New Zealand's Simon Owen became the third successive first time winner on the European Seniors Tour when he closed with a six under par 66 and then defeated America's Bob Lendzion on the second hole of a sudden death play off at the Tunisian Seniors Open at El Kantaoui.
The Kiwi, who is best known for finishing second behind Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 Open at St Andrews, started the final round six shots behind his American rival but made up that ground with a total of nine birdies including six in a row from the eighth hole. He finished the regulation 54 holes tied with Lendzion on eight under par 208 and then followed in the footsteps of the last two first time winners, Scotland's Russell Weir and Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge, when he hit a drive and a marvellous sand wedge to less than three feet for a winning birdie three on the second extra hole.
"That's a very important win for me," Owen said after collecting the £16,660 first place cheque. "I came into this season wanting to win at least one title and now that I've down it I can relax a bit knowing that I've now got a two year exemption.
"It was a freaky sort of round," he added. "It isn't every day that you score nine birdies and a double bogey but that's just the sort of rollercoaster round it was."
"To be honest, I thought I had left myself a little too much to do, but I'm delighted to prove myself wrong."
Canada's Bill Hardwick closed with a fine six under par 66 to finish alone in third place on six under par 210 and also won the concurrent £500 Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor over the age of 60.
Hardwick finished four shots ahead of Brian Waites in the Super Seniors section. He has now won or shared five of the Hardys awards and moves ahead of New Zealand's Bob Charles at the top of the Super Seniors Order of Merit with 3,900 points.
Further down the leaderboard America's Jerry Bruner, Australia's Noel Ratcliffe and Wales's Lawrence Farmer shared fourth place on five under par 211 but Denis Durnian lost the chance to move ahead of Ian Stanley at the top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit with a poor final round.
The Englishman needed to finish either first or second in Tunisia in order to overhaul his rival but closed with a disappointing eight over par 80 which resulted in him dropping into a share of 31st place on three over par 219
It means that with two counting events left to go, Stanley leads the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit with a record 265,631 euro (£166,097). Durnian has accumulated 252,612 euro (£157,956) with last year’s money leader, Noel Ratcliffe in third place with 215,004 euro (£134,440)
Owen’s maiden victory means that he moves up to fourth place on the European Seniors Tour’s Order of Merit with 199,341 euro (£124,646). He is also virtually certain to win the 2001 Ping Rookie of the Year award.
Meanwhile, England’s Jim Rhodes moved up to 36th on the money list but is still seeking his first European Seniors Tour title. He went into the final round tied with Lendzion on eight under par 136 but fell into a share of seventh place after a 76 that included a double bogey six on the water strewn 407 yard par four final hole.