Brian Huggett launches his defence of the Beko Classic title when the second event on this year’s European Seniors Tour gets underway at the Gloria Golf Resort in Turkey.
Huggett showed that age is no barrier to Seniors Tour success when he won the 2000 Beko Classic almost six months after his 63rd birthday. He completed his tenth Seniors Tour victory in considerable style after getting up and down from a bunker on the 54th hole and then holing out for a par on the first extra hole of a sudden-death play-off to defeat Australia’s Bob Shearer.
The combative Welshman will start out as one of the favourites in Turkey but in order to duplicate last year’s success he will have to overcome a strong field that includes Priscillo Diniz, the Brazilian golfer who won the Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open, the opening event on the 2001 European Seniors Tour, as well as ten other winners from last season.
That list is headed by Australia’s Noel Ratcliffe, winner of the Scotsman Scottish Seniors Open and the Temes Seniors Open in 2000 and the man who went on to end Tommy Horton’s proud four year reign as Number One on the European Seniors Tour. Also included in the Beko field are Horton, America’s John Grace, who won three times on the 2000 Seniors circuit, as well as Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan, Scotland’s David Huish, Australia’s Ian Stanley, Englishmen David Creamer and Nick Job, and Americans David Oakley and Jeff Van Wagenen, all of whom won at least once during the 2000 season.
The 2001 Beko Classic field contains all but three of last year’s winners and also includes England’s John Morgan and Scotland’s Mike Miller, two men who will be hoping to make an immediate impact on this year’s Tour.
Morgan, 57, has won eight times on the European Seniors Tour since turning 50 in 1993 and makes a welcome return after spending most of the last three seasons in the United States, while Miller makes his Seniors Tour debut less than two weeks after his 50th birthday on April 22nd.
The Scot, who lives near Glasgow, was a regular on The European Tour for more than 20 years and more recently has been warming up for Seniors Tour action competing on the Challenge Tour and the Tartan Tour. He won the 1996 Kenyan Tour on the former and has several Tartan Tour titles to his name, including the 1998 Sunderland of Scotland Masters.
New Zealand’s Simon Owen, the man who chased Jack Nicklaus all the way at the 1978 Open at the Old Course, St Andrews, is another golfer to be making his European Seniors Tour debut in Turkey.