Civil war ‘has been embarrassing’: Laurie Canter hopes for golfing peace | The Open

The softly spoken can provide strident analysis. Laurie Canter looked on from afar – partly through his own volition, partly because he lacks the profile of fellow LIV rebels – as golf’s occasionally vicious civil war rumbled on. Players traded verbal blows as the Saudi-backed LIV Golf became a reality. Old tours versus new tour. Supposed good versus supposed evil. It has all been particularly messy. The amiable 33-year-old’s silence should not be mistaken for a lack of interest. He fears the reputation of his sport has been needlessly harmed.

“There have been points where it has been embarrassing to be a professional golfer,” Canter says of the last 12 months. “I have had teaching pros say to me that they have been embarrassed by some of the conduct that has gone on. That is not what being a golfer is about.

“Camaraderie between pros should be one of the best things about being a golfer. There has not been enough people sitting in a room, chatting. I think if you are a member of a tour, you have a responsibility to air grievances privately. Saying things through the press is not the way to go about it if you are serious about doing what is best for the game.”

Canter’s switch to LIV last year created mere ripples. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau et al were the headline grabbers. Canter’s LIV teammates – Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson – found themselves front and centre, initially as traditional tours sought to disparage the LIV model.

“It is way more difficult for those guys than me,” Canter says. “They have had way more to deal with. The burden those guys have had … they have done loads for the [DP World] Tour. Lee Westwood got to world No 1 as a stalwart member of the European Tour. Whatever he says about that tour, no matter what side of the fence you perceive him to be on … if you are not listening to him then you haven’t done your homework. These players genuinely care about the tour, even now.

“I have never been in the spotlight or chased that. I worked hard to be on tour, which was my dream. To go from that to the point where a lot of mud was being flung in all directions … I did my best to stay out of that. There have been big, generalised comments about LIV and what it is which can be made to look pretty bad. I have tried to have dialogue with people and normally that way, you find people are not that far apart.”

Canter, who earned a spot in the Open with an impressive showing in final qualifying at Royal Porthcawl, has the courage of his own convictions. Ask about the morality of joining LIV, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and the response is candid.

“My sister works in foreign development,” Canter says. “She has lived in Africa and Asia for the last 12 years, working on behalf of women’s rights. I can sit at the Christmas dinner table with her every year and look her in the eye. The month before I first played on LIV, I played in a US state that had just banned abortions; I don’t agree with that. Some of the laws around guns in America, I disagree with. There are laws in the UK that are not consistent with what I believe in. If every place I went to, I had to do due diligence in that manner then I don’t think I would play any golf.

“That was quite simple to me. If you are going to pursue this lifestyle, you can’t have a hard line on what is acceptable. Is it acceptable that three-quarters of the field got on a plane to come here?” Private ones, at that.

None of this is supposed to disguise that Canter made a business decision. He is again perfectly open about that. Rough calculations based on LIV’s schedule suggest he should earn at least $500,000 for each year he remains in that domain, which while considerably short of the tens of millions bestowed on high‑profile players simply to sign up still constitutes a decent return.

Laurie Canter of England plays a shot prior to the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Laurie Canter made the switch to LIV Golf last year alongside big names such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/R&A/Getty Images

“I viewed it as an amazing opportunity,” he says. “Financially, it was a complete life changer. If you get the opportunity to play a schedule of events for that much money, you have to be realistic about that. If you just look at the financial element, you have a huge opportunity in front of you if you play great golf. Frankly, even if you don’t play that well the money would still be good but I haven’t met people who think that way because you want to retain your status and grow. Golf can be difficult. I have lost my card on the European Tour, I have been to qualifying school nine times. I have mates who have had injuries and not been able to play. As a golfer, I feel comfortable that I believe in the rights of players to pursue opportunities when they get them.”

Canter is “enthusiastic” about his game as the final major of the year dawns. Having served a suspension and paid fines to the DP World Tour, he plans to return to that circuit later this summer. For now, though, eyes are fixed on Hoylake.

“I think the majors are even bigger deals now,” Canter adds. “It was hard to imagine majors getting bigger but it feels like that is what has happened. There’s probably 10-12 world-class players in LIV who we haven’t seen playing on the other tours so this is the chance for them to be back playing with the other guys. These weeks give you that blockbuster showdown.”