Philip Walton is best remembered as the man who sealed victory for Bernard Gallacher’s European team at The 1995 Ryder Cup, and the Irishman is hoping to rekindle that competitive spirit when he makes his Senior Tour debut at the Mallorca Open Senior next month.
Walton, a three time winner on The European Tour, turned 50 in March and, after seven years away from competitive golf on the continent, is primed for a return to action in the Senior Tour’s first tournament of the season at Pula Golf Club.
The Dubliner has been working tirelessly on his game and fitness over the last few months and his excitement for his Senior Tour debut is palpable.
“I’ve been a long time out of it really,” said Walton. “I just can’t wait to get going now. I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s a second chance for me and that’s the way I’m looking at it, so I want to make the most of it. I played on the Irish PGA and Pro-Am circuit for a few years and did quite well, but I had got used to the traveling lifestyle of The European Tour and I’ve missed it.”
One thing Walton is particularly looking forward to is reuniting with all the friends he made during his 22 year career on The European Tour, with former Ryder Cup team-mates Mark James, Costantino Rocca, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam all Senior Tour regulars.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of the lads again,” he said. “It’s crazy that I haven’t seen any of them in so long, but I’m good friends with Stephen McAllister and Eamonn Darcy and a few more of the lads so it’ll be great to be back in their company week by week.
“I know it’ll be a little bit more relaxed than before, but there are some top class players out there on the Senior Tour with the likes of Peter Fowler, Barry Lane, Andrew Oldcorn – there are so many of them - so I know it won’t be easy.
“But hopefully some of the lads will be scared of me now, being one of the new fellows out there, and they know I was a tough nut back in my day. I suppose they’re all tough nuts really though, so it’s just case of cracking them.”
Mallorca is the first stop for Walton and having played there a number of times during his professional career, he knows what to expect.
Expectations of immediate personal success are being kept in check for the time being, but he feels that if he starts the season well, he could be in with a chance of beating players such as McAllister, Malcolm Mackenzie, Miguel Angel Martin and Philip Golding in what is sure to be a closely fought race for the 2012 Rookie of the Year award.
“I’ve played Pula Golf Club a few times down the years and I know it can get really tough if the wind picks up,” he said. “There are a lot of elevated greens so that’ll make it tough in windy conditions. I haven’t had great results there to be honest, but this time out it will hopefully be a bit more relaxed and I’m looking forward to it.“It is hard to say how I’ll fare. I’ll just see how I go at the start. I think if I play well in the first couple of months, a couple of top 20 or top ten finishes to start, then I’ll have a good season, but it will probably take a few weeks. I just hope I can find that gritty competitive spirit that I had before.”