England's Neil Coles tees up in this week's Flanders Nippon presents Legends in Golf tournament at Flanders Nippon Golf Club hoping that the European Seniors Tour's first visit to Belgium will coincide with his return to the winner's circle after an absence of almost two years.
Sixty seven year old Coles won the last of his 14 Seniors Tour titles at the Microlease Jersey Seniors Masters in June 2000, but he has a great chance to bring that 24 month winless sequence to an end.
Coles is one of a number of Seniors Tour regulars who are hoping to win for the first time this season. That group includes David Huish of Scotland, Nick Job of England and Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan, who have all won at least once in each of the last two seasons, as well as Maurice Bembridge, David Creamer, Alberto Croce, Antonio Garrido, Ross Metherell, Eddie Polland, Jim Rhodes, Jeff Van Wagenen and Russell Weir, all of whom have tasted success on the European Seniors Tour.
Seven of the last eight tournaments on the Seniors Tour have been won by a first time winner. Seiji Ebihara broke that sequence when he captured the recent AIB Irish Seniors Open title at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort but there are several competitors who could succeed Peter Townsend (Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open) and Steve Stull (Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic) and become the third first time winner on this season's Tour.
Scotland's John Chillas and Mike Miller are two obvious candidates and so, too, is England's Keith MacDonald, the club professional at Goodwood, who has come close on a number of occasions since earning his Seniors Tour card at the 2000 Qualifying School. MacDonald's best finish to date came when he lost out to America's David Oakley in a play-off at last season's Scottish Seniors Open at The Roxburghe but he did go one better by winning last month's PGA Senior Club Professionals Championship at Coventry and he will be hoping that victory is the precursor to his first win on the Seniors Tour.
The field at the Flanders-Nippon presents Legends in Golf has been swelled by a number of golfers making their first appearances of the 2002 season. One of those is the popular Albanian, Agim Bardha, who is playing on a special medical exemption after missing the whole of the 2001 season as a result of health problems. Another is Victor Garcia, father of Sergio, who made several appearances during the 2001 season, but failed to earn a Seniors Tour card at last season's Qualifying School at Pinta Golf Club in Portugal.