Top Euro rookie Lawrie repays Golf Trust in style

DUBLINER Peter Lawrie, Ireland’s Rookie of the Year on the PGA European Tour, was feted along with other leading Irish professionals Gary Murphy and Damien McGrane in Dublin last evening.

The trio will be regulars on the European Tour in 2004 thanks to their outstanding achievements during the past 12 months, their respective causes considerably helped by the financial assistance they received from the Irish Golf Trust.

Pride of place on this occasion went to Lawrie, 29, for becoming the first Irishman to capture the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year title.

Lawrie finished 56th in the order of merit, a commendably consistent season highlighted by his second place in the Spanish Open in which he actually tied for the lead after 72 holes only to lose in a play-off to Englishman Kenneth Ferrie.

Former holders of the Rookie prize include Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Peter Oosterhuis, Sam Torrance, Mark James, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

That certainly leaves Lawrie in very distinguished company.

On the other hand, winning the title is no guarantee of subsequent success as other previous winners like Tommy Goodwin, Robin Liddle, Philip Elson, Mike Miller, Paul Hoad, Jeremy Bennett, Grant Turner, Paul Thomas, Scott Henderson and Olivier Edmond, all virtual unknowns, have also discovered.

As befits a young man who has graduated in commerce from UCD and has experienced just how difficult it is to make it on the major tours, Lawrie is under no illusions as to the enormous task he faces if he is to produce the kind of performances that earned vast sums of money for the likes of Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, to name but three.

The same applies very much to Gary Murphy, who enjoyed a wonderful second half to the season during which he tied for 4th in the Scottish Open and then made a serious impression over the succeeding weeks in the British and Irish Opens.

Damien McGrane did well to finish 140th on the money list from a reduced number of events. He then went on to the dreaded European Tour School and shot six magnificent rounds to come home in a tie for third and so clinch a very good card for next year.

All three made no secret of how much they owed the Irish Golf Trust for the success they have enjoyed.

Minister for Sport, John O'Donoghue, was present at the reception to do the honours and he, too, acknowledged the contribution of the Trust, pointing out "this was their fourth and most successful year.

"They have provided €1 million in financial support in that time and it is wonderful to see that initiative being rewarded in such a tangible way by our guests here this evening.

"It is a great personal achievement by all three and also demonstrates the value of the Trust in supporting young Irish golfers with the ability to break through at the highest level."

Lawrie, Murphy and McGrane received €25,000 each from the Trust in 2003, during which time €26,000 was paid out to golfers with playing rights on the major circuits as well as young men and women starting out and aspiring to compete on those circuits.

The Trust will again dispense its largesse in 2004. It is a partnership between statutory agencies and private corporations, including Ryanair and Noel O'Callaghan Hotels, along with private clients of Brian Phelan, all of whom made generous contributions to the scheme. The IPGA, GUI and ILGU are represented on the Trust.

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