Barry Lane is aiming to capitalise on his strong start to 2012 and a fine record at De Vere Slaley Hall as he searches for an elusive PGA title at this week’s ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in Northumberland, England.
Former Ryder Cup player Lane played 29 times in The European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, but a share of fifth place in 2003 was his best performance.
Now he is hoping to make amends for missing out on that prestigious title by winning the European Senior Tour’s version, having finished joint runner up to David J Russell in the event on his Senior Tour debut in 2010, and tied ninth last year.
The three-time Senior Tour winner finished runner up to Peter Fowler on the 2011 Order of Merit and has carried forward that form into the new season, opening his campaign with top six finishes in Spain either side of a respectable tied 21st in the US Senior PGA Championship.
“It’s been a good start to the year for me,” he said. “I’m 18 under par for the three tournaments I have played with a stroke average of 69.2 so I’m pretty happy.
“With this being a four round event it plays a little bit into my hands as I’ve continued playing four round events on the main Tour. It’s less of a sprint in 72 hole events. You plod your way round to get into position on Sunday and hopefully I can do that.
“It would be great to win this title. I never won the PGA Championship at Wentworth so this would be the next best thing. In Europe, it’s the next best thing to our Senior Open and it would be fantastic to win it.”
Lane is fully aware of the threat posed by the challenging Hunting Course at De Vere Slaley Hall. The 51 year old Englishman was one shot off the lead at the halfway mark 12 months ago, but weekend rounds of 77 and 75 meant he finished 15 shots adrift of runaway leader Andrew Oldcorn, who defends his title this week.
“Last year I lost the head a little and it is that sort of course where you can get very frustrated,” said Lane. “You feel as if you can shoot the lights out but it can bite you pretty quickly.
“The year before, in my first event, it was the same. I made so many mistakes but finished second. I think I made five sixes on par fives. Last year I got off to a reasonable start with a 73 and a 67 and was doing ok until I made an eight in the third round. So it’s just been frustrating really. But I’m really looking forward to this year because the form is great and the course is in very good condition.
“It will be tricky as the greens are very fast and sloping, so you don’t want to hit the ball pin high as you will have huge swinging putts. I don’t think that the scoring is going to be really good so it should be a great challenge.”
Lane warmed up for the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship by taking part in a special ‘Bat and Ball’ challenge , which pitted footballers against cricketers in a match-play format, with the cricketers winning by five holes.
Stars included former England players Neil Fairbrother, Gladstone Small, Paul Nixon, Philip De Freitas and Dean Headley, against Dwight York, Newcastle United pair and local favourites Ryan Taylor and Shola Ameobi, Mickey Thomas and Andy Ritchie.
Lane joined forces with former England Captain Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff to take on Sam Torrance and Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp, with former Ryder Cup Captain Torrance’s team winning 4&3.
“It was a great laugh,” said Lane. “Golf isn’t really Freddie’s game but if he dedicated himself to it he could actually be a reasonable player but he just takes it as fun. Sam and I had a great day today with him and Harry.
“They are legends, both of them. In their lifetime still, they are both legends. And they are such nice guys.
Torrance, who won the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in 2005 and 2006, said: “It was a pleasure and an honour to play with Harry. He is a gentleman and great company. I play quite a bit of golf with his son Jamie so we had a nice day together and it was good fun.”
Redknapp, who plays off a handicap of 14, added: “It was lovely playing with Sam and Barry and Freddie. It must be hard for Sam and Barry playing with us but they were very patient and they were great company and helped us around. It’s not an easy course but we had a very nice time.”