Maybe it’s Michael McGeady being unable to afford a caddy, or maybe it’s Matt Southgate bemoaning the price of the buffet lunch, or perhaps the row of economy class rental cars in the driveway gives it away. But whatever way you slice it, European Tour Q-School at PGA Catalunya is no ordinary golf tournament.
Peter Lawrie knows this event is a different animal too, but in his own words “doesn’t have a clue what to expect” having not been here for 14 years.
Staff whisper around the practice area and the clubhouse so as not to upset the touring professionals. They’ve been warned. This is the final round of qualifying for the European Tour next year and the pressure is immense. Finish in the top 25 next Thursday and you make your dinner for 2015.
Finish outside that and you’re a B-lister, like the aforementioned duo, going to the B-list events.
Still, most are thrilled to have made it this far as almost 1,000 golfers, amateur and professional, had been eligible to try to make it to the European Tour by various means.
It’s now down to 156, and Lawrie is one of five Irishman aiming to secure his Tour card for another 12 months. And the Dubliner doesn’t sugar-coat how he ended up at this juncture.
“I haven’t been here for 14 years,” he muses. “It just shows you just what a bad year I’ve had, but you have to take the positives. I’m here, I have a chance to get my card back and that’s what we’ll focus on this week.”
By his own admission, he’s had it good for over a decade, but now he’s at a crossroads. He’s 40 years of age, and has four kids between the ages of three and nine.
“Financially it’s not the key,” he said in relation to what it would mean to stay on the European Tour. “My career is not over yet and I’m here to try and get it back on track, it would mean a lot to me to come back out and get a Tour card. It’s disappointing that I’ve lost mine but it won’t be the end of the world and it’s not going to be the world’s best thing if I do get it.
“I’ve been in situations — not in this particular situation before — I had to finish top 20 to keep my card last year in Australia and I did it, so I’ll just draw on those experiences and go from there.”
Indeed, at his age, experience is one thing he doesn’t lack. He’s one of a handful of players teeing off today who has a European Tour win to his name, albeit from 2008.
“I think experience will come into it in a big way,” he declares bullishly. “We have a few young lads out there this week who haven’t been in this position before and that’s the way you have to look at it. You just have to use your experience, get around the golf course as best you can and take it from there.”
Easier said than done, of course, and after missing the cut at the ISPS Handa Perth International recently, he was condemned to this six-round bear pit.
“You gotta set yourself a figure and try and attain that figure,” was his theory of how he can get out of here with that coveted card.
“Never mind what everybody else is doing; if you think 68 is a good score then that’s what you should try to do, shoot a 68. But if somebody comes out here and shoots six 68s I guarantee they’ll have a card in their hand.”
Can he do it?
“Well my game has improved,” he replies confidently. “I made a lot of changes early on in the year and I struggled with them, though they’ve showed good signs in places. I had a chance to shoot 59 in Switzerland this year, but like everything else we just have to wait and see what the week brings.”
He’s here with just his caddy for company in a magnificently manicured complex an hour north of Barcelona. Some of his rivals are young enough to be his kids. Does he enjoy it still?
“You get used to it after a while. When you’re at home you spend most of your time with the kids and when you’re away you’re away working, it’s like everybody else working away from home.
“Like every job, if it’s going well it’s great and if it’s going badly it’s… a struggle. I’ve had 12 very good years out on Tour, I’ve amassed a lot of money and you take the good with the bad.”
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