Australia’s Ian Stanley won the biggest title of his long and illustrious career when he closed with a fine two under par 69 and then defeated New Zealand’s Bob Charles on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off to win the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard at Royal County Down G.C. in Northern Ireland.
Stanley, 52, the winner of one European Tour title plus more than 20 others on his native Australasian circuit, came to the last with a one shot lead over his New Zealand rival but then three putted to lose that advantage.
However, the Australian got a second chance when Charles hit his tee shot into the bunker on the first extra hole and grasped it with both hands, ultimately holing out for a five against a six from Charles.
Stanley’s success, worth £79,000, was his second of the season, after also winning last month’s De Vere Hotels PGA Seniors Championship over the new Jack Nicklaus course at De Vere Carden Park and took him to the top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit with earnings of £144,305.
For Charles, 66, the winner of the 1963 Open at Royal Lythan & St Annes, the consolation was a runner-up cheque for £50,200 plus a further £3000 for winning the Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor in his 60s.
The left-hander from New Zealand also extended an incredible run in this championship that has seen him win twice, in 1989 and 1993, come second six times and finish out of the top-six on only two occasions in his 15 starts.
Stanley said: “This is unbelievable. There are some really great names on this trophy and as David Duval said last week – your name is there forever. It was a privilege playing such a great golf course.”
The Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, received a huge boost with the presence of golf’s “Big Three” – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player - and at the end of an enthralling week it was Nicklaus who mounted the strongest challenge of the three.
The Golden Bear moved within two shots of the lead during the final round with an eagle on the 12th hole but a number of birdie chances went begging over the closing stretch and his hopes of victory at the first time of asking faded with a bogey on the 15th.
Nicklaus finished in a share of third place alongside England’s John Morgan on three under par.
“I’ve enjoyed playing here this week and playing at least once in the Senior British Open and I have that on my record. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course and everybody has been fantastic. The fans have been great. My wife and I have enjoyed it greatly but I would have liked to have won too. I wanted to be greedy.”
South Africa’s Bobby Verwey, Gary Player’s brother-in-law, closed with a one over par 72 to claim fifth place on his own and Brian Huggett and Simon Owen finished one shot further behind on one over par 285.
Player himself closed with a five over par 76 to drop into a share of 18th place alongside Australia’s David Good and America’s John Grace.
Ireland’s Arthur Pierse won the Silver medal awarded to the leading amateur in the field.
Pierse, a former Irish international and Walker Cup player from Tipperary, put together rounds of 76, 75, 74 and 75 to finish five strokes ahead of Norman Swenson Jnr from Charleston, South Carolina.
The Irishman’s success in this championship means that he has completed a remarkable double this summer because a few weeks ago he also completed all four rounds at the US Senior Open at Salem C.C. in Peabody, Massachusetts.
“This has been a tough week but it has also been great fun as well,” he said. I decided at the start of the year that I wanted to get into and then compete in all four rounds of the British and American Senior Open so I am delighted to have been able to achieve it.”
Pierse will now spend the next couple of months contemplating whether or not he should turn pro and attempt to get onto the European Seniors Tour.
“It’s a big decision to take,” said Pierse, a garage owner from Tipperary. “I have been watching a lot of the guys this week so I know that I would have to devote almost all of my time to my golf if I decided to give it a go.
“You can’t just do it part time because the standard is too good for that.”