America's John Grace returns from the other side of the Atlantic to compete in this week's De Vere PGA Seniors Championship to be held for the first time over the new Jack Nicklaus golf course at Carden Park in Cheshire.
The American, 53, one of 23 European Seniors Tour members to have competed in last week's US PGA Seniors Championship at Ridgewood CC, New Jersey, heads a strong field for a venerable event that was first contested as far back as 1957 and counts Neil Coles, Max Faulkner, Tommy Horton, Brian Huggett, Arthur Lees, John Morgan, Christy O'Connor Snr, John Panton, Dai Rees, Peter Thomson and Brian Waites among its illustrious list of former winners.
Grace, a former American Walker Cup player from Fort Worth, Texas, won his maiden European Seniors Tour title at the 2000 De Vere PGA Seniors Championship over the PGA National course at The De Vere Belfry when he tied left-hander Peter Dawson with a four round aggregate of six under par 282 and then defeated his English rival when he hit an eight iron to three feet for a birdie on the first extra hole of a sudden-death play-off. He went on to record two further victories at the Ordina Legends in Golf and the Big 3 Records Monte Carlo Invitational, finishing the season in second place behind Noel Ratcliffe on the Senior Tour's Order of Merit with earnings of 161,525 euro (£93,910).
Grace arrives at Carden Park boosted by a fine performance at Ridgewood but back on his adopted European Seniors Tour he will face stern competition from a stellar field containing no less than seven other former champions.
Neil Coles ('85, '86, '87 and '89)Terry Gale ('96), Tommy Horton ('92 and '98), Brian Huggett ('93), Ross Metherell (1999), John Morgan ('94 and '95), Brian Waites ('90 and '91), will all start out among the front runners at this year's Championship and they will be joined by Priscillo Diniz, Noel Ratcliffe and Seiji Ebihara who between them have won the first three tournaments on the 2001 European Seniors Tour.
Ebihara showed considerable mettle when he finished birdie, birdie to defeat Simon Owen by a single shot at the AIB Irish Seniors Open at Powerscourt but it may well be that Owen, a rookie from New Zealand, and the man who finished tied for second behind Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 Open Championship, might not have to wait too long before recording his maiden European Seniors Tour success.
The New Zealander, who sold his farm Down Under to finance his sortie on the Seniors Tour, is one of a number of rookies to have caught the eye during the opening events on this season's circuit. Also coming into that category are Scotland's Mike Miller, New Zealand's Barry Vivian and, in particular, Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge, arguably the European Senior Tour's longest hitter, who has notched top ten finishes in all of his first three starts.
Cambridge started his Seniors campaign with a share of 8th place at the Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open and he has subsequently added a 10th place at the Beko Classic at the Gloria resort in Turkey and a tie for fifth place in Ireland. On that sort of form he might pose a serious threat to the bigger names, particularly on a Carden Park course that will be playing all its lengths after a winter in which it was subjected to almost incessant rain.