Wolstenholme hoping to scoop Rookie award

11/7/2011 1:23:58 PM
Gary Wolstenholme  (Getty Images)
Gary Wolstenholme (Getty Images)
Gary Wolstenholme will enter next week’s Fubon Senior Open hoping to put one hand on the 2011 European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year Award as he looks to take advantage of main challenger Mark Mouland’s absence in Taiwan.

The Englishman heads to Miramar Golf & Country Club in Taipei, Taiwan, in fine fettle, having won last week’s ISPS Handa Australian Senior Open on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Legends Tour.

Wolstenholme started the day two shots behind overnight leader Rodger Davis, but carded an impressive closing round of 69 to beat home favourite Terry Price by one shot, with Davis a further stroke back.

“I’m really glad I was able to squeeze this tournament into my schedule,” said Wolstenholme, “because Perth is a fantastic city.

“The golf course here is as good as anywhere in the world, because of the test it presents and also because the condition of the course. It is just a great place to play golf, and I’m glad that I came.”

Wolstenholme is currently €54,024 clear of Wales’ Mark Mouland in the race to be crowned the European Senior Tour’s Rookie of the Year, and only needs to finish in the top 13 at the Fubon Senior Open to clinch the trophy, something which he has admitted he would “love to achieve”.

Although the six-time Walker Cup player did claim his first Senior Tour title in 2010, at the Casa Serena Open, that victory came off the back of a sponsor’s invitation, having only turned 50 a month previous.

The Englishman, who in 1995 beat Tiger Woods in a singles match in the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup with which his name has become synonymous, is yet to win in his first full season on the Senior Tour, but has been in superb form all year, coming close to victory on a handful of occasions.

In the season-opening Handa Australian Senior Open he finished in third place, four shots behind winner Peter Senior, before achieving another third place at the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open a month later, when David Frost beat Roger Chapman in a play-off.

Coincidentally, Wolstenholme has finished in third place four times this season and the next one came at the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland in July, when he finished three shots behind winner and current Order of Merit leader Peter Fowler.

The 51 year old looked a good bet to claim his first title of 2011 after making a big charge to the top of the leaderboard on the final day of the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal in September, but eventually came up just short after dropping three shots in his final two holes.

His best finish was yet to come, however, at the most recent event on the Senior Tour, the Benahavis Senior Masters, when he was the overnight leader after both the first and second days, but was pipped to the title by Carl Mason.

That has left him in fifth position on the Senior Tour Order of Merit going into the penultimate tournament of the 2011 season, and needing at least €5,576 in Taiwan next week to move into an unassailable lead in the race for the Rookie award.

It will be no walk in the park for Wolstenholme at the Fubon Senior Open, however, with a strong field in attendance which includes former Open and Masters Tournament Champion Sandy Lyle, who will be looking to end the 2011 season as strongly as he began it in the Far East, having won the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China in March.

Massy Kuramoto is another player in the field to have won on the Senior Tour in Asia this season, having won the Handa Senior Masters in Japan, while Englishman Roger Chapman will continue his pursuit of a first title.

Boonchu Ruangkit, the current holder of the John Jacobs Trophy and winner of the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters this year, will also be competing for the $400,000 prize fund.