Paul Wesselingh has been named the European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year, an honour he describes as the highlight of his career.
The 51 year old notched a maiden victory and six other top ten finishes in 14 appearances in 2012, and is fifth in the Order of Merit heading into the season’s final event, the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.
He was joint runner-up on his debut, in the Mallorca Senior Open in May, and won the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at DeVere Slaley Hall a month later, finishing one shot ahead of Anders Forsbrand and Andrew Oldcorn.
“This is the highlight of my career,” said Wesselingh, who enjoyed a successful career as a club professional before joining the Senior Tour. “I’m absolutely over the moon. I’m living the dream playing on the Senior Tour.”
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, commented: “Paul made an immediate impression on the Senior Tour when he won the First Stage of Qualifying School and has looked more and more confident following his victory at Slaley Hall.
“He is one performance away from being eligible for all three Senior Majors in 2013 and given his exemplary conduct both on and off the course, we wish him well in achieving another milestone in this fantastic rookie year.”
Wesselingh added: “I was aware of the award during the year and people would ask me about it, but I didn’t really think about it much until the win at Slaley Hall. It wasn’t something I set out to win, but as the season went on I was aware of my position in the Order of Merit and realised it was a possibility.”
Derby-based Wesselingh opted against playing on The European Tour in his younger days, choosing instead to spend time with his young family. As he approached his 50th birthday, however, he decided to compete on the Senior Tour and, after several years of rigorous preparation, took the second card at the Qualifying School Final Stage in February, having won Stage One a week earlier.
“The Senior Tour is something I worked towards for four or five years, so it’s nice that all the hard work has paid off with this award,” he said. “The main thing was the fitness and getting the body in shape to be able to cope with the demands of life on Tour. As we get older it’s not so easy.
“The target at the start of the season was to finish in the top 30 and keep my card, but it looks like I’ll be in the top ten or even top five – depending on results in Mauritius – which is brilliant.
“I thought it might take a couple of years to get the first win, because the fields are always so strong on the Senior Tour and I thought it would take a while to adapt.
“The win crept up on me really, rather than me being a front-runner, and I was lucky with the weather. For some reason I’ve always played well in bad weather, and that last day at Slaley Hall was miserable. I managed to put a run of birdies together on the back nine and all of a sudden I’d won.”