Time hurtles by doesn’t it? In fact, it seems to go so quickly even the word ‘hurtles’ is wheezing to keep up.

Twenty years ago, Paul Lawrie had survived a 36-hole shoot-out at Downfield to qualify for the Open Championship at Carnoustie. A few days later, the Claret Jug would be plonked on his mantelpiece.

“Twenty years?,” Lawrie said with a reflective sigh. “I can’t remember this morning, let alone 20 years ago. I can remember that I could putt then, though,” he added with a wry grin.

The memories of actually getting into the Open through that two-round scramble on the outskirts of Dundee may be hazy but the recollections of those glorious, career-defining series of events on a dour, dreich Sunday in the championship itself remain as clear as freshly buffed-up clump of crystal

“If you want me to give you a blow-by-blow account of it, I’ll need a caddy fee,” he chuckled of a triumph that propelled the Aberdonian into the shimmering pantheon of a major champions.

Lawrie’s Open victory in 1999 changed his life. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, of course.

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The calamitous, captivating collapse of Jean van de Velde, an engrossingly ghoulish palaver which was broadly equivalent to watching a PT Barnum freak show in a water hazard, thrust fame through misfortune on to the Frenchman.

Lawrie, despite clawing his way back from 10 shots behind in the final round with a brilliant display of poise and purpose over a hellishly brutal links and eventually winning in a play-off, still had to fight for recognition amid the sneers and withering remarks of dismissive observers.

In the years that followed, he would reveal how depression was one of the more sombre after-effects of a win that, shamefully, was not fully appreciated in many quarters.

But back to that historic night of golfing bedlam and brollies. Lawrie was keeping himself busy on the practice range when Van de Velde’s French farce was unfolding on Carnoustie’s 18th.

While he would go into the play-off with a mind mangled by a traumatic seven on the last when a six would have won it, Lawrie was the epitome of calm in the build up to a four-hole play-off that he would emerge triumphant from.

“I had an hour where I went to get something to eat, hit a few balls and do some chipping and putting,” he said. “In contrast, and for self-inflicted reasons, Jean’s mind was all over the place when he came in. He left his hat in the recorder’s hut and had to go and get that.

“All that took a bit of time and he was worried about that. I had a bit of time to get myself calmed down and get myself ready for what could be an unbelievable thing to happen to me.”

The unbelievable thing that Lawrie thought could happen did happen. “I pretty much remember every shot,” he said of those four extra holes that took him to Open glory. “It was raining, it was pretty cold. The play-off didn’t tee off until very late, it might even have been eight o’clock.

“We all hit poor shots off 15 [the first play-off hole] and were all in the rough. But, I mean, it’s not like it is now. It was chaos. There were hundreds of people inside the ropes. It was ridiculous, how many people were in there.

“You just had to stay calm, stay focused and stay under your brolly, because it was raining pretty heavily.

“Justin Leonard [the third man in the play-off] arrived first and he was gone, he didn’t look in a good way. He had won in ’97 and had the most to lose as he was expected to beat Jean and me.

“Then Jean arrived and, as I said, he had lost his hat. He was playing about with the policeman’s hat at the back of the tee, putting it on, cracking jokes with people and I thought, ‘Man, he’s trying to hide his nerves here’.

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“Straight away, I just felt, ‘I’m going to win The Open. The way these boys were behaving, keep yourself together and you’re going to be Open champion’.

“I felt very calm, very clear. You just get on with your job. That’s why you hit balls, it’s what you train for, to get an opportunity like that. You’ve got to take it. Plenty of people get these opportunities but if you’re not ready, you won’t be able to take it.

Lawrie has played Portrush a number of times. The first occasion was with local Open champion, Darren Clarke, which came in the aftermath of the sad passing of Adam Hunter, the coach who had helped steer Lawrie to his own Claret Jug conquest in 1999

“When Adam passed away, Darren gave me a round of golf which we auctioned off,” recalled Lawrie. “Darren was in the play-off with Adam when Adam won the Portuguese Open. I think we got about five grand for it and that went to Caroline [Hunter’s wife] and the kids.

“It was great of Darren to do it. I mean, he knew Adam but was never that pally with him or anything. But the golfing community always muck in together, don’t they?”