It wasn’t so long ago that Paul Lawrie feared his playing days were over.
A persistent foot injury hindered Lawrie’s ability to tee up on the European Tour in recent years.
When he was forced to withdraw from the 2018 Open at Carnoustie, Lawrie thought his playing days had reached the end.
Now the 1999 Open champion is free from injury and looking to claim his maiden senior major in 2020 thanks to a chance encounter with physio Stuart Barton which put the Aberdonian on the road to recovery.
An operation in September 2018 followed by months of rehabilitation enabled the 51-year-old to return to the winners’ circle last August when he claimed the Scottish Senior Open at Craigielaw in August.
Lawrie said: “My son Michael was playing in a tournament at Lundin Links and that was the first time I met Stuart Barton.
“He was behind me in a queue and tapped me on the shoulder.
“I had just announced I wasn’t going to play again for the year.
“He told me he had a practice up the road and he wanted to take a quick look at my foot.
“I walked 36 holes with Michael and then popped in.
“He did some checks and then told me I had a ruptured tendon and all the ligaments around it were stretched and damaged but he said he could fix it.
“He told me his friend Gordon Mackay was a top surgeon and he could get me back as good as ever.
“I had been to Munich about it, to London a couple of times and nobody could sort it.
“He immediately knew what was wrong. It was amazing.
“Gordon and Stuart have been brilliant. I wouldn’t have been playing again if I hadn’t bumped into Stuart.”
The 2020 Senior Open takes place at Sunningdale in July and Lawrie would love to follow in the footsteps of Tom Watson, Gary Player and Bob Charles who are the only players to have won the Open and its senior equivalent.
Lawrie said: “Gordon and Stuart told me it would take a year to get fully fit and it wasn’t until the end of July that I was really able to hit the shots I wanted to hit.
“I was struggling to hit shots off of slopes early in the year as the foot was so weak.
“I was getting frustrated and I didn’t think it was working.
“But since I have got the strength back, my foot has been absolutely brilliant.
“The Senior Open was the first week when I felt competitive.
“I feel more competitive now.
“I only keep playing because I want to win tournaments.
“I don’t want to play if making the cut is a great week.
“I certainly don’t want to be a ceremonial golfer who just turns up to play in events because they can.
“I want to play to win and senior majors are what I want to win.
“I would love to win the Senior Open.
“Only three people have ever won the Senior Open and The Open so to put your name on that list would be amazing.
“I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself because it is one week of the year. But it is an event that would be really cool to win.”
But now Lawrie is feeling stronger and hoping to build on his encouraging first season on the Staysure Tour when he finished 11th in the order of merit to earn the rookie of the year accolade.
He added: “I feel fit. My foot is unbelievably good.
“I thought I was gone.
“My foot had deteriorated so badly that I had to stop playing the Scottish Par 3 Championship that was being held here at the golf centre. It was horrendous.
“I can now play as much golf and hit as many balls as I want.
“I have felt it once going down a hill in Mauritius and that has been it.
“It is pretty exciting as I thought I was finished.”