”I was proud of him for beating me,” Lawrie said of that sobering nine-hole experience with young Craig in 2009, ”but I was also quite disappointed. You think, ‘Man he should not be beating me.’ ”
Motivated by the defeat, the 1999 British Open champion put in the hours on the range and finally ended a nine-year title drought at last year’s Open de Andalucia. This year, Lawrie has two tournament wins, a Ryder Cup success and that top 10 finish on the Race to Dubai.
The 43-year-old Lawrie also was in contention for an ideal end to the year at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa after a second-round 69 for a 1-shot lead heading into the weekend at Sun City. Lawrie’s carefully measured round at Gary Player Country Club on Friday was one of just two sub-70 scores in the first two days at the Nedbank. Even after stumbling to a third-round 75 on Saturday, he is in sixth place, only four shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.
Lawrie’s newfound game was owed to his son, who is now 17 and a scratch golfer, Lawrie said.
”I was not horrendous, but I was not as good as I should have been,” Lawrie said. ”Then Craig beat me over nine holes, and that just gave me the kick I needed to be better. I decided I was getting a bit lazy and not putting the work in I should be. He did well.”
Lawrie’s Open win at Carnoustie 13 years ago is scarcely forgettable after he made up a 10-shot deficit in the final round aided by Frenchman Jean van de Velde’s meltdown on the last hole.
Lawrie won in a playoff over Van de Velde and Justin Leonard for his only major win.
But after the Wales Open in 2002, he didn’t win again until last March in Spain and was thinking about cutting back his golf commitments and perhaps letting his career tail off completely at the age of just 40.
”I was thinking of slowing down a wee bit . . . playing a bit less. I was not very competitive on the tour at the time,” Lawrie said.
Then came that kick from Craig — when he lost to his son for the first time — and Lawrie’s strong comeback season this year ensured he is now very much a full-time professional golfer again with earnings of $2.5 million in 2012 and seven other top-10 finishes to go with victories at the Qatar Masters and the Johnnie Walker Championship.
”I came back here a more experienced player, certainly a better player than I was in 1999,” Lawrie said at his first Sun City appearance since the year he won the British Open.
If he finds himself slipping again, the son’s progress will likely still be a motivation. Craig is going to play full-time as an amateur next year.