LAWRIE AND OLAZABAL ARE USED TO MIXING WITH ROYALTY


Paul Lawrie’s second Royal Trophy appearance is also his second royal appointment this month. Shortly before flying to China to join up with his European teammates, the Major championship winner was at Buckingham Palace to collect one of Britain’s top honours, an O.B.E., for his services to golf.

That was the second major award he collected from Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, after also being made an M.B.E. in 2000, a year after his stunning Open triumph at Carnoustie, when he came back from ten shots off the pace in the final round.

But the Scottish star admitted he was even more proud of his latest award, because it reflected the work done by his charitable institution, the Paul Lawrie Foundation, to help youngsters get their start in the game.

He explained: “It was nice, and not just because this is regarded as a higher award than my M.B.E., but because it acknowledged all the hard work done by my wife, the staff and everyone involved, and not just my efforts on the course.

“Prince Charles remembered me from my last visit even though he is not a golf fan, and we had a good chat. It was very satisfying for us all to be recognised for the work we try to do for kids in our area.”

Lawrie knows he has a lot to live up to as he returns to the Royal Trophy arena three years after his only previous appearance – when Europe suffered their first defeat against Asia, losing by a convincing 10–6 margin. He could hardy be blamed for that setback, as he and partner Soren Hansen finished unbeaten, with Lawrie claiming two and a half points out of a possible three.

It was similar story when he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999, as he ended the week as Europe’s top scorer with three and a half points – only to finish on the losing side as his team surrendered a 10–6 lead heading into the Singles, and were beaten in the notorious ‘Battle of Brookline’.

But it was all very different when Lawrie made his first Ryder Cup appearance since that defeat, bridging a 13 year gap by earning a place in the 2012 contest. He qualified on the back of some brilliant golf, including wins at the Qatar Masters and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

This time it was Europe who overturned a 10–6 deficit to complete the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, and Lawrie was again in the thick of the action. He earned a vital point in the Singles with a crushing 5&3 victory over Brandt Snedeker, who had carried off a $10million bonus the week before as America’s most successful golfer of 2012.

Lawrie is eager to add to his reputation as the ‘Comeback King’ by also avenging that Royal Trophy defeat from three years ago. He added: “My personal record in those two European defeats was pretty good, but I can promise you that doesn’t count for anything if you finish on the losing side.

“I’d far rather do less well individually and be part of a winning team. But to be honest I want both this week – to do my bit in full, and to get my hands n the Royal Trophy. That would be the ideal scenario, thank you very much.”

Strangely, Lawrie is not the only member of the current European contingent to be doubling up on royal engagements. Earlier this year European captain Jose Maria Olazabal received his country’s highest sporting honour, the Prince of Asturias Award, from the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Felipe, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to golf.

It makes it all the more fitting that the duo are staying at the luxurious Kings Hotel at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, host venue for this year’s Royal Trophy.

And Feng Di, chairman of the (Hong Kong) Golden Horse Group, the developer of the luxurious Dragon Lake Resort, was proud to point out the regal theme does not end there. He explained: “We also have the Princess Hotel at Dragon Lake and we are planning to build the Prince hotel next. So the Royal Trophy is a perfect fit for us.”

The Dragon Lake complex also includes a European–style village, complete with authentic shops and restaurants.

Lawrie, Olazabal and company will hope that proves a happy omen for their own royal visit.

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