England’s Peter Dawson became the first of three British golfers to battle through to the last four of the SSL Sodexho European Seniors Match Play, presented by The Daily Telegraph, at the Meridien Penina Golf Resort in Portugal when he crushed Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge 7 & 6 in the most lop-sided match in this year's championship.
Dawson, the only left-handed golfer ever to play Ryder Cup golf for Europe, produced six birdies in the twelve holes he needed to overwhelm his Jamaican rival and then watched as he was joined in the semi-finals draw by compatriot, Jim Rhodes, who survived a late scare to defeat Australia’s Ian Stanley by one hole, and by Welshman Craig Defoy who ended the challenge of America’s Jerry Bruner on the 17th hole.
America’s David Oakley also went through after beating last year’s champion Priscillo Diniz 4 & 3, in the process inflicting the Brazilian’s first defeat in more than 20 match play starts as a professional.
Dawson was the Director of Golf at Penina for 18 months during the 1990s but he does not believe that it is his course knowledge that is responsible for the run that has seen him defeat Noel Ratcliffe, Jeff Van Wagenen and Cambridge on consecutive days this week.
“I was what would be best described as a budgets manager so I hardly played any golf at all,” he said. “But I do like the course and love the match play format.
“It’s great fun particularly when you play like I did today.”
Dawson opened with a birdie on the first hole and was in irresistible form after that. He won the match with a regulation par down the treacherous 420 yard par four 12th but in hindsight might well feel that it was the extraordinary birdie four he achieved for a halve on the previous hole which sealed his victory.
The Englishman seemed all but out of the hole when his second shot flew into the edge of the bush but from there he hacked out backwards and then holed the resultant pitch from 25 yards.
“It was one of those days,” agreed Dawson. “Under the circumstances, the least I could do was concede Delroy’s four-footer for a halve.”
Jim Rhodes, a former Midlands and Staffordshire PGA match play champion, seemed to be cruising to victory when he boarded the fifteenth tee three holes up on Australia’s Ian Stanley but that was before last year’s losing finalist mounted a spirited fight back, winning the next three holes.
In the end, however, Rhodes bravely stopped the rot, hitting a 5-wood 215 yards to the edge of the green on the 490 yard par 18th hole and then rolling his pitch to six inches for a winning birdie.
Rhodes will now come face to face with Oakley, a double winner on this year's European Seniors Tour at the Energis Senior Masters and the Scottish Senior Open, and a man who inflicted Diniz's first ever defeat in a professional match play event.
The Brazilian went two up after three consecutive birdies from the second but was caught two holes later and was then routed when Oakley produced four threes in the space of five holes from the 12th.
"I played very well but I knew I would have to," said the American. "Priscillo has this amazing match play record but we knew that sooner or later he would have to lose a match. Fortunately, it was me who did it to him."
Dawson faces a semi-final match against Craig Defoy, an impressive 2 & 1 winner over Jerry Bruner. The Welshman went four up when he eagled the 447 yard 10th hole, lost the 11th and 16th to pars but won when his American opponent conceded on the 17th green.
This week’s SSL International Sodexho Match Play Championship, presented by The Daily Telegraph, could well produce the fourth first time winner in the last four European Seniors Tour events. Oakley has four titles to his name but Rhodes, Defoy and Dawson will all be hoping to emulate Russell Weir (Temes Seniors Open), Delroy Cambridge (Dan Technology Seniors Tournament of Champions) and Simon Owen (Tunisian Seniors Open) and win for the first time.