Mark Roe, who has campaigned on The European Tour for 18 seasons, goes into the weekend of the dunhill championship at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg hoping that the old adage of life beginning at 40 is entirely accurate.
Roe turns 40 next month and nine years have elapsed since is third and last victory on The European Tour International Schedule, but with two rounds remaining the Sheffield golfer lies in joint second place with Richard Bland of England, one behind tournament leader Bradley Dredge of Wales.
Dredge, joint leader with fellow Welshman Stephen Dodd overnight, added a 68 to his opening 65 for an 11 under par total of 133, one better than Roe, who carded a pair of 67s, and Bland (69-65).
Bland and Dredge are both seeking their first victories to move their careers to a higher level, while Roe has been there and done plenty in a roller coaster career which saw him out of action for 18 months in 1999/2000 after damaging ligaments in his hand trying to catching his pet dog.
Roe, a free spirit whose passions are poetry and antiques, admitted that he still loves the game and the competition, despite the advent of that milestone birthday in four week’s time.
"Just to survive out here is great" he said. "Every week, every month seems a bonus, which is lovely. I said I would retire at 40 and that would be enough of travelling and playing, but I still feel competitive and you can’t pack in when you are competitive.
"After the injury and being out for 18 months I was chuffed to bits when I got my card back. I am absolutely delighted every week I tee it up. I look at guys like Sam Torrance, Mark McNulty and Eduardo Romero and think it’s brilliant to play competitively at that age."
Dredge has progressed in the Volvo Order of Merit for the past four seasons, climbing from 157th in 1998 to 18th in 2002. Now, the man from Tredegar, wants a win more than anything else, like his friend and fellow Welshman Phillip Price.
"I am definitely ready to win. I’ve had enough near misses now so I will try to go out at the weekend and not finish second! I’ve only been in the final group once before and that was at the Volvo Masters Andalucia with Colin Montgomerie, but if you’re last on Sunday it might as well be with Monty!
"I think I learned from that experience. It’s good to see how he handles himself on the golf course, his demeanor and how he goes about things. You can learn a lot from these guys."
Bland, who was edged out in a four man play-off for the Irish Open last year, had eight birdies in a fine round of 65 and admitted: "The Irish Open gave me a taste for this last year and I definitely want to get back up there with a chance to win."
Volvo PGA champion, Anders Hansen, also shot 65 to move into a tie for fourth with South African Richard Sterne on 135, nine under par. Hansen’s outstanding effort included two eagles, and was all the more meritorious for the fact that he was feeling ill due to the effects of the heat.
"I think I dehydrated yesterday and wasn’t feeling at all well" he explained. "Over the first nine holes I told my caddie to keep my supplied with water and I was drinking about a bottle every hole."
Several leading names are right in contention over the weekend. Last week’s South African Airways winner, Trevor Immelman, fired a 67 to move to eight under par while 2000 Volvo Order of Merit winner Lee Westwood also shot a 67 for six under and Justin Rose a 67 for four under.