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  • Alistair Tait

Can Canter call on golf’s intangibles?

Carl Mason spent 20 winless years on the European Tour. The man from Buxton, England probably thought he’d never get the victory that would validate an excellent professional career. Then, like proverbial London buses, two came in the same season.

So Laurie Canter need not fret as he tees it up in this week’s Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open chasing his first European Tour win. At 30 years old, the affable Englishman has plenty of time to enter that thing called “the winner’s circle.”

Canter is enjoying his best season since turning professional in 2011 after a decent amateur career in which he won the 2010 South African and 2011 Spanish Amateur championships. He’s had to watch as amateur contemporaries like Andy Sullivan, Tom Lewis, Eddie Pepperell and others have notched up European Tour victories. While some of his peers have found almost instant success, Canter has made eight trips to the European Tour Qualifying School. He was successful on three occasions – 2015, 2016 and 2017 – but couldn’t capitalise and lost his card each time.

His time seems to be now.

Canter is currently one of the hottest players on the European circuit with two second place finishes in five weeks. After placing runner up in the Portugal Masters, Canter took the 54-hole lead into last week’s Italian Open only to finish second to Ross McGowan. Disappointing to say the least, but Canter is trying to take the positives to Cyprus this week.

“I was really happy with last week, especially how I played Thursday and Friday. It was great to be up there all four days – a new experience. Still a bit disappointed not to get it done but, to be honest, I’m ready to throw myself into this week.
"I’m getting asked (why I’m playing well) a lot. I can’t put my finger on anything specific. I’m trying to play a bit more golf at home – a few more competitive games. I’ve joined a golf club (The Wisley Golf Club) with some of the other guys who play on tour, which has been really good for me to have that competitive practice I’ve really craved when not on tour. Apart from that, nothing radical. I’m trying to enjoy my golf more, which is easy when it’s going well. Just have a general, relaxed outlook in that way.”

It’s hard not to pull for Canter in the same way it was hard not to pull for Mason 30 years ago. The journeyman tag fitted Mason like a new golf glove. He was a perennial top 80 player who had racked up six second place finishes, but looked destined never to get that W all players crave. Then in 1994 he won the Turespana Masters Open de Andalucia and the Bell’s Scottish Open. Suddenly his career was complete. Despite years of holding his own on tour, he’d suddenly become a “success.”

I worked for Golf Monthly back in 1994 and we sent award winning journalist Dudley Doust to find out why Mason had suddenly gone from journeyman to winner. Doust, who died in 2008, is arguably the greatest reporter I’ve ever worked with. He was foreign correspondent for Time Life magazine, sports correspondent for The Sunday Times, penned several books including Seve: The Young Champion which is required reading for any fan of the Spanish maestro. I couldn’t have written my own biography of Seve Ballesteros without Dudley’s book.

Dudley approached the Mason story with the same intensity as he approached every other project, but he was disappointed. He rang me up to say he needed more time. When I asked why, Dudley said:

“Carl says the reason he’s won twice this year is because he put a new driver in his bag at the start of the season. That couldn’t be the only reason, could it? There surely has to be something more.”

It felt strange having to give a journalist of such eminence advice, but I did. I told him that, er, yes, a new driver could be that intangible that got Mason over the line.

Maybe playing relaxed bounce games at The Wisley is the intangible that will help Canter become a European Tour winner. Let’s hope so.

#JustSaying: “Seeing friends win definitely drives you on. There’s a sense that if he can do it, then so can I.” Andy Sullivan

Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour

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