Barry Lane in the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Lemuria, Seychelles. (Photo by Phil … [+]
Is it his attitude that has made the golfing journey of Barry Lane, winner last week on the Staysure Tour, such an enduringly rewarding one?
Sitting in a thatched clubhouse in the middle of the Indian Ocean, overlooking the only 18-hole golf course for a thousand miles, he ticks off the many countries he has won in.
“Let’s see now,” he says with a chuckle. “Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and England on the European Tour. Scotland and England again, Italy, the Czech Republic, Wales and Mauritius on the Staysure (the European senior circuit). The World Match Play in the States. Oh, and the World Assistant Pro Championship in America too. Jamaican Open? Yes, that one too. I also won the World Par 3 Championship earlier this year in Bermuda. Where’s that leave me? Japan – last year’s Senior Championship was a good one.”
And then there was last Sunday: victory in the inaugural MCB Championship – Madagascar.
It’s a dizzying collection that doesn’t even include representing England in the Dunhill and World Cup, Europe in the Ryder Cup, and the Rest of the World in the UBS Cup. Next up? Maybe a captain’s pick to join Planet Earth’s ranks in a two day exhibition against Jupiter on Mars.
Whilst asking some professional golfers for a list of triumphs would be akin to ploughing through a LinkedIn profile, in the case of Englishman Lane it is more like a fun afternoon flicking through well-thumbed and much-loved scrapbooks.
An hour earlier he had completed his second round at the MCB Tour Championship – Seychelles at Constance Lemuria with late bogeys. Plenty of golfing heads would be seeking refuge beneath a pillow in the hotel room or in sweaty penance on the range. Lane is happy with a chinwag.
“Look, it’s very competitive out here, but if someone had said that at 59 I’d be winning twice in a year, I’d have told them: ‘I don’t think so.’ To be still travelling and competing at our age, well, there’s no other sport that allows that. It’s a remarkable opportunity and look at this place – it’s paradise. What a life.”
That latter phrase is a recurrent one, revealing the boyish enthusiasm of a golfer for whom the phrase journeyman is no back-handed compliment, but more a celebration of his adventurous spirit. Those wins tell a tale because few golfers would embrace the World Par 3 Championship with such relish, even fewer would not only take on the language, administrative and cultural barriers of the Japanese Senior Tour, but do so with a curious mind.
“I just love the game,” he says. “The travel is hard and these days I wake up with a bad back and my knees aching. But I’m here so I’m going to play and I’m going to do the very best I can because I love the challenge. It’s been my life and if you don’t travel you don’t get the chance to win.
“We’ve had to play everywhere down the years. The European Tour has played on every continent and it’s been an education. You deal with different grasses, different conditions, different ways of life, different people. It’s a challenge, but what a wonderful one, what a way to enjoy life.”
Last week’s visit to Madagascar was the Staysure Tour’s first to the island. It presented quite a contrast with the luxury of Constance Lemuria.
“That’s why I wanted to go,” he enthuses. “Madagascar they said? ‘Oh hello,’ I thought, ‘I’ll try that.’ Obviously I’ve heard so much about the island so I was always going. Just arriving at the airport was a reminder of the 1980s and the Safari Tour (in Africa). No computers, everything on paper. Wonderful stuff.
“It was such a diverse country and they loved us being there. The crowds were extraordinary. It was a great effort by the Tour to get us competing on the island.”
The course itself was another echo of the past. Fast-running, with little grass and at altitude, it called for experience. Does Lane believe that his willingness to embrace life was an asset?
“A big advantage,” he says. “It was a very, very tricky course. I’d obviously played in Kenya where it’s bouncy and at altitude. My wife asked how I was playing and I said, ‘All right, but at this course it doesn’t matter. If you hit fairways and greens, and keep your head, you’ll do fine.’
“If I missed a green, I did nothing fancy. If I got it to ten feet, I had a chance. The important thing was that I never made a double all week. I just hung in there.
“It was like Jack Nicklaus’ old adage about the majors, saying he just hung around to see what happens. I was never really in the tournament, always two back, hanging around, seeing what happened.”
Lane at Constance Lemuria’s signature 15th hole. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)
European golf has been transformed during Lane’s career, from the seven-month Europe-only schedule of his first full year in 1986 to the year-round worldwide riches of today.
“I think Rory (McIlroy) overtook my 23 years of career winnings in three years,” he says with a laugh.
“Some people hear me say that and tell me I was born in the wrong era, but it’s not like that. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My era was fantastic.
“I got to play with Trevino, Watson, Nicklaus and Tiger.”
Every name is uttered with a delighted shake of the head and the list hasn’t ended.
“Faldo, Woosie, Seve, Langer, Lyle! Payne Stewart and Ray Floyd. Legends, absolute legends, of the game. What an experience.
“They were such characters and shot makers. Now there are so many great players in the modern game, the standard is superb, but they don’t stand out as they once did. Tiger is supreme, but below there are 50, 60 unbelievably good players.
“It’s so different now, but I’ve had an amazing time.”
There is no need for the past tense either – this month’s conclusion to the Staysure Tour proves as much.
“Oh yeah, Madagascar last week? Seychelles this? Mauritius next week? What a wonderful life, eh?”
The spectacular view from Constance Lemuria’s 18th tee. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)