Englishman Paul Wesselingh produced a stunning stretch of four consecutive birdies to claim his maiden European Senior Tour title in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship, as Andrew Oldcorn’s battling defence came up just short.
Wesselingh, who gained his Senior Tour card by finishing second at Qualifying School in February, started the day four shots behind second round leader Mark James at De Vere Slaley Hall, but produced a superb back nine en route to a closing five under par 67 to finish on six under par 210.
With former Ryder Cup Captain James only able to manage a two over par 74 to finish three shots back in fourth place, Wesselingh’s main threat came from James’ playing partners, defending champion Oldcorn, who won by nine shots last year, and Swede Anders Forsbrand.
While Forsbrand briefly joined Wesselingh at the top of the leaderboard with a birdie on the 16th, he immediately surrendered that shot on the next hole before both Forsbrand and Oldcorn missed birdie chances on the last to finish one shot short on five under par 211.
That meant Wesselingh, a six-time PGA Cup player, captured the title in just his fourth Senior Tour appearance, with the first prize of €50,075 moving him to second place on the Order of Merit behind US Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman.
“I’ve spent the last four or five years working really hard to get ready for the Senior Tour so this victory feels fantastic,” said Wesselingh.
“So hopefully I semi-deserve this. I had a look at the trophy and saw names like Carl Mason, Andrew Oldcorn on there who are fantastic players, and now my name is on there too.
“I am honoured to be on this Tour and playing with them and to now be on the same trophy. This is an incredible win for me.”
After birdieing the fifth hole, Wesselingh chipped in from 20ft on the sixth hole before dropping his only shot of the final round on the 11th hole.
However, that bogey was followed by a sensational display of putting, as Wesselingh surged up the leaderboard with four straight birdies from the 12th hole to seize control of the Championship, which was reduced to 54 holes following heavy rain during Friday’s second round.
“It was unbelievable – I was so angry after dropping a shot on the 11th, that I just seemed to birdie everything,” he said. “Everything went in. They were good length putts too. I holed a two footer on 12, then a 20 footer on 13 and the same on 14 and from six feet on 15. It was a crazy run really.”
Wesselingh has enjoyed a dream start to his Senior Tour career, finishing joint runner up in the Mallorca Open Senior, tied 21st in the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and tied seventh in last week’s Benahavis Senior Masters.
“I could never have expected to begin like this when I went to Q School,” said the 50 year old. “It’s been such a crazy start. Hopefully this win will give me the confidence now to carry on.”
Wesselingh took over from Senior Tour Chairman David J Russell as the head professional at Kedleston Park, near Derby, in 2001 and he now joins him as a winner of the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship, following Russell’s victory at the Northumberland venue two years ago.
“I’m following in his footsteps, aren’t I?” he said. “He’s been incredibly supportive as well. He has helped me in my first few weeks on the Senior Tour and his great to follow him as a champion of this tournament. Everyone at Kedleston Park has been so supportive too and they will all be delighted.”
Scot Oldcorn fought back from bogeys on the second and third holes with four birdies in a closing round of 70 to share second place with six-time European Tour champion Forsbrand, who just missed out on becoming the first Swedish winner on the Senior Tour but did claim his best finish to date.
“It was a very good defence all in all,” said Oldcorn, who won the 2001 PGA Championship on The European Tour. “The start I had put me a little bit behind the eight ball but I played pretty well.
“Congratulations to Paul though, he’s had a fantastic year so far. He’s gone out and shot four birdies in a row on the back nine. That wins you the golf tournament. I hit a great putt on the last which I thought was going in, but overall I’m pleased with how I defended the title.”