Saturday, 27 October 2001
England's Jim Rhodes laid a massive ghost to rest when he won his first European Seniors Tour title at the SSL International Sodexho Seniors Match Play Championship, presented by The Daily Telegraph, at the Meridien Penina Golf Resort in Portugal.

Rhodes came into the event having failed to win in his previous 105 European Seniors Tour appearances but broke that sequence in considerable style when he hit a majestic driver to the final green to record a two hole win in the final against Welshman Craig Defoy.

That result gave the former Midlands PGA Match Play champion a winner's cheque worth £16,000 and also meant that he followed in the footsteps of Rusell Weir (Temes Seniors Open), Delroy Cambridge (Dan Technology Senior Tournament of Champions) and Simon Owen (Tunisian Seniors Open) by becoming the fourth successive first time winner on the European Seniors Tour.

Rhodes won the 418 yard second hole with a par but could never get more than one ahead against a doughty Welsh opponent who was heavily outgunned off the tee but who made up for that deficit with a wonderful touch around the greens.

Six holes change hands before Rhodes took the initiative by recording a birdie four on the 500 yard par five 17th hole and he then hit a 3-iron from the 18th tee followed by a glorious driver to about 15 feet to secure his maiden win.

"I hit a three iron off the tee because I wanted to take all the trouble out of play but even I was surprised by how well I hot that second shot," said the emotional Rhodes at the end.

"This means an awful lot to me. I wouldn't say that I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to win but to do it certainly lifts a great weight off my mind.

"I'm delighted both for myself and my wife, Pauline. She's been through a lot caddieing for me, and listening to all my moans and groans, and she deserves it just as much as me."

In the morning's semi-final matches Defoy survived an epic 21 hole marathon before defeating his great friend and rival, Peter Dawson, the only left-hander ever to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup.

The Welshman was three down after the opening seven holes, clawed his way back to level by the 14th and then eventually won through when his English rival failed to get up and down from just off the edge of the green on the third extra hole.

Rhodes, on the other hand, had a much easier passage against America's David Oakley. He won the opening two holes against his American rival, was briefly brought back to level when his opponent birdied the 12th, but then promptly won the 13th, 15th and 16th to confirm a convincing 3 & 2 win.

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