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Godfather of grass-roots golf gives game a shot in the arm

Paul Lawrie has so many plates spinning these days, he might need to hire a ring master.

KEEPING UP THE GOOD WORK: Paul Lawrie was presented with the Winning Scotland Foundation 2012 award for the success of his professional career and his commitment to raising aspirations of young people. Picture: Jamie Simpson
KEEPING UP THE GOOD WORK: Paul Lawrie was presented with the Winning Scotland Foundation 2012 award for the success of his professional career and his commitment to raising aspirations of young people. Picture: Jamie Simpson

It was a case of roll up, roll up in Aberdeen yesterday as the former Open champion delivered another significant shot in the arm for the Scottish game.

Lawrie's commitment to golf in his homeland knows no bounds and the Northern Open, one of the domestic game's most cherished championships, is the latest project to benefit from his input.

The Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, which is owned by that powerful Aberdonian posse of Lawrie, Martin Gilbert, Eric Herd and Stewart Spence, will be the headline sponsor of the Tartan Tour tournament held at Murcar Links from June 17-19, as it returns to within the city of Aberdeen for the first time since 2001.

The 72-hole championship, which dates back to 1931 and has a roll of honour featuring the likes of John Panton, Eric Brown, Harry Bannerman and Brian Barnes, will boast a prize fund of £35,000.

While Lawrie himself will not be in the field - he will play in the pre-tournament Pro-Am before nipping across the water to compete in the European Tour's Irish Open - the 45-year-old, who cut his competitive teeth on the Scottish PGA circuit during his formative years, is eager to play his part in a flourishing future for the Tartan Tour.

His own Invitational event, to be held at Deeside in September, has become a firm favourite on the fixture list since its inception three years ago. This season, it will be included on the Tartan Tour's order of merit for the first time while the prize pot will increase by £4000 to £40,000.

Devised to give aspiring Scottish professionals an opportunity to develop their games by competing alongside more seasoned campaigners, the original ethos of the tournament remains as Lawrie tries to provide a platform for new talent.

"These type of events give them a grounding," said Lawrie, who emerged from the PGA ranks to become a major champion and Ryder Cup player. "We need our players to be playing more golf; I've been beating that drum for a while. The one day Pro-Ams do their job, but they need more three or four-rounders. They can go off and play the Alps Tour and the EPD Tour but there needs to be more in their own country."

As well as the new deal with the Northern Open and the consolidation of his Invitational contest, Lawrie completed a triple whammy of upbeat announcements when he revealed that the Paul Lawrie Ladies' Tartan Tour - known as the Scottish Ladies Open Tour during its maiden season in 2013 - will be brought under the Scottish PGA's administrative umbrella.

The Gleneagles-based body is the first of the seven PGA regions in the UK and Ireland to run both a male and female circuit. In total, it will feature five 36-hole strokeplay events and will provide a vital stage upon which female professionals and amateurs, particularly in the transition zone, can develop.

Put all three projects together and the overall prize money on offer comes to £105,000, with the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, and the related backers, lobbing in a sizeable chunk. With such a powerful, passionate supporter in his midst, it's no wonder Brian Mair, the secretary of the Scottish PGA, was beaming like a Cheshire cat in a dairy.

"Not only does Paul continue to compete at the highest level, but his ever-increasing backing for grass-roots golf and for the domestic circuit makes him a tremendous ambassador," he said.

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