Former Open champion Paul Lawrie is “incredibly excited” to launch his own tour to give developing Scottish professionals – both male and female – badly needed playing opportunities.
The Tartan Pro Tour will play six 36-hole events at high-calibre venues such as St Andrews Links, Carnoustie Links and Royal Dornoch starting in August and playing into late September, as lockdown and distancing restrictions are relaxed.
The tour has been an idea of Lawrie’s for some years but it accelerated during lockdown with so many young Scottish professionals facing the rest of 2020 without any competitive playing opportunities at all.
The idea is to sustain the new tour beyond the present special circumstances into a permanent part of the Scottish golf scene, co-existing with the Challenge, PGA EuroPro and PGA Scotland tours.
“This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but when the EuroPro Tour shut down for 2020 I decided we had to get it on the go now,” said Lawrie. “I spoke to a few people and to some sponsors and as always, everyone’s incredibly supportive, and not only that we’ve got some amazing venues straight away.”
The new tour will launch on the Carnoustie Championship Course on August 5 and 6, and the six events will have a maximum field of 72, with Lawrie seeking to help the core of 25-30 male players and 15 female professionals in Scotland currently unable to get any competitive play.
The Challenge Tour has agreed to give the first winner of the new tour’s order of merit some invites to play on the main European Tour’s satellite circuit.
“There’s a few people and tours have tried over the years and not for the want of hard work and support they’ve not quite made it,” he said.
“When I was coming up through the PGA in the late 80s and early 90s there were loads of 72-hole events to play, but when I returned to play some years later there were very few events and I thought then, these guys need somewhere to play.
“Then I got back into the World Top 30 and there was just too much going on. Now is the ideal time, and with the other tours all down just now, we’ll have a clear run at the start.
“People we’ve spoken to are excited to have somewhere to play and these are proper venues. It’s places where you have to score and it’s 36 holes, which is important for development – you don’t learn how to win just playing 18 holes.
“I don’t see it as a gamble, I’ve never been scared of trying things. The Foundation will always be the biggest thing we ever do or achieve, but this could be up there.
“Not everything we’ve done has been a success but with this, if it’s anything to do with me, then this will be a success.”
Lawrie’s Foundation manager Michael MacDougall, a former PGA Scotland secretary and qualified rules official, will run the events, and Lawrie plans to play in them all himself.
“With the way things are, this is an opportunity for us to let people see what we are, the courses we play on, the money we play for,” added Paul. “Next year we’ll have events but won’t clash with anything, I want Scottish pros to play on the other tours.
“We’re not setting this up to go against the PGA, EuroPro, anybody, that doesn’t make any sense. We just want to create more opportunities for these guys, male and female, to play more tournaments.
“It should be an easy ride for us this year because there’s nowhere else to play. If we’re good, folk will come back and play again next year.”
Lawrie’s long-time sponsors including Farmfoods, Gym Rental Company, Blue Group and Cloudcube are all supporting the tour, as are the R&A and the host venues.
100 per cent of entry fees will go towards prizemoney with some sponsors’ input topping them up, while all necessary health and safety precautions will be taken for competitors and staff.
“If we have a full field of 72 players and £13,000 we’ll play for a minimum of £18,000, maybe more,” added Paul. “You are looking at a first prize of £3,500 to £4,000 for 36 holes which is better than decent.”
The tour dates are as follows:
Carnoustie Challenge, Championship Course, August 5-6; Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Scottish Par 3 Championship sponsored by Farmfoods, PLGC Devenick Course, September 7-8; Royal Dornoch Masters presented by Gym Rental Company, September 7-8; The Pollok Open presented by Blue Group, Pollok GC, September 10-11; St Andrews Classic presented by Cloudcube, Jubilee and New Courses, September 15-16; Rowallan Castle Championship, September 23-24.