Scotland’s Paul Lawrie added his name to a distinguished group on Thursday upon receiving an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews. The 1999 Open champion joins a select group of golfers to be awarded the honor, among them Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie, Sir Michael Bonallack, Peter Alliss, Peter Thomson, Nick Faldo, Charlie Sifford, Renee Powell, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington.
Following a ceremony held in Younger Hall on the Old Grey Toon’s North Street—where 60 years ago Bobby Jones made one of the game’s most famous speeches: “I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St Andrews and I would still have had a rich, full life”—Lawrie can now call himself a “Doctor of Laws.”
“This is an amazing thing for someone like me,” said Lawrie, who was among a group of three honorees that also included American businessman and golf course owner Herb Kohler. “My background is far from academic. I left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications. But this shows you what can happen when you have a strong work ethic and a bit of desire to succeed in whatever walk of life you choose. It’s humbling really, especially when I look at those who have gone before me. It’s like a who’s who of golf.”
Not having played competitively since April because of on-going problems with his right foot, Lawrie underwent surgery 10 weeks ago to alleviate the pain caused by torn ligaments and bone spurs. It will be another month before he can hit full shots. In the meantime, Lawrie is focused on his eponymous and highly successful junior foundation and, intriguingly, a new role as agent for a few of Scotland’s up-and-coming players. Lawrie’s fellow Aberdonian and new European Tour card holder, David Law, is just one of the two-time European Ryder Cup player’s clients.
Still, Lawrie is, injury permitting, far from finished as a player. He turns 50 on Jan. 1 and is already eagerly anticipating a 2019 schedule that will include events on the European Tour, the European Seniors circuit (now the Staysure Tour) and the PGA Tour Champions.
“I’m exempt for all the senior majors, and my plan is to play as many as eight or nine more events on the Champions Tour,” he said. “I think I can be competitive out there once I get back to full fitness—although there are still no guarantees in that department. I’ll have to wait and see how my foot is in the new year.
“I’m hopeful though. I was still reasonably competitive on the European Tour until recently. Even alongside the younger lads, I hit the ball far enough off the tee to do that. It was nice to see that, when I played my last events in Morocco and Madrid last April, there weren’t too many players driving it too far past me. My short game is as good as it has always been. And I don’t feel dodgy over the four-foot putts yet. So I like to think I’ll do well on the senior tour if I’m able to play.”