Mayo relishing his return

4/3/2013 3:40:00 PM
Paul Mayo  (Getty Images)
Paul Mayo (Getty Images)
In his prime, Paul Mayo played alongside the great Jack Nicklaus in both the Masters Tournament and The Open Championship, and partnered Colin Montgomerie in the Walker Cup.

Now, after nearly 17 years in the golfing wilderness, the Welshman is once again preparing to join some of the legends of game on the European Senior Tour.

The former Amateur Champion, who turned 50 on January 6, called time on his 16 year spell as the club professional at Newport Golf Club in November as he looks to return to the competitive game in the same year that Montgomerie also becomes eligible for the Senior Tour.

Health issues forced Mayo to retire from his attempt to secure a card at the Senior Tour Qualifying School in January, but he remains confident that he can make an impact in 2013 after being given a sponsor’s invitation to the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open in June.

“I really enjoyed my time at Newport but it was time to move on and joining the Senior Tour was always an ambition of mine,” said Mayo. “I thought about it and decided it was something I’d like to have a go at, having previously played on the European Tour.

“I resigned as the head professional in November and it took me a few weeks to get over it, but it has now opened up new avenues for me and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“It will be great to catch up with some old friends on the Senior Tour. I bumped into a few people at the Qualifying School and it was a bit strange seeing them all again. It was just a shame that I had to withdraw as I was going along quite nicely in the second round.

“I know I’ve got to feel my way back into it though, to see if that spark is still there.”

Mayo won the Welsh Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl in 1987 and he will return to the Bridgend venue from June 14-16 for the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open. While recent changes to the course, made ahead of it hosting The 2014 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, mean it will present a different challenge to the one Mayo enjoyed success over 26 years ago, he is hoping his affinity for Royal Porthcawl will help launch his Senior Tour career. 

“I’ve played quite regularly at Royal Porthcawl over the years and it is a magnificent golf course,” he said. “They have made a few changes, but in the wind it can be a monster.

“It’s always nice when you have played well around a particular course before and hopefully I can play well there again.”

As well as winning the Welsh Amateur in 1987, Mayo also landed the prestigious Amateur Championship at Prestwick Golf Club, earning a spot in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National the following year where he played alongside 18-time Major Champion Nicklaus. 

“Teeing off with Jack Nicklaus on the first at The Masters – that’s quite scary,” he said “When I stood up to tee off the wind was blowing and it carried my ball off but when Jack was announced the wind dropped and he hit it straight down the middle.

“I’d never played with Jack but I knew his son Jack Junior who was caddying for him so that broke the ice. My dad was caddying for me and he was straight in there having a chat.

“Playing with Jack was just amazing. Don’t forget it was only two years since he won his sixth Green Jacket. And as much as you would like to play well, you would swap doing that for just having the experience of having done it – playing with Jack Nicklaus at Augusta.”

Mayo also played alongside Nicklaus in The 1991 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – host venue of this year’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex - and he looks back fondly on his time rubbing shoulders with some of golf’s most iconic names.   

“There is a picture of Jack and I up in the clubhouse at Newport and it was mentioned in a speech when I left last year,” said Mayo, who played in six Open Championships. “Some of the kids at the club didn’t even realise it was me with him! The game has changed a lot since then, but I’ve got some great memories.”

It was Mayo’s Amateur Championship victory 26 years ago that afforded him the chance to play at Augusta National, and he is still reaping the benefits today, with that win now earning him a one-time exemption into the US Senior Open Championship, played this year at Omaha Country Club in July.
Having ended his career on The European Tour in 1996, Mayo is expecting to take time to readjust to the competitive game, but it is a challenge he is relishing.

“There are some top players on the Senior Tour, who are all highly motivated, and it gets tougher each year with a new crop,” he said “I’m just going to dip my toe in carefully at first, but I’ve been waiting to get to this milestone and I can’t wait to give it a go.”