As Paul Lawrie's caddie, Davy Kenny spends most of his time uttering phrases such as "you've got 187 yards to the front edge." Yesterday at Deeside, the 41-year-old got a rare opportunity to let his own clubs do the talking in the opening round of the Paul Lawrie Invitational on the Tartan Tour.
While Terry Mathieson of Murcar emerged from tricky conditions with a superbly assembled five-under 65 to set the early pace, and the Ryder Cup-bound tournament host posted a level-par 70, Kenny, a fully qualified PGA pro, cobbled together a highly respectable three-over 73.
Given that he played his first round of the year just two weeks ago, it was a commendable performance from the East Kilbride man. Kenny's employer certainly thought so. "It's a hell of an effort, especially as Davy had my father-in-law Bert on the bag," joked Lawrie. "Bert's a good lad, but he'll never be a caddie as long as he lives."
The Davy and Bert alliance certainly hit the ground running, though, and after eight holes, Kenny found himself three-under and up among the frontrunners. Reality swiftly kicked in, though, and Kenny covered his last 10 in six-over during a run that was concluded with a three-putt bogey on the 18th.
Perhaps he could've blamed the caddie for a change? "Paul asked me at the beginning of the year to play in this but I felt I was too far away at that time as I wasn't playing any golf," explained Kenny, who watched Lawrie compete in the 1999 Ryder Cup as a spectator on the other side of the ropes but will be by his side on the fairways for next week's joust in Medinah.
"He called my bluff and said 'are you scared to play?' So I thought I'd prove a point. Mind you, when I was standing on the first tee I was thinking 'what am I doing here?' I think I was probably more nervous on the first than Paul was at Brookline in 1999. I just wanted something respectable and I would've gladly taken a 73 at the start."
Kenny wasn't the only one feeling the nerves yesterday. Lawrie's 17-year-old son, Craig, was making his debut in a professional event and made a good account of himself with a 73. "I went to watch him tee up at the first," said Lawrie senior. "He hit a lovely shot in to 25 feet behind the pin, then came straight over to me and said 'man, I'm s****ing myself'. Brilliant."
Lawrie himself was calmness personified. This time next week, the 1999 Open champion will be girding himself for the bubbling, golfing cauldron in Chicago. Here in his native north east, the atmosphere is more tranquil. This is very much the calm before the Ryder Cup storm.
"It's nice that this is low key," added Lawrie, who did well to salvage a bogey-six on the 13th with an up and down from 30 yards after getting himself in a real fankle amid the trees. "It is difficult not to think of next week. But it's not overly important if I play well here or not. This event is not here for me to play well in. I started it to give the Tartan Tour boys something to play in. I want to win of course, but it doesn't matter how I play here because next week is a totally different ball game. Adrenalin alone will keep me going then. This event is ideal because the Ryder Cup is so big."
While Lawrie provided the star attraction in the field, Matthieson barged his way into centre stage with a fine five-under card. The 32-year-old Murcar Links pro, who highlighted his bag of seven birdies with a putt of 30-feet on the 11th, finished two shots clear of Greg McBain and Jordan Findlay, the former British Boys' champion.
"That's my lowest round as a pro," confessed Mathieson, who was beaten in the semi-finals of the 2002 Scottish Amateur Championship by Andrew McArthur, the winner of last year's Paul Lawrie Invitational.
Greig Hutcheon, the Tartan Tour's No 1 this season, and Gareth Wright lurk in fourth on 68s while Kirkhill's Eisenhower Trophy recruit Paul Shields holed his second shot from 105 yards on the 10th for an eagle en route to a 69 as he led the amateur assault.
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